Saturday, August 20, 2011

Whose Self-Righteous? Not me... Why are you looking at me?

Last week at church Rod spoke over self-righteousness. Ouch. The week before, he spoke on forgiveness. Double ouch. The Lord gives us these tough lessons to sift us, break sin away from our lives, but ultimately to refine and bring us closer to Him. I have so much sin in my life... we all do... but I realized mine is more dangerous but it is covered up by "good qualities". My holiness can actually be what drives someone away from the Father. Of course, then it wouldn't be holiness. Let me start from the beginning...

We read the well known parable of "The Prodigal Son". In Luke 15:11-32 the story is presented by Jesus. This parable illustrates God's redemptive grace and mercy. It is a beautiful story of His unconditional love and forgiveness. It shows that God pursues and seeks sinners. If you don't know it here is a brief overview.

A man had two sons. Jesus tells about the youngest son coming to his father to ask for his inheritance ahead of time. The youngest son would only receive one-third of the father’s inheritance but he still wanted his share; this was showing the highest disrespect possible. He takes the inheritance and runs off to spend it "living it up" (the ESV refers to it as reckless living). After he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in the country. He was reduced to hiring himself to work in a pig pen. For a Jew, to tend to pigs was the height of humiliation since they were deemed unclean according to the Old Testament dietary laws. Even the pigs ate better than he did and he realized that his father's servants lived better than the conditions he was in. The young son was humbled beyond belief, and reached the end of his rope, and decided to return to his father's household and beg to be hired as a servant! In verse 20 it says "...and while he was still a long way off the father saw him, felt compassion for him, got up and RAN to his son and kissed him!" His father did not only except him, he ran to hug him and forgive him. Not only that but he called to his servants to bring the finest robe, a ring, sandals, kill the fattened calf and prepare a feast for his son that had returned to him!

Here comes the self-righteous part. The older brother heard the feast going on and asked a servant what the occasion was. The servant told him that his brother had returned and the feast was in honor of his safe arrival back. The brother was livid. He had stayed. He had obeyed. He had worked hard and continuous. The young brother was selfish. The young brother squandered their father's money and was disrespectful. The father comes out to invite the elder brother in and the brother unleashes his anger on the father. His father answers with tender violence (a way to scold yet love). He answers his oldest son, "Son, you were always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But it was fitting to celebrate and be glad at your brother's arrival. For your brother was dead and now is alive; he was lost and now he is found!"

This parable is a great illustration of our relationships with Jesus (the father). We are the sons. Some of us go out and have lived a crazy life. Some of us have lived according to the commandments and the laws. Whether we relate more to the younger son or the older son, this reminds us that the Lord pours out and lavishes this wayward son (and his brother) with grace and forgiveness. A misconception that everyone has is that we think that sin= breaking rules. However, it goes far beyond that. Good behavior may be the most damaging and damning thing a person can do. You see, the younger son can see that he isn't righteous and worthy before God. But the older brother is blinded by his "good deeds" so, in turn, he can't see the unrighteousness he posses and how his "good behavior" is as disgusting to God as his younger brother's "bad behavior".

We get in our heads, "I read my bible, I serve in church, I give monthly, I love, I do what I am suppose to... and THIS is what God has done for me." We need to get something through our heads real fast. We are always getting better than we deserve! Just because you do what you're suppose to doesn't mean you are holier than another person. Both of the sons cared more about themselves than God. One went into the far country and one's heart went into the far country. Even though outwardly the older brother seemed to have it together he didn't. The older brother didn't just need an attitude adjustment, he needed to be saved!

But there is good news. The Lord doesn't just run to the prodigals, he runs to the self-righteous as well. I realized that I am the big brother. It made me sick to think that I might have been the reason for some people being turned away from the Lord. However, the Lord loves me so much that He revealed this to me so that I could turn from my self-righteousness and run into my father's arms. My righteousness doesn't matter on my own because I posses no righteousness without Jesus.

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