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Easy IV

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“I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”[1]

If you were going to lay down your life to save the world and start up a church that you would leave behind to be responsible for preaching the good news and to be a witness of what you have done, your miracles, your ‘good’ works, your sacrifice and the injustice that you have suffered —who and what type of people would you choose? We see this with fathers leaving their fortunes to their sons, and captains of industry passing on the baton to their successor. What type of people do they choose? Firstly, they choose reliable, honest and trustworthy people of good character as they say; people who would be considered righteous and who would consider themselves righteous.

If there were two men who went for an important job at the bank, and one said, “I never gamble, I never lie, I do not steal and I never raise my voice in anger,” and the other said, “I am a gambler, a liar, a thief, and I do worse things with my mouth than raise my voice in anger,” who would get the job? The first one of course. When God said, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,”[2] He was not joking. Then God rarely jokes, for His word is the truth.

So, when He sent His Son to save the world, what sort of people did He also send Jesus to save? The righteous from the evil and power of Satan, or the sinners from the evil and power of Satan? Why?

Firstly, because there are very few truly righteous people, and if they exist, they do not need Jesus to save them. Noah was righteous in his generation; he only had to build an ark to save himself from the flood, not Jesus. Job was declared blameless by God, and for all his sufferings, Jesus did not have to die on the cross to restore to him what was taken from him. Then, why are there so few righteous people? Because all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.[3] As such, what we call ‘righteous’ people are really self-righteous people, righteous in their own eyes, but not in God’s. They are the ones who are like the man who went to the front of the temple, whom Jesus spoke about: To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’”[4] Jesus told us this Pharisee did not go home justified before God. For we are justified by the truth of what we are before God—sinners, fallen short of the glory of God, who cannot save ourselves even if our eternity depended on it. No amount of avoidance of sin or doing good can help us meet the standard of God’s perfection, for we all descended into sin through Adam.

Unless you are not a descendant of Adam, yet also a man, then you can be justified with avoidance of sin, which is fulfilment of the Law of God and doing good. Jesus Christ is not, in truth, a descendant of man, for He was before man was, and although He came and took the form of a man, He did not experience all that man had become until He became the sin offering. He did so when, through His silence before false witnesses, He broke Leviticus 5:1 so that the responsibility and guilt, even the punishment, was transferred to Him.

So, let it be clearly established once and for all in your head and your heart—God did not draw you to Jesus His Son because you were righteous in His sight as Noah and Job were, but rather, because in His sight you and I are all sinners for whom He sent Jesus. Noah and Job did not have the privilege of coming to know Jesus or to even know about Him in their days, but we do, and all because we are sinners who have heeded His call to repent and believe. Abraham was credited righteous because he believed God, but Abraham was never called to repent by God, even when he lied about his wife Sarah to Abimelech.

When Abraham bargained with God for the fate of Sodom in Genesis 18, he stopped at ten men; that God would not destroy Sodom if there were ten righteous men. Abraham was basing his judgment of righteousness of that of a man, and not of God. For indeed, God found no one, not one, righteous in Sodom, not even Lot. So when God destroyed the cities of the plain, He remembered Abraham, and He brought Lot out of the catastrophe that overthrew the cities where Lot had lived.[5] Lot was rescued not because he was righteous, but because Abraham was God’s friend, and God did not want His friend to suffer loss and grief over his cousin. You see, in God’s eyes, none, not even Lot, was righteous in Sodom, but Abraham was confident there must have been at least ten righteous men in Sodom.

When Jesus Christ arrived on this Earth 2000 years ago, it was also the time when God declared there was no righteous man left on the Earth, no man like Noah or blameless like Job. Even Abraham, though righteousness was credited to him by his faith, was not blameless, for he almost caused the death of Abimelech when Abraham lied about Sarah being his sister out of fear.[6] Abraham had righteousness credited to him by his faith, but not blamelessness, so that even Abraham had to wait for Jesus to come as it is written: “Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing My day; he saw it and was glad.”[7] Why? Because when Jesus came, He preached, “Repent and believe,” just as John did, but the baptism of John could only wash away the external outward sin ritualistically, but not the cleansing of sin once for all as Jesus could. Jesus Christ was and is the answer for all who are not righteous, for all who are not blameless before God, the answer for all sinners. Abraham knew and understood this when he saw the destruction of Sodom; there are none righteous and blameless before God, all have sinned.

