"God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in him in the midst of loss, not prosperity." --John Piper

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Religiousity #1

Job 4:6  "Is not your fear of God your confidence, and the integrity of your ways your hope?"

These words were spoken by Eliphaz, one of Job's friends, after 7 days of silence. Do they sound like words of comfort to you? I think to some they might, I think to some people this would be a compliment. But are they? I would hope that no one would think such things about me.

Now I think that the fear of God is a good thing. Proverbs 1:7 tells us that "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge." And I would hope that people who know me can see and understand that I do fear the Lord. But my fear of God is not my confidence. My confidence is in God and His attributes alone.

If my confidence is in my fear of God, then my confidence will waiver. I don't always fear God. Now that might sound like a strange statement, but I believe it is true. I believe in God. Always. But what about when I sin. Any sin. I could be a sin of disobedience, such as anything from speeding to murder. When I sin, I am not in fear of God. It could be a sin of omission. Perhaps someone gave me too much change, and I walk away and stick it in my pocket. Or I walk by someone in need, and do nothing. At these moments, do I fear God?

You see, I think Job's friend is saying here that Job's confidence is in his own righteousness. And I never want someone to tell me that my confidence is in my own righteousness. No matter how good I am or how good I might appear to be to others, I know that I am a sinner. I fall short. It is not just that I have fallen short, I continue to do so. If my confidence is in my fear of God, then I miss what God has for me.

The second part of that statement basically says the same thing. I would hope that no one would think that the integrity of my ways my hope. I am not 100% righteous. And isn't anything less then 100% failure? Now maybe not at school. At school we have a grading scale. 92% and above is still an A. But God's grading scale is not like that. It is pass or fail, it is 100% or nothing. If my hope is in my integrity, I am doomed to fail.

So what is my confidence in? God. Whatever I am, whatever I have, whatever happens, I put my confidence in God. It must be God who saves me, for I cannot save myself. There is no good thing that I can do to earn the favor of a God who can create and maintain such a universe as the one we live in.

Unfortunately, there are many in the church who don't get this. I think largely because we have stopped preaching about God, and have made religion about us again, much like the Israelites did over and over, all the way to the Pharisees and teachers of the law in Jesus time. There are those who, in the name of religion, teach that it is my behavior, my effort, my everything that determines my salvation.

Even at my church, where the current sermon series is "I'm All In" (with reference to Texas Hold-em poker, yes, really). I have to choose the right attitude, I have to go all in (as if that is even possible), I can't criticize, complain, or think of myself. Ironically, if I have this belief system, all I am really doing is thinking of myself.

Yes, Jesus told us to carry our cross daily. So in a sense, he calls us to go all in. But his was not a catch-phrase. It was a statement of the reality of following God. It was told to combat the idea of religiousity, not promote it. It was told to the disciples after Jesus had just told them he must suffer and die. On one occasion, Peter rebukes Jesus for saying he must die. Jesus instructs him rather harshly.

First, by calling him Satan.

I don't believe that Jesus was calling Peter names. I think at that moment, Jesus was literally addressing Satan, who was using Peter to tempt him. Satan wanted Jesus to agree, to say that such a thing should never happen to him, to the Messiah. He was appealing to Jesus' humanity, but his diety saw through it immediately.

Second, by explaining to Peter that carrying a cross is not a bad thing. Sure, the cross is an instrument of pain and suffering. But that is the price if you desire to save your soul. It is about obedience to whatever God lays out for you, and not about what you think He should lay out for you. Which do you prefer, Peter? To save your life but in the end to lose it, or to surrender your life in order to keep it.

It is not about me, my righteousness, my integrity, my anything. It is about God and Him alone. It is about me pushing into Him, not me pushing myself on Him. My confidence is Him.

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