by Mike Ratliff
After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John 19:28-30 ESV)
Sometimes God brings things into our lives that seem devastating. Others may also see these things in our lives and question that God even exists. They cannot conceive of a loving God who would cause or allow debilitating diseases that are always fatal into the fragile bodies of those who profess faith in the Saviour. However, I am always amazed at the deep, rock hard faith displayed by those in the center of these things, whether it is the one suffering or a close family member. As I attempt to minister to these folks, feeling 100% inadequate to do so, I am the one who is encouraged by their attitude and Christlike spirit that seeks to build me up in our Lord. It is then that I view my own walk and am ashamed.
I view my bad attitude about those things that seem to always interfere with my timing and then compare my self-centeredness to that godly patience and joy in the one suffering, thereby wondering why God puts up with my immaturity and self-focused selfishness. Then I see how irrational is our rage is over hitting every red light between our house and church or work going both ways for weeks at time. When we compare these things to the reality of a fellow warrior who has been faithfully fighting the good fight, contending for the faith then finding out that he has the most aggressive form of ALS then we are ashamed. When he encourages us in the Lord, rejoicing that he is blessed by our ministries then all of our fleshly focus is brought before our eyes to our shame. It also tears down walls of resistance that we have constructed in our hearts thereby muting the voice of the Holy Spirit. God is a magnificent surgeon of the heart.
All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:27-30 ESV)
Those who are the Christlike, mature, and godly believers that God uses are those who have learned the “secret” of resting in our Lord. We have been looking at our incredible salvation over the last few weeks and how we are called to be Holy, to pursue righteousness. Why? It is our battle or struggle to do this that is the process God uses to sanctify us. However, we have the tendency to do our part in this externally while believing that this will change us internally. This is much more prevalent in Christians than we care to admit. This is the very thing the Pharisees of our Lord’s day did. He rebuked them severely. This is the process of adhering to the doctrines of men rather than in holding fast to our Lord, surrendering all to Him so that He changes us from the inside out.
Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. (Colossians 2:6-7 ESV)
This is what all believers are called to do with their lives after salvation. What is it? We are to walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith the same way that we received Him as Lord. That is, of course, by faith. Paul is telling us that believers’ lives are to be marked by an abundance of thanksgiving. However, our natural tendency is to try to conform to our perception of godliness by constructing a facade of righteousness. In other words, we create a list of things we must do and a list of things we do not do. Then we attempt to be conformed to these lists. Eventually, depending on how successful we are at keeping the facade going, we jump to the self-righteous conclusion that certain behaviors mark genuine believers and un-believers. We may say, “Real believers would never do xyz.” Or we may say or think, “All genuine believers will do xyz.” Do you see how this is the very thing Jesus warned us of in Matthew 7 when He commanded that we judge not? This is hypocrisy. It really isn’t intentional, but it is deceptive and causes us to make idols of our religiosity. Tragically, we judge ourselves this way and it can be devastating. It can bring us to despair. Where does it begin?
See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. (Colossians 2:8 ESV)
When we attempt to be godly by doing things from the foundation of philosophy or the ways of man, which are never based in the real Jesus Christ, then we are actually taken captive. We may not feel like captives or that we have been deceived, but the fruit of this will soon become evident. We will begin to build the facade of what we perceive as righteousness or holiness. This is the religion of DO.
How do we reverse this? How do we repent of building our own facade of righteousness? It begins at the cross. Please read the passage I placed at the top of this post (John 19:28-30). What did Jesus say right before He died? He said, “It is finished.” The Greek word John used here is “τετελεσται” or “teléō.” It means, “end goal, To make an end or accomplishment, to complete anything , not merely to end it, but to bring it to perfection or to its destined goal, to carry it through.” My brethren, this is vital that we grasp this. What did our Lord complete, making an end, bringing it perfection? Our Lord perfectly completed the entire work of redemption of His people. The single Greek word translated, “It is finished,” has been found in the papyri being placed on receipts for taxes meaning “paid in full.”
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. (Colossians 3:12-14 ESV)
All in Christ are forgiven of their sins and must live in light of that. They must forgive and put on love. Why? Living amongst men with the godly nature called for here reveals to all that those who do are actually spending much time in the presence of their Lord in prayer and devotion.
For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. (Colossians 2:9-19 ESV)
We are called to live in reality what God did for us at the cross and when we were saved. How do we avoid the snare of self-righteousness while living this way? We must cling to our Lord as we run the race that God the Father has set before us (Hebrews 12:1-2). We fix our eyes on Him, we pull our Lord close, we hold fast to the Head. It is as we do this that true godliness and Christlikeness grows in us and this is from God alone, not by our building our own version of it which is just a facade. Yes, we are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12), but never forget that this is just another perspective of running this race by holding fast to the Head. We cannot work out our salvation by building a facade of self-righteousness.
Those who are patient, godly, and are growing in Christlikeness abide in the Lord. They walk yoked up with Him. They are resting in Him. As a result, God is growing Christ’s character in them. They are being conformed unto His image. They can rest in Him because they know that it is finished. They stand blameless before the Lord because they have been justified by faith. They can grow in patience and learn contentment as they hold fast to the Head who is our Lord Jesus Christ. On the other hand, those Christians who are mired in the religion of DO are only building a facade of self-righteousness whose only function is an attempt at self-justification while judging others according to that standard. My brethren, we are not talking here about contending for the faith. No, we must still do that, but we must be very careful to not corrupt that with self-righteousness.
Let us draw near unto God. Ask Him for wisdom and discernment. Hold fast to Christ and walk before Men with a forgiving heart while resting in our Lord. Work with God in tearing down the facades of self-rightetousness that we have constructed as we Abide in our Lord Jesus Christ.
Soli Deo Gloria!