To believe, you need not admit you are a sinner, only to acknowledge that you have faith. To repent is to admit you are a sinner, that you have broken at least one commandment of God, whether it is the first or the tenth, it does not matter, for you are a sinner like everyone else. In fact, the one who does commit idolatry is probably worse than a liar, for the commandment against idolatry is the first and the commandment against lying is the ninth. The greatest idol in the heart of a self-righteous man is probably himself, for he is the one he worships, for he does no wrong as far as he is concerned and even God should agree. Most liars know they are liars and they hate themselves, even loathe themselves for it. Notice that Abraham, the man to whom righteousness was credited, was also a liar. However, he had no idolatry of himself so that even when God made him rich,[8] he still called on the Name of the Lord and still relied on the Lord.

Thus, even though Jesus said, “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners,” in truth, there is nothing else and nobody else for Him to call on except sinners, for there is no one righteous, not one, in God’s eyes, for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

So then, these are the people He has selected to build His church with, the people He has selected to make this world a better and safer place – sinners. That is what He started with; sinners who repent and believe. But, what were they to become in order for His miraculous powers to continue to flow, and for them to do the things that He has been doing and greater things than these? Having called to Himself sinners who would repent and believe, what did Jesus expect them to become and to remain in order that the Holy Spirit’s power would flow through them without limit? The answer is evident not by the presence of unlimited miraculous power in the church, but by its obvious absence.

If the intention of Christ is to be glorified by a church that is known for its religiousness, its cathedrals, its zeal for war and its good works for the poor, even its faithfulness unto death with martyrdom, then this present day church with all its organisational levels, its outward piety of white clothes, public prayer meetings, its large and magnificent cathedrals, and programs to comfort the blind and the lame, the feeding of the poor, and housing the orphans in orphanages would also be manifesting the full power of the Holy Spirit. However, for all the magnificence of our cathedral building programs from the mega churches of the first and second millennium Europe to the present day mega churches, the Holy Spirit has withheld His power so that very few miracles are done; only some healings.

It is as if here we are with all our religious programs and self sacrifice, with our mega churches and public prayer meetings; the Holy Spirit is the One who is not getting in on the program to bring glory to Jesus and His Father. It is as if the Holy Spirit is making Jesus out to be a liar when Jesus said, “He will bring glory to Me by taking from what is Mine and making it known to you.”[9] We are making Jesus Christ known to the world with our Easter and Christmas messages, and our stand against abortion, and every good work, with our donations of food and aid for disaster zones, but where is the Holy Spirit? There are no miracles of the type He did with Jesus, and yet Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in Me will do what I have been doing.”[10]

So then, what is the conclusion? Is it the intention of Jesus to be glorified by the church as it exists, and the Holy Spirit is the One who is not cooperating, and that’s why when we make it easier for Him by having tons of food to feed the hungry, He still won’t multiply it, or, just perhaps, what we know now as the church is not the way Jesus wants to be glorified?

Does Jesus want to be glorified by people who can do miracles because they obey the Law of Moses like the Pharisee at the temple in Luke 18, or does Jesus want to be glorified by people who can do miracles because they have faith in Him? Faith in Him to keep them righteous before God by His sacrifice regardless of whether they have not succeeded in fulfilling the Law of Moses themselves? We know what does not work. A church of people of good character, which relies on its rituals to keep its people righteous in the eyes of God, is a church without miracles of the type that Jesus said we could do. You see, you must be careful and see how people water down the words of Jesus instead of taking Him at His word. Now we call a poor Christian who becomes a millionaire because he tithes a miracle, and we forget most millionaires are not Christians and they also tithe to their gods. No, a true miraculous ‘rags to riches’ story is like the poor widow of Elisha’s day, whose oil multiplied so that she paid off her debts and had enough to live on without having to become a cleaning lady in someone else’s household.[11]

So then, if we want a church that can do true miracles, we should first move from the one that does not work. Try being with a group of sinners who repent and believe, but who rely on Jesus to keep them righteous, and not by their own works of righteousness; men and women who are not ashamed to say that they are sinners who Jesus has called to His service, having no righteousness of their own. Perhaps then, we might get the miracles flowing again in the church. For the Holy Spirit is still here. We only had to find out why He has not continued with the miracles and what it would take for Him to release His miraculous power to glorify Jesus.

