A few weeks ago I was checking my newsfeed on Facebook and a friend had posted an article about a rural borough police officer caught in a drug deal. About a year ago the town I live in was shocked by the conduct of one of our officers who shot and killed a person in what looked to be a very manageable situation. We all know a story. My friend is a police officer and his comment was something like, "Don't judge us all by the bad ones." My comment back to him was, "I'm glad ministers don't face this scrutiny." Sarcasm...It's a tool of the angry. I must admit that if you want to make people angry, pretend to be caretakers and enforcers of the law, any law, and hold other people accountable while not following it yourself. You can be a police officer, a US marshall, a soldier, a doctor, a lawyer, a minister, etc...we are all supposed to work within a frame that is a set of codes and even "conducts"-but it doesn't always work.
We all know a story...one of a minister who hid sins for years, a police officer caught doing something he or she was supposed to protect us from...every day there seems to be a new story. Christian people are often reduced and portrayed as the most reactionary, the most legalistic among us. How convenient for our enemies! Whether we want to admit it our not, those who enforce the law have enemies who want to expose the hypocrisy of their real lives.
The reality of the "bad egg" in every basket that seems to ruin the whole bunch reminded me of the Pharisees and Sadducees in the New Testament. They were the enforcers of the law, and they took it seriously, but while they held the people accountable-they found it hard to actually live it and they lost the true meaning behind the law. Their enemy was Jesus, who exposed them for what they were...hypocrites. In fact, to find a good Pharisee in the New Testament seems like a miracle. We are grateful to read the story of Nicodemus in John, to see him eventually follow Christ and restore the meaning of God's law.
Jesus teaches, "For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven."
Yet, he would say just before that, "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them."
What we must understand is we are all in some way or another hypocrites...I certainly am. Any minister who has taught a class on marriage and family should feel this way, because we all have so much to learn in relating to our spouses and our kids. Yet, I made a choice to make Jesus my Savior and Lord, and I am His. Therefore Jesus, who fulfilled the law with his perfect life and shameless sacrifice, accepts me into his cleansing presence.
Paul would say it this way, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
I think the "Old" is the person who is judged and condemned by the law. God is not reconciling the world to himself through the law, but through Christ. Those who enforce the way of God must do so through Christ and not through a legalistic approach to righteousness. This is true mainly because we will be exposed by the law. That is what the law does, and so I am never surprised when someone is held accountable to the law even if they are a law enforcer. Actually, it seems right to do it.
But in Christ we are "New" creations, and as new creations we realize that it is only by the power of Jesus that we are even able to be considered righteous - that means law abiding. That is why we should point the world, our friends and neighbors, to Jesus Christ and not to the law. If there is any good in me, it is because of Jesus Christ and not my ability to live the "perfect" life. And for my friend who was taken aback by the conduct of one of his colleagues, I would remind him that it is not the badge, the position, or the years of service that makes a person good, but the connection they have to their faith and to their community. In my line of work, it is not the sermons, the weddings, the funerals, and the years of service that makes one a good minister, but his or her connection with God through Jesus and obedience to the Holy Spirit's leading.
Draw near to God, because we can through our relationship wth Jesus, and God will draw near to you. I want to live grateful that I can be the righteousness of God - not by law, but by Christ in me!
Yesterday I spoke about the unique happening at the cross where both the righteousness and holiness of God came in contact with the the grace and mercy of God; and they did not meet in conflict with the other, but they combined in pure worship of our God. This is still making me spin my wheels even today! What an awesome wonder the Cross is...but there is a reality that we must face if we are to live in the wonder of the cross. We are sinners, God is not. In reading in preparation for this sermon, John MacArthur in his sermon talks about how we tend to downplay our own sin and focus on the sins of other people. He claims, in essence, that we don't take our sin seriously and we suspect that God's grace is easily given because we think God treats our sin the way we treat our sin. That is to say that God can simply laugh off sin or extend grace freely to us with little cost.
Well, there is a saying going around that claims "Freedom isn't free" and it is usually to help us remember the soldiers and the veterans. We recognize their sacrifice because the joy and the freedom we experience was given to us by others. Let me use this idea as a stepping stone for a far greater cost and a far greater salvation, "Grace isn't free." Sure, we walk around in the joy and freedom of our salvation in Christ, but it cost God severely. When we read popular verses of Scripture like...for God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten son...and God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God... and Jesus' prayer Not my will, but yours be done. When we read these verses and the Passion narratives presented in the Gospels, we should not only see the grace of God through Jesus, but the holy and righteous God that would take on the pain of death, the penalty of sin, of which he never knew or understood; so that we could have a relationship with Him.
So often we mess around, thinking we know more, act better, and are the victims of... but Jesus Christ could have claimed all of those things and he would have been right! Instead, Jesus Christ, who shared a divine lineage and a divine character understood that holiness was the standard and loving until it hurts was the expectation. All of this is a picture of the Cross...our penalty has been paid, but let us not forget the high cost of the payment.
For the past week, I have been able to see the cross as worship, perhaps the purest and most complete form of worship ever experienced on earth. This is both beautiful and challenging to me. Also, this song has been going through my head all week, it's So good...
I want to share thoughts, insights, and scriptures that lead us in the direction of Christ.