Self-Righteous?

Lately I have been emphasizing Kingdom identity. In God’s eyes, you are holy and righteous. That is how He sees you. But some people hesitate to own this identity. They are worried that it sounds arrogant. I think they are afraid of coming across as self-righteous. All they need to do is understand the difference.

According to Google, self-righteous means “having or characterized by a certainty, especially an unfounded one, that one is totally correct or morally superior.” Self-righteousness is accompanied by “indignation and complacency.” Synonyms for self-righteousness are: sanctimonious, holier-than-thou, self-satisfied, smug, priggish, complacent, pious, moralizing, preachy, superior, hypocritical; and goody-goody.

Any of that sound familiar? The Bible describes the Sadducees as pretty self-righteous. They believed they were holy and righteous, but they also believed that it was because of what they did. That’s why Jesus didn’t really like them very much. They didn’t understand that you can’t get yourself into God’s Kingdom.

You can’t get yourself in! Holiness and righteousness have nothing to do with what you do. Nothing at all! Self-righteousness is actually just being full of yourself. The Bible says to boast in nothing. If you boast in anything, boast in what Christ did for you.

Through His blood, His righteousness is on you. Through His blood, His holiness is on you. You’re holy and righteous because of what He did. A prince cannot make himself a prince. He is born, he feeds from his mother the Queen’s bosom, and every day people tell him, “You’re the prince.” What makes him the prince? He didn’t do anything. The King’s his dad!

In the same way, you didn’t do anything! The King’s your dad! The Bible says, “I in you and you in me.” Anything apart from that is rubbish.

When you live out of the identity of holiness and righteousness, by grace and in grace, you will want to do good things. You will look at everybody, believers and non-believers, the same. They’re created in the image of God. You’ll love them for who they are. But you can’t save them. No matter what you do, you cannot walk up to someone and say, “Hey! I can get you into heaven!” You can’t get anybody into heaven.

You can only speak the Good News of grace and what Jesus did, and how awesome it is that He allows us to come into that throne room. All you have to do is simply accept Him. Realize that you are holy and righteous because that’s who God says you are.

Once your heart connects and worships Jesus because of what He did, you’re free. His door is open to you. You become part of the Kingdom of Heaven and you receive all of the benefits, the Bible says. All of them!

When you accept that, you feast!

Proud to Love an Orphan

A friend just got home from Haiti, and she had a tough, tough time. She spent a few days at an orphanage in Les Cayes, just hanging with some orphans and hearing their stories. One little boy was abandoned by his family on a filthy river bank when he was just 18 months old. His mom and dad simply couldn’t take care of him. So they left him, hoping the orphanage would take him in. It did, of course. He’s nine years old now, and my friend sat with him in the evenings after school. She told me how quiet and still he was. A boy like that should run and play and laugh, but he just sat near her. They had yarn and parachute cord, and she made bracelets with him, noticing how easily he would get discouraged. There wasn’t much she could do, beyond being there with him and encouraging him. She couldn’t bond with him, make promises to him, or raise expectations in him. She was just a visitor.

When she got to the airport in Port-au-Prince, she ran into a Christian group from Illinois. She said they were glowing and happy. They had also just come from an orphanage in Les Cayes. They’d just put a new roof on the main building. They told her their church had been helping the orphanage for several years. They love traveling down to Haiti. They get such a charge from doing good works. She couldn’t help but love them for their happiness and enthusiasm. She told me that she understood why they felt so good about what they had accomplished.

But she also wondered how she could be so sad. God had given her such a special opportunity to serve. She’d had a chance to be present for that little boy. She wondered why she didn’t have the same joyful buzz as those Christians from Illinois. I encouraged her on this. She shared the love of Jesus with that little boy! I know she’ll reflect joy in that, probably as soon as she recovers from the trip.

Her story got me thinking about how we are as human beings, and how we function. Pride is part of our human flesh. “I did something good enough for God to smile! Look what I did, that He smiles on me!” It feels awesome. I think we look for opportunities to feel that way.

But I have news for you. God is smiling on you anyway.

