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" The Righteousness of God and Man "

"Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God." (Romans 10:1-3)

"In all false religion, the worshipper rests his hope of divine favour upon something in his own character, or life, or religious duties...The sinner's own character, in any form, and under any process of improvement, cannot furnish reasons for trusting God. However amended, it cannot speak peace to his conscience, nor afford him any warrant for reckoning on God's favour; nor can it help to heal the breach between him and God. For God can accept nothing but perfection in such a case, and the sinner has nothing but imperfection to present. Imperfect duties and devotions cannot persuade God to forgive." (Horatius Bonar from God's Way of Peace)

God alone is perfect. We are not, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Since we fall short of His perfection, we will always be imperfect creatures presenting to God imperfect works.

All our works, from the day we are born to the day we die are of no more worth to God than filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). Such works have their base in self, or what the Bible calls the flesh, and God says, "Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the LORD" (Jeremiah 17:5). In our limited understanding of what God requires we make perfection the end result of human effort when it should be the beginning of our relationship with God.

But, how can we possibly hope to have such a relationship when all our efforts to please Him are doomed from the start? There is absolutely nothing we can do to bridge the infinite gap that separates an infinitely holy God from unholy creatures such as ourselves. However, God has not left us without hope.

He did for us what we could never do for Him. He satisfied His own righteous demands for perfection by His unmerited favor, or grace, toward us in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. It was Jesus who revealed the only work that will satisfy God. "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent. (John 6:29). This statement reveals a most obvious but horribly misunderstood truth about salvation. It may be stubborn pride or ignorance, but many appropriate for themselves something which belongs to God alone. "This is the work of God", not ours. God knew that all of humanity would never be able to achieve the impossible, so He did it all for us in Christ's finished work on the cross. It is that simple. Our work is to repent of our sin and trust Him for our salvation. Understand this and act on it and it will be pleasing to God - more than all the works of man's self-efforts combined since the creation of the world. "...there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just person who need no repentance." (Luke 15:7) But don't misinterpret what Jesus said. He fully understands that we are all sinners. It is only the self-deluded who feel no need for repentance.

In God's work we are made perfect in Christ the moment we trust Him alone for our salvation because it is the perfect Person and His work that has satisfied all of God's righteous requirements. If this was not true, Jesus Christ would have rotted in the grave. The resurrection is God's approval of His Son's work successfully completed for us in providing salvation for the individual who trusts Him. So perfectly did Jesus Christ do all that God required from us that it was a single, solitary work needed to be done only one time for all time.

No system of beliefs centered in man's efforts at pleasing God, now matter how outwardly pious they appear, will ever satisfy God's righteousness and His perfection as did the one Person who did it all for us, the Lord Jesus Christ alone. Add anything else to His work of salvation and we corrupt it with self, or the flesh. We become God's enemy, and our own, by being a hindrance to His work of grace. We, as believers, realize we have no merit or worth apart from Jesus Christ alone in the question of salvation and achieving a right relationship with God. The works done through faith in Christ are the expression of that faith and not as a means to gain the salvation we already have. Faith without works is dead if the faith we claim to have is devoid of any expression back to Him as its object.

A friend of mine died recently. He was not saved. Another friend and I tried witnessing to him on numerous occasions, but we were not able to persuade him to at least consider the Gospel message as an alternative to his firm belief in reincarnation. He firmly believed that a series of other lives would provide opportunities to step upward in his quest for perfection. But, how can anyone possibly do this in any life or series of lives if no one has a perfect concept of what perfect is? How can we when we are imperfect? How can anyone know enough to achieve what it is they are striving for when no one knows perfectly what the goal should be? You have to be perfect to have a perfect knowledge and understanding of what perfect is. Just one imperfect thought, word or deed in any life would automatically disqualify anyone from achieving perfection. Anyone trusting in reincarnation will be forever doomed to life after life with imperfect knowledge and no ability to achieve what they can't possibly know well enough to pursue. One mistake and they have to begin the process over again and again and again. And, how can believers in reincarnation learn anything from their "past lives" or avoid the mistakes they made when they don't even have a conscious recollection of the countless blunders they must have committed in those previous lives?

We will never have the perfect knowledge or ability to rise above our own imperfection. We can have a million more lives, or even countless billions more, but our renewed efforts will still fall infinitely short of God's perfection. He willingly stooped down to our low level to touch us. He became one of us in all respects except sin, in Christ, to die for a race of beings not worth dying for.

"For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation." (Romans 5:6-11)

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"Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy and not sacrifice.' For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance." (Matthew 9:12 & 13 - also read Luke 18:10-14)


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