Can I Be Right Before God?

Yesterday our big question was why go on? Today, a question posed by Eliphaz (4.1),

‘Can mortal man be in the right before God?
Can a man be pure before his Maker?

Job 4.17

Eliphaz seems to think that somewhere down the line Job has sinned (4.7), and that everything that is happening to Job must be the result of some sin he may have forgotten. As with yesterday, there is such a degree of demonic deception going on here; ‘can you ever really be ok with God? Sure Job, you are ‘blameless’, whatever that means, but come on, you must have done something, can you really be in the right before God? Can you really be pure before Him?

The Word of God that we carry in our Bibles tells us really clearly that left to our own devices, trying to earn and work our way to Him, that the best we can do is as good as filthy rags, as strong and sure as leaves blown away in the wind (Isaiah 64.6).

So, can we be right before God?

There is a simple answer to this with profoundly deep and complex workings – yes you can by faith in Jesus.

Ours is a faith that is so simple in practice but complex in understanding. Maybe you have friends who practice another religion and it seems to complex in it’s adherence but very simple in premise.

‘We are all trying to climb the same mountain’ they may say. Have you ever tried to climb a mountain? It’s hard. It’s tough. Unlike the mountains of this world, the metaphorical mountain of the Lord that represents right standing before Him can never be climbed alone so no, Eliphaz, no mortal man can be right before God, no human can be pure before his maker.

Thankfully, we serve a God who loves us so much that He knows this and He took action to fix this problem. Rather than watch us try to climb the mountain, He came down and will take us up with Him. He has the ability to climb what we cannot.

We have the opportunity to be right before God, we have the chance to be pure before our maker if we put hope, and trust, and faith in Jesus alone to accomplish this (Romans 3.28, 5.1, Habakkuk 2.4, Genesis 15.6, Galatians 2.16, 3.24). 

Can I be right before God?

Yes, you can. 

Alone you will never do this. Alone you will never be good enough. That’s the bad news. Accept this. But, don’t dwell on this, because there is Good News, there is the Gospel. Jesus, who is eternally good enough, gives you the opportunity to be right before God. When looking at you who have faith in Jesus, God sees you through this lens, He sees the righteousness and the purity and the perfection of Jesus and treats you the same. Amazing.

Can I be right before God? Yes, you can. 

Who Are We?

This is the first big question that we encounter in Job. If you didn’t read our introduction to Job yesterday, you can do so here

And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? 10 Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” 12 And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.

Job 1.8-12

The first big question is about our identity – who are we?

God gives a pretty good character reference for Job, doesn’t He? Job is described as a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil. However, the Accuser, Satan, basically says ‘OK, well, Job is only like that because you have prospered him. I bet if you take all of that away, his real character will come out and he is not so great.’

So, our identity. Are we willing to take God at His Word and see ourselves as His children, redeemed, ransomed, forgiven, loved unconditionally, blameless in His eyes, justified in His eyes through our faith in Jesus?

The alternative is that we try to forge our own identity on the shifting sands of the culture we live in, how we feel about this or that, or what other people say about us. In Job’s case, that was the Accuser saying that he was not all that, that he was loyal to his blessings, and that he was in this walk with the Lord for what he could get out of it, not because of his firm faith that God is good. 

Where we look for identity, for belonging, for security, for acceptance, for love will impact hugely how we feel about ourselves, how we feel about the world around us, and how we interact with it. I would encourage you to look to the truths of God’s Word to see who He says you are.

Today, consider these truths from the Word about who you are.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

Ephesians 1.3-10

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

John 1.9-13

Inherent and Intrinsic- Esther 3

Yesterday we saw the providence of God, and today the story continues. If you haven’t read Esther 3 recently, you can do so here.

After his assasination plot is foiled (2.21-23), the King appoints what looks like a Prime Minister (v.1), and Haman the Agagite seems to be enjoying this new-found power and respect. The Agagites were historical enemies of God’s people (Exodus 17.14-16), and this may explain why Mordecai was reluctant to bow down or pay homage. Haman obviously didn’t like this, and sought to destroy all the Jews. He engineers a situation wherein the King probably doesn’t realise who or what Haman is talking about (vv.8-11). The Jews in all the land were, essentially, given prior warning of their impending death sentence (vv.13-15), and Haman cosied up to the King as all this took place (v.15b).

The de-humanising of people has been a perennial problem that is often the pre-cursor to terrible atrocities. Here Haman refers to God’s people, people made in the image of God, lives with inherent and intrinsic worth and value, as a certain people, …their laws…, it is not to the king’s profit to tolerate themthe peopledo with them

This way of thinking leads, inevitably, to conflict, loss of life, slavery, oppression, and generally nothing positive. How grateful we are that Jesus made the very important point that human life is of infinite value, regardless of national origin, culture, language, or tradition in Luke 10.25-37. Paul writes very explicitly that we are all one in Christ Jesus, regardless of things that may differentiate between us in an earthly sense (Galatians 3.28). Simply, there is more to unite us than divide us.

Today, let us see those around us as humans made in the image of God, lives with inherent and intrinsic value and dignity, people loved by the Lord and redeemed at such a high price, and those that God wishes to reach with His love, mercy, forgiveness, and grace…through you.

2 Timothy 4.14-22 – Last Words

Written whilst in prison awaiting death, the letter we know as Timothy is generally held to be the last that Paul wrote. Here, he signs off in typical fashion.

14 Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. 15 Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message. 16 At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! 17 But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. 18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.19 Greet Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus. 20 Erastus remained at Corinth, and I left Trophimus, who was ill, at Miletus. 21 Do your best to come before winter. Eubulus sends greetings to you, as do Pudens and Linus and Claudia and all the brothers.