Pride makes us forget about grace. Take any good, solid, decent human being. If they get enough money, if they get enough fame, if they get enough people telling them how awesome they are, they can get pretty full of themselves. It is so easy for a good person to be corrupted with pride.

God knows how the human mind behaves. He knows that we are prideful. He knows that we like to brag and that we enjoy getting recognized for our accomplishments. He knows we’re not perfect! That’s why He sent His Son, who is perfect in every way, to die for us.

It is only through the death of His Son that we can get into heaven. It is the only way. I don’t care how much work you do, you have no shot. It is through His death alone that we enter the Kingdom. Don’t brag about all the great things you have done for God. We are only welcome in His Kingdom because of what His Son did for us, not for what we did. We didn’t do anything.

When Jesus died for us, He took away our right to boast. He took away our pride. He took it for a reason. Pride is too tempting! He had to save us from it. The only option was to eliminate it. This is the genius of God! The only person to get credit for getting us into the Kingdom is also the only person that won’t feel pride because of it. Jesus! He won’t brag about what He did. He’ll only say, “I’m just so glad you guys are all here, man!” You know?

So praise Jesus for what He did! He came in human flesh, dying for mankind. Now we are in Him, and He is in us. He brings us into the Kingdom of God. He brings us to eat at the banquet table of the King. We did nothing to get here. No money, no fame, no lottery ticket. No orphanage roofs or bracelets made from yarn. Nothing! Jesus did it all. Boast about that!

Freedom from Fear and Shame

Are you doing good works so that God will smile on you?

How’s that working out for you?

When I meet people motivated by a works mentality and ask them how it’s going, they invariably say, ”Ugh. I’m exhausted.” Yes, you are. The works mentality will exhaust you. It will burn you out. You will never be able to do enough to feel like you’re righteous!

Bottom line: a works mentality doesn’t work.

Don’t weary yourself this way. Jesus died so that we would be made holy and righteous. That was His sacrifice for you!

The Bible says that the power of the cross is meaningless to those who don’t understand. Why did Jesus sacrifice Himself? He did it so that you, in your human flesh, wouldn’t have to make yourself righteous. He did it so you wouldn’t have to perform this impossible task. That was the concept. Jesus earned your way into heaven. He did it for you, because He knew you could never do it for yourself. Jesus, the only man that walked the Earth with perfect thoughts, did it for you.

Now you never have to say, “God, look what I did to receive the Kingdom of Heaven.” You don’t have to say you did anything. You don’t have to work to exhaustion, failing yourself every day, being ashamed of who you are.

When you can come to grips with that, you are transformed. Man, Jesus! You did that! You did that to eliminate sin from our lives! I don’t have to be afraid of God! And then you rose again, three days later, and conquered death, so now I don’t have to fear that either!

You brought me into the Kingdom, to dine with the King. Every day there is a wedding feast because of all the new people coming in, and I get to go. Every day. I’m allowed at the banquet table no matter what I’ve done, because I am holy and righteous. The blood of Jesus has been poured over me, and because of my acceptance, God doesn’t see my sins. He doesn’t see my sins! That’s freedom!

He broke your bonds of sin and shame, fear and failure. Now you are welcomed and loved for who you are: His beloved and precious child.

That’s freedom.

Love In Friendship

Trust allows you to freely accept and love others. When you trust people, you don’t judge or condemn them. You don’t react negatively to the way they act. You’ll see them do things that you don’t necessarily admire, sure, but they’re only human, just like you. So you love them with the same trust and mercy that God gives you.

I have to tell you, I did not live this way for a long time. I wanted to! And I had the knowledge to do it. But I just didn’t put it all together. Now it has all come together for me. In my relationships, I feel so free, and people feel free around me. This is true both in my family and in my friendships. My wife and I have Christian friends that live with this trust mentality, and we have a great time together.

Do you have Christian friends who are always correcting you or judging you? Do they disapprove of what you say or do? I’ve been around people like that before. They keep me from being fully honest when I’m with them, because I don’t want to expose myself. I see how judgmental they are, so I don’t trust them with my whole self. I think we’ve all met someone like that. It’s exhausting, right?

