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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Looking Good For the Race

Hebrews 12 : 11 - 15, Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed. Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: NKJV

You are in a race of faith. Your focus is either on "looking good" for the race or "finishing" the race. Today, you will learn how to avoid hitting the wall and on remaining in the race without being diverted by the distraction of self-justification.

Jesus died for sin, but self-justification sent Him the cross. Did that get your attention? It's true that Jesus was sent by the Father to become our sin offering and to redeem the soul of mankind from destruction. However, if you read the final chapters of the gospel of Matthew, you will learn that Jesus was crucified because some self-righteous people made up false charges against Him. They were threatened by His authority and fame that were growing daily. 

Before coming to the knowledge of the truth in Christ, humans try to be good. Mankind has a "performance" mindset that drives us to base our worth on our accomplishments. We try to be justified in God's sight based on our good works. Even if we're not cognoscente of this in our lives, we still have a tendency to seek approval through good deeds because, after all, we're only human.

Even though the Jewish leaders sought to please God through self-justification, this didn't stop God from instituting the principle of faith. Under the new covenant, we must resist operating according to our works and decide to submit to God's will. Once we accept Jesus as our great Sacrifice for sin, then we must take the next step and begin a LIFE that is built on faith through obedience before the Father.

Sometimes, when we find ourselves in a fiery trial that challenges our spiritual identity, it can be easy to slip up and try to please the Father by being "good enough."  As humans, we have, once again, attempted to perfect our flesh and resist the truth that all have sinned and come short of God's glory.  However, God hasn't called us to perfect our flesh or to cover our human weaknesses with religious acts. He has called us to perfect our walk, and through our faith walk to become holy, even as He is holy. 

If you seek to be good enough in your strength, then you have fallen into a place that will lead you to condemnation and defeat. However, if you seek both to obey the Father and to please Him by faith, then you will begin to live a victorious and holy life. 

It seems there is always a struggle in Christians' lives between being "good enough" and obeying God by faith. Allow me to use an analogy to help you see where the Lord is taking us today. In the world of auto-racing, the main goal is being the first to cross the finish line so that you win the prize. However, when "Christian" humans endeavor to walk by faith, there is a tendency to focus too much on starting the race and not enough attention placed on finishing the race of faith.

Paul tells us in no uncertain terms, in Philippians 3 that he had arrived at the place in his walk of faith where he no longer looked at his past accomplishments or his present accomplishments. Instead, he was focused on finishing the race and wining the prize that was yet to come in his life. Let's look at this in another light. You may get a few things right along the way and feel really good about yourself. You may get a few things wrong along the way and feel awful about yourself, but neither of those is justification by faith. Basing whether or not we are successful in our faith walk on either of these would still mean our focus was on self-accomplishments and off of Jesus. The writer of Hebrews admonishes us to look unto Jesus, who is the Author and the Finisher of our faith while running the course in life. As we keep our eyes on Jesus, it will teach us to focus on winning the race and not being "good" while in the race. "Run, _____________, Run!" 

So if you slip and blow it, repent; don't beat yourself up over it. You're not under the law, but grace; good sacrifices are no longer a requirement... only repentance and brokenness. Perfect your walk of faith, and God will do the rest of the work in you. Just listen and obey the Lord!

Resting and Winning,
Pastor Asa Dockery

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