22 The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you.

Paul warns his younger protege about particularly dangerous people who may cross his path (v.14), displays staggering spiritual maturity (v.16), and shows that as he neared the end of his life he knew from where his help came (vv.17-18, cf. Psalm 121). Even with death so close, even with his surroundings so dire, Paul still has a heart for people and desperately wants to see his friend one more time (vv.20-21). 

On the last words that Paul wrote, David Guzik comments,

The last words of Paul reflect a man who simply loved Jesus and had received His grace.

This simplicity, and all the power that went with it, marked the entire ministry of Paul.

Is that something that could be said of us?

Are we people who simply love Jesus and have received His grace?

Does this mark our lives? 

Paul was held here, in the Mamertine Prison, amid bleak and dreary surroundings.

Mamertine+Prison+ancient+cell+of+Paul’s+imprisonment

Despite this, he still had a heart for others and a steadfast and sure anchor to hold on to, the eternal hope found in Jesus. The last words he wrote to Timothy, possibly ever, show us the heart of the man, and the heart to which we must strive today.

22 The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you.

2 Timothy 3.2-5 – The Human Condition

Straight after the sad but true news that people are difficult, Paul goes on to detail the human condition.

For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.

The list is so long that breaking it down characteristic by characteristic would simply take too long. The easiest and simplest thing to say is that all of these things centre on self. “I” and “Me” become the most important words and ideas in life, and conduct and character are totally detached from anything other than how you feel about yourself.

People will be lovers of self is a fitting way to start this section, loving yourself unconditionally at the expense of anything and anyone else leads to everything else we read in this list, and Paul’s advice to Timothy (and in principle to us) is to avoid such people.  

This is, if we are honest, the condition that comes with our human nature. Left to our own devices and choices, we know that we will become the type of person detailed here. If we don’t think we will, we are more swollen with conceit than we even realise. 

What is the remedy to this? What do we do with this sad but true state of affairs?

We turn to the Word of God. As a good friend wrote in his book titled ‘Contented‘,

After all these years of reading the Bible, I am amazed at its ability to continually reveal who I am while at the same time transforming me into a more holy person. The more submissive I am to the Word of God, the more I understand His perfect will for my life.

Jeff Gipe

Today then, be an unconditional lover of the Word before yourself, put His will above your own, put others before yourself, and let us see ourselves for what we are – sinners in need of the life-changing, life-transforming, life-saving, life-giving grace of God. 

2 Timothy 3.1 – People Are Difficult

Someone once told me that the ‘best and worst thing about pastoring a church will be the people’. From what he writes here, it would seem that Paul agrees.

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty.

Paul will go on to say that these times of difficulty will come from people (v.2), but for the new minister Timothy this is what he needed to know first;

that as time progresses the times will get progressively more difficult.

This should not be a surprise to us, that as time goes on time gets tougher. Time of difficulty carries the meaning of stressful times, times of trial, times of tribulation…think of trying to swim in a sea that is wild, windy, and wavy. No matter which way Timothy turns, there will be difficult people to minister to.

It seems like Paul wanted to communicate this to Timothy so that he was going forward in his task with his eyes open, so to speak, knowing that people are difficult.

People are difficult, people are broken, and people are in desperate need of the saving grace of God.

If we are honest, so are we.

We are difficult to love, we are broken past the point of self-repair, and we are in desperate need of the saving grace of God.

Pastor, these are your people; difficult, broken, in need of grace.

Friends, this is all of us; difficult, broken, in need of grace.

The answer for both is the same – the free gift of grace available to us through faith in Jesus. Paul will go on to remind Timothy that the Word of God makes us wise for salvation (v.15), and it is on this solid foundation that we must stand as we seek to navigate these times of difficulty. People are broken, you are broken, and without the Word of God to stand on and soak in, this will never change.

Turn to the Word today!

2 Timothy 2.22-26 – A Must For A Minister

Do you ever read something in the Bible and think, well, that is just not me?

22 So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. 23 Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. 24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

The instruction to the relatively young pastor continues in this passage, and if we’re honest, we all routinely fall short of this, don’t we?

Paul starts with the exhortation to flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. Simply Timothy needed to, and we need to, just put as much distance between youthful passions and ourselves as possible. Youthful passions carries the idea of those things which interest us as younger people; sexual desire, fleshly lusts, earthly reward, you get the picture. We flee these things, in part, by being with those [people] who call on the Lord from a pure heart. Spending time with God’s people is a surefire way to grow in your walk with Him. Spending time with those who have more life experience than you is a way to flee youthful passions. Who can you spend time with then?

In terms of Timothy as a minister, this whole passage is a must. He must have fled from youthful passions and pursued righteousness, and in vv.24-26 we see another list of ministerial-must-haves;

  • Not quarrelsome,
  • Kind to everyone,
  • Able to teach,
  • Patiently enduring evil,
  • Correcting opponents with gentleness.

Quite a list, isn’t it, and when we read things like this we realise how far we are from the way we ought to be living. Whether we minister publicly in the church of whether we minister privately in our own homes and lives, these are qualities that we must all strive to possess. The consistent witness borne by your pastor probably comes harder than he makes it look, in the same way that your witness to your family in your private life is difficult and frought with daily battles.

In addition to the major empowerment of the indwelling Holy Spirit, one way we can encourage each other in our ministries is to pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord form a pure heart. Spending time together, understanding each other, and ministering the grace of God to each other is probably the single biggest must-have for the minister, whether public or private.

Who can you minister this grace to today?