But my wife and I have friends who live in trust, and they can come over to our house every day if they want to. We’re never exhausted. I think people who live in trust also live in freedom, and so it’s relaxing and energizing to be around them. We talk and we share our frustrations. We help each other. We say things like, “Yeah, I’ve been through that.” Or, “Here’s an idea. How about approaching it this way?” We never chide or chastise each other. We don’t say, “You need to do this better.” We say, “Let’s help each other. Let’s get a game plan together.”

That’s what friendship is all about. That’s what relationship is all about. And I think that’s what God is all about. God says, “Look, I know you’re going to mess up. I’m here to walk through it with you. When you mess up, I’ll say, ‘Jeremy. Okay. Let’s strategize. You know you have my Spirit in you, so you have the ability to not sin. You have the ability to live in righteousness and holiness. So all we have to do is figure this out together. How can we do this? How can I walk with you through this? And how can I encourage you through this?’”

That’s the God that I feel close to! I’m so happy! I get to say that He is my Savior and my Lord and my God and my King. I’m not talking about a God who is a dictator. My Savior does not put me to shame. My Lord and King loves me and encourages me and helps me! And so that’s what I do for my friends.

Trust In Your Children

As much as we might value our good intentions, they can get in the way of trust, and there is so much freedom in trust! Let me give you an example.

I have the best of intentions for my sons. I intend for them to grow up to be leaders. So I try to teach them to be leaders. Since I’m teaching them, I want them to listen to me. I want them to obey me all the time, and never talk back. I don’t want them to challenge me. I want them to answer me with honesty and respect.

But they are little boys, living in the fragile world of childhood. They don’t see my intentions and expectations in the same way that I do. They may want to express themselves in their own way, and become the people they were born to be. By putting my expectations on them, I don’t always allow them to be themselves. I can get in the way of them becoming who they are.

In my intention to train them for leadership, I try to put my sons in a box. It’s as if I give them a message that says, listen, if you stay in this box, you will be fine. Don’t leave the box.

That makes me feel good as a dad, because I feel like I have control. My family is doing what they should be doing. My kids look good to other people because they’re not acting out. These are the best of intentions, but it’s a recipe for frustration. As soon as one of them leaves that box, maybe because he wants to express who he is, I can get angry or frustrated. And of course I try to put him back in the box! But that causes my sons to live in bondage and not in the freedom to be who they are. That’s not leading, that’s dictatorship!

My good intention is for my sons to be leaders. But I don’t trust them to become leaders in who they are. And why shouldn’t I? They are wonderful people and can become good leaders. I don’t have to first make them be just like me. They have their own personalities and my job is train them to be leaders based on who they are, not who I am.

Not everyone is like you. That’s so obvious that we can fail to really understand it. We have to be able to trust other people for who they are, just as I have to be able to trust that my sons will be leaders in who they are. When I allow my boys to express themselves in their own way, I can actually give them freedom. I can love them and encourage them to be who they are, and who they’re going to become.

We have to be able to trust other people for who they are. But it doesn’t stop there! We also have to trust people with who we are. We need to be available, and transparent, and open. We have to be honest with each other and say, “This is who I am.”

Kingdom Mindset

One of the biggest problems we have, you, me, lots of us, is that we’re control freaks. The problem with control freaks is we want to decide what we’re going to do with our lives. Based on some expectation or another, we say, “God, this is my plan! This is what I want to do! And this is how it’s going to go down. Let’s get going!” When it doesn’t happen, we feel let down. We’re disappointed by God because He didn’t give us what we wanted.

Disappointment’s okay. It is. David was disappointed. The disciples were disappointed. I’m sure you can think of plenty of times when you could have said, “God disappointed me.” It’s not an issue. You only feel disappointment because you were anticipating something, and He didn’t give it the way you thought He would. It’s not a sin to be disappointed in God, and He’s not going to reject you for it. 

Disappointment is a natural emotion. But with God a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like a day. He is not slow, He is patient. Your story has already been written! And according to scripture, He is very pleased. He knows that you’re going to be disappointed in Him along the way. “But I’ve seen the end,” He says, “and it’s very good. When you accepted Christ as your savior, when you called me Almighty God, I called you beloved child and brought you into my Kingdom. Now walk in the understanding of who I am.”

