“It is an honor for a man to keep aloof from strife, but every fool will be quarreling.” (Proverbs 20:3)
Some might consider a person who backs away from confrontation a coward. The Proverbs say he is worthy of honor. You might even say it is the brave thing to do. Why not be in the same mind as the Sinless One who, “when he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly”?
“Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.” —Proverbs 19:11
To hide one’s own sin from God is his shame. It’s useless, debilitating, hurtful, destructive. To confess and forsake one’s sin is the guaranteed pathway to mercy (28:13). And once you know His mercy—once you have received the abundance of grace, the eternal redemption, the complete forgiveness of Christ—you are all the more equipped, and all the more obligated, to be merciful to others. How can we justify harboring anger for others, continually recounting their sin, when God so brutally appeased His own holy wrath in order to forget ours?
Ever stop and think… why would the Lord, strong and mighty, wait patiently for the doors to open?
Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD, strong and mighty, the LORD, mighty in battle! – (Psa 24:7-8 ESV)
"And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, ‘Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham.’" (Luke 19:8-9)
Zacchaeus, a chief tax collector, a rich man despised by others, welcomes Jesus with haste and with joy and is received by Him in the same manner: with haste and with joy, quickly and gladly.
But what is it that brought salvation to Zacchaeus? It almost seems as if he offers Jesus a self-righteous, self-justified list of reasons why Jesus should accept him. "Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold."
But Jesus knows the heart.
Jesus reveals the true reason Zacchaeus was saved: "Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham."
Zacchaeus was more than a son of Abraham by birth. A son of Abraham is not an Israelite, but any man, woman, or child in the whole world who puts their faith in Jesus Christ.
"Abraham ‘believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.’ Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham." (Galatians 3:6-7)
But faith is not dead. Zacchaeus’ seemingly self-righteous list of good deeds was not self-righteous at all. Faith like Abraham’s does not lie dormant. Faith works.
"Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar?" (James 2:21)
The little story of the little man Zacchaeus encourages us, encourages me, that Jesus will gladly receive even the chiefest tax collector, and even the chiefest tax collector can be made a new creation, and be lead by the Spirit to do good works in the name of Jesus Christ.
Today I told the story of Job to my Sunday School class of precious 5 year olds. One of the things I love about teaching kids is that I always seem to discover new and exciting truths in old familiar stories. They are not new truths, of course, just things I hadn’t recognized before.
Job had everything any person could ever want; he had a big family, he had perfect health, and he was the richest man in the world. He was even commended by God as being righteous. When Satan accused Job before God, God gave Satan permission to take away everything Job had. When Satan took away Job’s livelihood, family, and health, Job did not blame God for his troubles but worshiped Him instead. Job proved Satan wrong. Satan had told God that Job only worshiped Him because He had blessed him. But throughout the book of Job we find that Job worshiped God even when things went bad for him. The two most well known verses from Job sum it up nicely:
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21)
“Though he slay me, I will hope in him” (Job 13:15)
I have always filed this story in the “we ought to worship God at all times” category. That is completely true. Psalm 34:1 says, “I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.” But today while telling the story of Job I learned these three things afresh:
Number 1: It is Satan’s hand that harmed Job, not God’s. It seems obvious, but it was the wording of the verses in chapter 1 that caught my attention. Satan incites God: “Stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” But God answers, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand.” (Job 1:11-12, emphasis added.) Satan is good at spinning his own evil to God’s credit. It comes out in common phrases like, “If God is good, why do bad things happen?”–thus pinning the blame on God with the implication that all bad things are His fault. The question would be better phrased, “Since God is good, for what reason does He allow the devil to continue doing evil?” Thus God is not the enemy, the devil is. And that question, deserving of much more time than will be given to it in this post, is answered all over the bible….
Number 2: God’s love for us is independent of our circumstances. When things do not go well for us, we do not need to doubt God’s love. Before we started the story, I asked the kids about their Christmas’. They enthusiastically told me about all their favorite presents. As a segue into Job, I asked, “So, how do we know God loves us? Is it because we all got awesome presents for Christmas!?” I was so proud when the class resounded: “NO!” So I asked them to raise their hand and tell me how we know for certain that God loves us. One little boy (who normally doesn’t answer questions) shot up his hand and said, “Because Jesus died for our sins!”
“God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
God’s love is not found in the blessings he gives us. God does not show His love for us in that we have good health and prosperous lives. It is God who blesses us with those things, but it is not the demonstration of His love. Furthermore, God’s love is not depreciated when blessings are scarce. We know God loves us because He became sin on our behalf to make us the righteousness of God in Him. No matter what the condition of our lives, we always know He loves us because He died on the cross for us.
Number 3: Just because things are bad does not mean God thinks that we are. When things do not go well for us, we don’t have to assume it is because we’ve done something wrong. Job was commended by God Himself as being a righteous man, and yet he had troubles. God’s love for us is not measured by circumstances, nor is our righteous standing before Him.
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1)
This peace we have with God exists even when peace in our life does not. We lay hold of God’s love through faith, and it is through that faith in Him that we are made to be completely righteous. Present circumstances neither confirm nor deny our standing, it is promised to us in God’s word–period.
I did not expect these truths to be pointed out to me through Job. But they strengthen me so that, at some point, when Satan tries to incite God’s hand against me, I can rest in the knowledge that it will not be God’s loving, nail-pierced hand that reaches out to hurt me, but it will be His hand that holds me tight as I walk through the fire with Him.
"And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’" (Matthew 20:11)
God does not play favorites. Each of us will enter His presence through faith in His Son. Because of that, there is no Christian with a higher level of righteousness. We have the righteousness of Christ, and Christ’s righteousness is complete.
There is no room for jealousy, no room for exalting one another, no room for assuming one is closer to God than another because he has “borne the heat of the day”. In the presence of a holy God we must all be completely holy or we must not approach Him at all. Therefore, through faith in His Son, God has made us equals.
“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit.” (Matthew 12:33)
There is only one way to bear good fruit: to be a good tree. Focusing on the fruit will not help. What farmer fertilizes the branches?
In Jesus we are grafted in to the The Good Tree. If we desire good fruit, we desire a good thing, but we must recognize our place as branches and who the source of the fruit is. Without Him, we can do nothing.
“If the root is holy, so are the branches.” (Romans 11:16)
“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
“It is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13)