I didn’t have Internet for much of yesterday, for no apparent reason, and I couldn’t help but think that maybe God was telling me to take a break. The load has lightened just the tiniest bit – imperceptibly. My husband is away again, but when he returns, he doesn’t plan to leave again for a couple of weeks. And while he was here, he managed to fix the dishwasher and trim some of the hedges. I also managed to clean my floors, so the world looks rosy right now.
I’m convinced of my need to surrender the areas of my life that I have limited control over – the marketing for my book, my dog, who is going through his teenage stage and bit two of my children, the fact that I need to work right now and simultaneously can’t afford a cleaner, which leaves me with much less free time to write. If God is placing these obstacles in my path to my doing what I want to be doing, then there must be a reason. He must want me to be doing something else. Like living life, instead of just writing about it.
But sometimes it’s so much easier to write about life than to live it.
Moving onward. I was inspired to tackle the concept of being good today. You know, the scriptures say we are not good, but do any of us believe that? I know, I have a huge problem with it. I still think I can get to heaven by being good – by my own merit. “Okay, I’ve read the Bible (check), I’ve prayed (check), I’ve shared my faith (not very often) (check), I’ve given money to the poor (check). Surely he will accept me now. Look how good I am!”
And although viewing ourselves as a good person is not the same as doing good, I am only going to address the former today. Even with a regular dose of reading the Bible, which assures us that “There is no difference (between observing the Jewish law and being a gentile not under the law), for ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23 (emphasis and parenthesis are mine) . . . we still insist – whether outwardly or internally – that we are good.
“I’m not a . . . a murderer, for heaven’s sake!”
“At least I don’t lie. Or . . . I just tell white lies.”
“I never steal. I don’t even cheat on my taxes!”
We compare ourselves to those “sinners” that do these things (or who are just plain mean in our eyes) and sigh with relief that we have escaped judgment, for surely our sins pale in comparison. Surely we are good enough to get into heaven. Surely I will be accepted over someone like Jeffrey Dahmer, who tortured and killed XX number of boys.
But that’s not necessarily true. God’s wisdom is not our wisdom. Jeffrey Dahmer supposedly repented of his sins and turned to Christ for forgiveness, and although only God knows if that’s true – if it is true, he will be in heaven with God on the last day. And someone who tries very hard to be good every single day, and views themselves as good, but does not repent of their sins and trust in Christ for forgiveness will not. According to scripture.
I think it’s hard to give up the idea of being good for two reasons: 1) we are afraid of losing God’s love and approval if we are not good, and 2) we cannot bear to think so poorly of ourselves.
I thought I’d address those two things.
In Mark 10:17-22
As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good – except God alone.”
Jesus would not even allow the eager young man to call him good. Jesus is the author and the perfecter of our faith, and he teaches us how to view ourselves with sober judgment. He also teaches us how to view God. And in this case he’s correcting the young man – remove yourself of the idea that anyone can be good, apart from God, because it just isn’t so. Not even me.
“You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honour your father and mother.'”
“Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”
Jesus reminds him of the commandments handed down by Moses, and before he can even finish the list, the impetuous young man cuts him off. “I do all that. ALL these I have kept my whole life.” Really young man? You have not even stumbled once?
I don’t think he even wants to know what else there is to do to get to heaven. I think he wants Jesus’ approval of him right now. But Jesus doesn’t approve of him, he loves him.
Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
Jesus loves him even when he thinks he’s good, but he reminds him of what he is lacking. He has not relied on God, and instead relies on his wealth and his righteousness to save him.
Jesus loves us when we are not good. He loves us even when we are not good but think that we are. But we’re the ones missing out if we think we can make it to heaven on our merit.
Paul describes all his good works as equivalent to rubbish – menstrual cloths, as I’ve heard the greek word translated. And Paul knew what he was talking about. He did everything right. (Philippians 3:4b-9). “If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.“
Who can say this much? Who is this faultless? I know I’m not!
But Paul continues, “But whatever was to my profit, I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.“
When we view ourselves as “a good person,” we cast off our ability to be saved by grace, and we tack on the law again, and try to earn our righteousness by following the law.
Fear of losing God’s love is one reason for insisting we are good. And the other reason we don’t want to give up on the idea of being good is because our pride does not allow it. “If I am not good, then what am I? Come on, I’m not that bad!”