You feel anxious? Stop! Cast all your anxiety on the King, man, cast it all on Him. It needs to leave! Holy and righteous people are not anxious. Anxious for what? God says, “Be anxious for nothing! But by everything, pray.” Ask Him. He will answer you. Say, “God, I feel anxious about this. I need you to answer me. I’m going to trust you to answer me, and I’m going to walk away from this anxiety right now. I’m going to trust that you’re going to make it okay.”

Think about the first believers in the first churches. They were getting persecuted and killed. Their kids were killed because they believed in God. Still they said, “I don’t deny Him.” They knew that to live is Christ and to die is gain.

God says to you, “Right now you’re living for me. If somebody dies, they’re gaining a lot more than they’re losing.” Hard on the soul. Hard on your heart, yes. That’s your humanity. But man, Kingdom mindset is understanding that you are who God says you are. Not who everybody else says you are, or says you should be. You’re holy and righteous, period. That’s it.

Every day, remind yourself. “I am holy and righteous.” Live in that mindset. Fear will leave you. Anxiety will leave you. Disappointment will leave you. It will. It will creep in from time to time, sure. You’re human. When it does, remind yourself that’s not who you are. You can choose to live in fear, but that’s not who you are. You can choose to commit a sin, but that’s not who you are. You are His, His precious child.

That’s who God says you are.

Kingdom Identity

I’ve been blogging recently about the Kingdom identity of holiness and righteousness, because this is our freedom!

The New Testament has law. When you read it, you can see that the first Christians were dealing with a lot of rules and regulations. Don’t gossip, don’t commit murder, don’t tell lies, don’t think immoral thoughts. Sometimes it feels like the New Testament focuses as much on the do’s and don’ts as the Old Testament does, right?

People say, “Christians live by too many rules.” They’re wrong. We don’t live by too many rules. We don’t live by any rules! We live according to commandments, and there are two of those, which are actually just one: Love God our Father with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and love our neighbor as ourselves.

It doesn’t mean that we sin whenever we want. It means we don’t want to sin. It happens, of course. Have I lied? Yes! Did it feel good? No! Do I want to do it again? No!

I don’t steal. I don’t cheat on my wife. I don’t commit murder. Sometimes I have unhealthy thoughts. I don’t like it, but I do, and I will as long as there’s flesh on my bone. Where there is flesh, there is sin.

In Romans 7, Paul says, “There’s a battle waging inside me. Who can save me from this sin?” Jesus saves you. He’s the one inside of you that reminds you who you are. It is through Him that you are made holy and righteous. You will live out of your flesh at times, but that’s not your identity. Your identity is Kingdom identity.

This does not mean that I’m a sinner that’s saved. It means I am a saint that sins. That’s two different views, right? One theology teaches that you’re a sinner. It’s a theology that says, “I want to control that individual, so I’m going to tell him, You need me, because you’re going to sin and you need saving.” But that’s not what Jesus says. Jesus says you’re a saint that sins. He tells you, “You don’t need them. They need me! I make saints that mess up from time to time.”

Holy and righteous people aren’t idol-worshippers or back-stabbers or God-haters. We don’t want to gossip, murder, tell lies, steal, or have immoral thoughts. It doesn’t square with who we are. We are confident in our understanding of who we are in Christ. We can say, “Those aren’t do’s and don’ts. Those aren’t even commands from God. It’s not necessary to require moral behavior from me. I live morally because of who I am, not because I’m afraid God is going to be disappointed in me.”

Doing good is as natural to Kingdom people as an Inuit wearing furs to stay warm, or a Muslim woman wearing a scarf to cover her hair. Do we make mistakes? Yes. Do we battle with the desires of the flesh? Yes. But this isn’t what defines us.

And it’s certainly not motivated by fear. Kingdom people don’t do the right thing because they want God to like them, or because they fear His disappointment or His punishment. Kingdom people do the right thing simply because it’s obvious to us that goodness is good. It’s how we live, because it’s who we are.

See you Thursday.