I know, I know.
You want some Scripture proof.
“Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12).
“God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).
Add to that Jesus’ story about the Pharisee and the tax collector. The Pharisee brought his goodness to God and the tax collector brought his sin—“God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” (Luke 18:13). Jesus said that the tax collector went away justified before God.
And don’t forget when the Centurion asked Jesus to heal his servant. He said to Jesus, “Lord, I’m not worthy to have you come under my roof” (Matthew 8:8). Jesus said about him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith” (Matthew 8:10).
Then there is the time when Jesus pointed to the most pure, faithful and obedient religious folks in the nation—the Pharisees—and told his disciples, “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20).
Am I suggesting that God doesn’t want you to be obedient? Of course not! God forbid.
But most of us go about it the wrong way.
Your obedience is beside the point. Jesus didn’t die to make you good…he died to make you his.
When you’re his, you might get better and probably will. But if you focus on the “getting better” part, you’ll get worse.
Obsession with getting better is probably the biggest reason we don’t get better. It is only when we are obsessed with Christ’s love that we get any better. It is only when we know for a fact that, if we don’t get better, we’re still his and he loves us, we ever get any better.
One other thing. Not only does the Bible teach that the most dangerous threat to your walk with God is your obedience when you’re aware of it, it also teaches that most good people aren’t aware of their goodness.
In the parable of the final judgment (Matthew 25:31-46), the obedient ones didn’t know they had been obedient: “Lord, when did we…?” I think the most surprised person in heaven will be the person who gets the most crowns. He or she will be looking around for someone else with the same name or may even think that God made a mistake.
(The second most surprised people in heaven will be those who note who got the crowns. Frankly, I don’t believe the people we think are righteous really are. And sometimes the ones we think of as less than righteous might be the most righteous. But that’s another subject.)
Did you hear about the Catholic elementary school? At the head table in the cafeteria, one of the nuns had placed a big bowl of bright red, fresh and juicy apples. Beside the bowl, the nun put up a note: “Take only one. Remember God is watching.”
At the other end of the table was a large dish full of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies still warm from the oven. Beside the dish was a note in a child’s handwriting: “Take all you want. God is watching the apples.”
Most of us are sure God is watching to see how good we are and that he will, once he knows, reward or punish us based on what he finds.
God is watching.
But we’re so often mistaken about the reason he’s watching. God is watching you as a father watches a child. He is delighted that you are his, you bear his name, have his righteousness and will someday be as good as you want to be.
Time to Draw Away
Read Psalm 51:17 & Luke 7:36-50
Are you obsessed with getting better? When we change that focus to God’s love, grace and acceptance instead, we can’t help but get better simply because it really is all grace. So rest in your delighted Father’s unconditional love. It’s a good place to be.