Who would glorify Jesus more? A righteous man who does not need Jesus doing miracles to help Jesus get some glory, or a sinner who needs Jesus and yet for all his weaknesses, is able to do miracles for Jesus? What would bring more glory to the perfect salvation by Jesus Christ? Surely the latter, for as Jesus said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.”[12]

It is not that we need to sin more to make God’s grace known more, no, but rather, we need to recognise that no matter how much we do right, our weaknesses are still there, and that but for the grace of God, we are condemned. So then, it is thank God for Jesus who came to call the sinners, and all who respond to Jesus’ call should openly confess they are sinners and not righteous, lest they make Jesus Christ out to be a liar.

So then, the ones we bring to Him, as He has said, “bring them here to Me,”[13] are like those little barley loaves and fish, men and women of no consequence in the eyes of the world, men and women of no reputation who cannot lay claim to being of ‘good character,’ but just sinners, one and all. And as we give thanks, we will see the Holy Spirit use them to meet the multitudes of needs that are here now, and will only increase in the days of distress yet to come.

We know the Holy Spirit has withheld His miraculous powers from the church confident of its own righteousness. Now let us offer to Him a church that has no confidence at all in its own righteousness, but is confident of the Lord Jesus. A church of sinners who cannot stop and does not stop repenting for such is their lack of confidence of their own righteousness, but in their repentance; and who rejoice at the thought of seeing Jesus Christ come on the day of His return, just like Abraham rejoiced.

A collection of sinners all grateful that Jesus is the one who has saved them and keeps them safe, testifying about their experience with Jesus of what they were and are, and what Christ has done for them, confirming their testimony with the signs and wonders that Jesus said they could all do in His Name.

Just like the one whose work is to be made mention of wherever we preach the Gospel,[14] who simply testified, “I have seen the Lord!”[15] And regardless of whether we are believed or not, it does not matter. Whether they consider our words to seem like nonsense,[16] it does not matter. What matters is that we testify to what we have seen, heard and know.

Remember it was not the Sanhedrin who thought that the words of the women seemed like nonsense, for when the guards reported to the chief priests what had happened, the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole Him away while we were asleep.’ If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.[17]

Why would you spend good money to bribe your enemies’ soldiers in order to cover up something that is nonsense? Why risk the wrath of Pilate, for remember they were bribing Roman soldiers. What for, if indeed the report is nonsense? As it was then, so it is now, those for whom the message is meant will find what we say seem like nonsense, but those who are against Jesus know our message is true. Satan knows Jesus is coming back, that is why he has been delaying Jesus’ return by distracting the church from fulfilling the words of Jesus. And if Satan knows, then his sons know too, and there is no better witness to the grace of God than for a son of the devil to be forgiven and made fit to be a son of God through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.

The yoke of Jesus is easy. Call the sinners, the worse they are, the better they are to bring Him glory. They only need to repent and believe, and the Holy Spirit will glorify His Name as His power confirms the word of their testimony that they, that we, are sinners saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. And we receive the Holy Spirit because we believed with that same faith, so we will do the things that Jesus has done and even greater things.

This then is the glory that God is after; that sinners everywhere, one and all, who have their faith in Jesus Christ, will do what He has been doing and even the greater things. So, take heart because it is because you are a sinner that Jesus has called you. Now, have faith in Him and do the things He has been doing until you do even the greater things. Occupy yourself with these works and the thought of seeing Him in His day, until He arrives, then nothing else will distract you from your life in Him.


 

[1] Matthew 9:13

[2] Isaiah 55:8

[3] Romans 3:23

[4] Luke 18:9-12

[5] Genesis 19:29

[6] Genesis 20:1-17

[7] John 8:56

[8] Genesis 13:2

[9] John 16:14

[10] John 14:12

[11] 2 Kings 4:1-7

[12] 2 Corinthians 12:9

[13] Matthew 14:18

[14] Matthew 26:13; Mark 14:9

[15] John 20:18

[16] Luke 24:11

[17] Matthew 28:12-15

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