But Genesis 6:5 says that “every inclination of the thoughts of (man’s) heart was only evil all the time.” (emphasis and parenthesis are mine) If we have to see ourselves as a good person, we’re under constant pressure to remain so, and so we make excuses for when we sin.
“I can’t have just snapped at that person for no reason. It was because she provoked me.”
“How could I have had that blasphemous thought? I must be under a lot of stress to think something so out of character!”
“I can’t believe I watched some of that porn show in the hotel room. I’m generally a model of purity. I wouldn’t want anyone to know I did that!”
But it’s oddly liberating to expect of yourself that every inclination of your heart is only evil all the time. Because then when you sin, whether in thought or in action, you’re not surprised at yourself, and you call out to God for his grace and mercy rather than trying to justify the sin. “Thank God for the Cross and the forgiveness of my sins!”
And, on the flip side, when you actually do something good, you don’t attribute it to your own goodness. Instead, you call out to God, thanking him for the ability he gave you to do good.
In all you do, you call out to God. And this is all he asks of us. Salvation through faith and reliance on him.
In these past weeks (months), part of what has been so hard for me is facing up to the fact that I cannot do it all. I cannot teach, and run my household, and keep up a blog schedule, and give back to other writers, and market my book, and weed my garden, and lose weight, and give my dog what he needs, and continue our church involvement. I can’t do it all!
Oh, I just hate that. I do. I’m afraid that people will view me as selfish when I can’t give to them the way I think I should.
Elihu reminded Job, “If it were his intention and he withdrew his spirit and breath, all mankind would perish together and man would return to dust.” (34:14-15)
This is what I need to hold onto, instead of trying to hold on to my own righteousness. God loves me enough to put obstacles in my path until I look at him and say, “Not by my righteousness or my strength or my . . . goodness, but only by your Spirit do I do anything at all.”
* * * * *
As if my post were not long enough, I would like to take a moment to share a campaign that’s going on for the book I contributed to: Sunshine After the Storm: a survival guide for grieving mothers.
One of the common themes we, the authors, share – whether our loss was an early miscarriages, late pregnancy, infant loss, or an older child – is that desire to make known that we will always be that child’s mother. Whether we are mothering them in our arms or in our hearts.
To the grieving moms out there: you are always their mother and you are not alone in this sentiment.
Last year, over thirty parents came together to try to deliver our message and survival tips to grieving parents through the book Sunshine After the Storm: A Survival Guide for the Grieving Mother. When we talked about our goals for the book, we wanted the overarching theme to be hope and encouragement. We want all grieving parents to know that they are not alone, and that it is okay to grieve, to miss that baby, and to let them know you are their mother.
After we published the book, we wanted to go one step further. We want to raise money to donate this book to as many hospitals, bereavement groups, and bereavement support groups as I possibly can.
So… we created a non profit organization: Sunshine After the Storm, Inc. Through this organization we have already donated more than 50 books.
But we want to go one step further.
Introducing the Mother’s Day Campaign
This very special campaign is to raise enough money to donate 100 or more books to hospitals and bereavement groups for Mother’s Day. You are always their mother.
In addition, 10% of all funds raised will be donated by Sunshine After the Storm, Inc. to Donna’s Good Things, the March for Babies (March of Dimes), Mommy to Mommy outreach, Fetal Hope, the TTTS Foundation, Molly Bears, Teeny Tears, and Mikayla’s Grace. (Yes, we need to raise a LOT of money!)
And we wanted to do one more thing.
In honor of International Bereaved Mother’s Day, which is May 4th, the Sunday before Mother’s Day, we will draw winners for some amazing prizes that have been graciously donated for this cause.
We invite everyone to participate in the Giveaway – you do not have to be a grieving parent, we just ask that you make a donation to the Campaign.
(If you have something you’d like to add to the donation list, it’s not too late to join us! Just email me at email@example.com and we will get your donation added!)
There’s only one thing you have to do to be entered into the drawing.
Go and donate at least $5 to our fundraising campaign. (It costs us roughly $8 for each book donated)
Because after all, this is our Mother’s Day Campaign, but we can’t do it without your help!
Enter the Giveaway HERE:
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Please be sure to check out our amazing sponsors:
The Sassy Palmetto customized gifts