We serve a God who isn't keeping score. So why are we?
His love is perfect. His love doesn't change. He IS love (1 John 4:8), and therefore can be nothing more or less than perfect love, which casts out all fear (1 John 4:18) and is above everything else we esteem (1 Corinthians 13:13).
So why do we live as if we're on the verge of losing it?
I lived much of my Christian walk determined to obey God, thinking that if I obeyed him enough I'd remain in his love. More often than not, though I knew what I was supposed to do, I failed miserably. The more I read the Bible the more I knew I did not measure up to what he required of me. "Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:48), and "as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct" (1 Peter 1:16).
Did God even know me? Scripture said he did. Matthew 10:30 says he knows exactly how many hairs are on our heads. Jeremiah 17:10 says God searches and tests the heart of man and Proverbs 21:2 says God weighs our heart. Acts 15:8 declares God knows our hearts. If he knows us so intimately, shouldn't he know how impossible it is for me to be holy and perfect?
Of course he does, which is why Jesus came to live the perfect life we should have lived, and die the death we should have died in order to save us from ourselves and the judgment we deserve. He became our perfection and in him we are perfect. It's no longer our responsibility to be perfect and holy because Jesus did it all for us.
Even when we know this to be true, we can still find ourselves struggling with keeping score. Peter writes to the churches in his first letter, "Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth..." (1 Peter 1:22).
I may have read this verse a few dozen times, but one word stood out more than any other. Every time I've read that passage I'd get caught on the word "obedience." I knew obedience to everything was impossible. God knew it, and yet He doesn't ask anything of us we can't accomplish, or that he hasn't accomplished already, so obedience is clearly as possible as it is important. But obedience to what exactly?
Not the law. Not the rules and regulations the Pharisees and Sadducee's had created. Not even the ten commandments. By the time Peter wrote this letter Jesus had already fulfilled that, so what else? Peter tells them they will purify their souls by their obedience to the truth. What truth?
"Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,'" (John 14:6), and "When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come," (John 16:13).
Our obedience to truth purifies our souls. Not obedience to a list of rules and regulations, but obedience to the Jesus Christ and His Spirit.
Whatever score we keep involves living up to the law, which isn't what Jesus ever asked us to do. His only invitation is to follow him (Matthew 4:19; 10:38). He lived the perfect life so we don't have to. Our holiness and righteousness is equivalent to the faith we have in Jesus, not in what we do (Romans 4:5).
Our purification comes in obedience to the truth. Our obedience to a relationship with Jesus. The truth that he did what we never could but desperately needed in order to be right with God. The truth is who He says you are. Obey that - not what the world or your circumstances say.
What does He say about the situation you're in? You say it's hopeless - He says hope in Him does not disappoint (Romans 5:5). You say you're a failure - Jesus says you are more than a conqueror in Him (Romans 8:37).
Your obedience to the truth determines the purification of your soul. I know people who have known Jesus as their savior for more than thirty years, and yet their character is the same as it was thirty years ago. In fact, their hearts are harder because they've shut down the truth and decided to believe what they want, rather than the truth of Jesus' words.
While we are saved by faith in Jesus Christ, our sanctification and purification comes from obedience to the truth - obedience to Jesus Christ and His Holy Spirit.
My challenge for you this week is this:
Where are you not walking in obedience to the truth? What lies are you believing about yourself, your circumstances, or those God has called you to love? Find the truth that refutes those lies, and declare it over your life and your loved ones.
My encouragement to you:
You're still breathing, which means God still has a plan. No matter how long you've been fighting the same fight, or different fights, the truth stands firm on your behalf.