As a pastor, I expect my congregation to practice what I preach, but that expectation must first be applied to myself. As a child, I often heard my father say, “do as I say, not as I do!” I did not dare argue with him, but realized his advice could be classified as hypocrisy. Upon reflecting on God’s word, we quickly find out how hard it is to consistently apply it and how much we need God’s help in living the way we aught to.
For example, a few years ago, I had been to a Bible conference. I found myself whole heartedly agreeing with the preachers challenge to care about the folks around us and to care enough to witness to them. I left that conference with a renewed vigor to reach out with love to those around me.
On the way home, I passed through a town with a Menards store. I just had to stop. As a do-it-yourselfer, and a tool nut, Menards is one of my favorite stores. Now understand that I lived about an hour and half from Menards at that time, so this was a special treat. I was excited about walking down the isles dreaming about my next big project while listening to “save big money” over the intercom.
My excitement was tempered as I pulled into the parking lot and could hardly find a parking space. I began to think, “why did all these people have to come here today; don’t they live close enough that they could have come another day instead.” Foolish of me, I know, but our sinful minds often become cynical. My bitter attitude did not improve as I entered the store. The building was as packed as the parking lot. Every isle I attempted to go down was blocked, often by people with shopping carts who did not seem to have any desire to make room for others to meet them. I found myself muttering under my breath, “why all these people.” I couldn’t wait to get out of the store and away from all those people.
Just as my contemptuous thoughts were getting the best of me, I rounded an isle and a calm pleasant lady took the time to smile. I realized that I had not been smiling. In fact, I probably looked quite mean and angry. Then I remembered the message I had heard just hours before about caring for those around us. I came under conviction and prayed to my Heavenly Father asking Him to forgive me for such sinfulness and hypocrisy. I then began to smile. As I smiled, I noticed how many people made extra room in the isles and smiled back. I was able to see them as people and not as inconveniences .
Please understand, I am not normally as hard to get along with as I was that day at Menards, but this illustration just goes to show us how easy it is to fall into sin, even after being reminded how we are to act. It also should remind us of the truth of Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” It reminds me that I am not, nor can I ever be righteous enough to get to Heaven. That is why I must depend on Christ’s righteousness not my own. “To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” Romans 3:26. The next verses makes it clear that I cannot boast in my goodness to get to Heaven. “Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” Romans 3:27-28. This shows me that I can never be good enough to live up to God’s standard, but Christ who was totally sinless, was good enough and He paid the price for me.
Now should the fact that Christ paid the debt that I could not pay give me an excuse to be bitter and sinful? God forbid. NO! It should NOT give me and excuse! The apostle Paul deals with this very issue a few chapters farther on in Romans where he says, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” Romans 6:1-2.
God’s grace never gives us an excuse to sin. If a man uses the grace of God to justify disobedience to God, then he does not even know God. “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” Matthew 7:21. You see our obedience is not our means of salvation, but the evidence that Christ has saved us. Because I know I could never be good enough to reach God’s ultimate standard, I try to do right because He saved me, not in order to be saved. Now not everyone is saved, not even those who are doing a lot of good things, only those who have put their complete trust in Christ.
Here is what it amounts to. If I could depend on my goodness to get to heaven, then if I made it, I could brag about how good I was. But when I recognize that I will never be good enough, then I realize that Christ did it all, and He is the ONLY ONE who is good enough. Therefore, Christ is exalted rather than I.
“ Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” John 14:6
Pastor Jerry D. Miller First Baptist Church, Bancroft, IA 885-2702