37. Sin Conscious

Meditations in Romans : 37:  Conscious of Sin

Rom 3:19-20   Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.

The human race is a strange animal!  Seriously, when you look at us carefully, there are some things about us that we take so much for granted but which are actually quite strange. They are even more strange if you believed the atheist who says this world is just chance and there is no meaning or purpose behind it. There are two features of every human being that strike me as very strange in the light of that dogma.

The first is the tendency of most people to have a sense of failure or inadequacy. Oh yes, people cover it up and in fact they spend much of their life covering it up, but if you can catch them at a rare moment of honesty they will confess to you that they are not the great person that they would like the world to believe they are. No, they will confess their inadequacies and even their failures (but you will need to get them at a rare point of honesty). All of us have this particular awareness even though, as I’ve said, we go to great lengths to cover it up. Why should people who are, according to the atheist, random acts of chance, worry about such things, but worry we do!

The second strange tendency, which goes with the first one, is the concern to be seen to be good. We feel bad about ourselves deep down, and yet we want everyone to see us NOT as a failure. We want others to see us as successes. We want to be thought of as nice people, good people, people who get it right and do well. Of course those descriptions vary according to the social group we belong to but we know the standards that our particular group has and we want to live up to their standards so they will think well of us. You see it in any and every social grouping, but why should it be if we are just random chance creatures with no meaning or purpose. Everything within us challenges that assessment of us. We measure ourselves and our assessment is important!

Now the Jews of Jesus’ day and Paul’s day, were one such social grouping and within that cultural or social group was a sub-group who made the rest feel it was important to abide by a certain set of life-rules, the Law of Moses. They were the people that people refers to as under the Law.” The Law was the standard by which they assessed one another. If you were good, you kept the Law. For instance Zechariah and Elizabeth, the parents of John the Baptist, were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly.” (Lk 1:6); that was the assessment of people who knew them and later told Luke about them.  Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father was described as “a righteous man,” (Mt 1:19) which would have meant that he was a man who sought to keep God’s commandments; hence his action in wanting to quietly divorce Mary.

The not-so-nice people of that society didn’t bother about the Law. They were lawbreakers or sinners and were looked down upon by those who did adhere to the Law. Now if you lived in a society where this Law prevailed, where you were very much aware of it, even though others adjudged you righteous, you knew deep down that that meant righteous in most things, for there would always be a little something somewhere where you didn’t come up to the mark. Indeed with some it is difficult to know if you come up to the mark. For instance, “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” (Deut 6:5)  Could you ever be sure that that was how you truly loved God? You kept the practical commandments you were aware of, but was that enough to ensure you could say that you loved God like this?

Suppose there were laws that you didn’t know about? Perhaps you weren’t keeping them? No, the truth was that you could never boast of being a perfect law-keeper, which is what Paul meant when he said, so that every mouth may be silenced.” Yes, you were never quite certain and so it was better to remain quiet. Yes, you knew that deep down, just like were considered at the beginning of this meditation, you had something that left you feeling inadequate and as such you would be “held accountable to God.” Oh yes, you could never stand before God with a totally clear conscience. You feared that future where you knew that one day you would have to stand before him and be answerable for your imperfection!

Thus Paul can conclude, Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.” Yes, if you are going to measure me by the Law I can never say I am totally perfect and therefore I can not say with a clear heart that I am righteous. All focusing on the rules has done, has been to make me more and more aware of the bits where I fall short.

This is it, isn’t it? Whatever set of rules we have to abide by, the Law of Moses or the laws of our little group in society, we fear failure, and we are constantly struggling to achieve approval of others who measure us by the rules, but deep down we know they will judge us because we are not perfect and will fail even their expectations of us! No, if you base life on keeping to a set of rules or even expectations upon you, know that you are doomed to a life of failure and the only way to cope is to pretend you’re not, while all the time knowing you are. What a deception!

31. Perfect

We pick up and now continue the series on God in the Psalms

God in the Psalms No.31 – God who is Perfect

Psa 18:30 As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless.

We have previously considered God who is good and God whose words are flawless, but because we so often struggle with this concept we consider it more widely with this verse now.  Why do we struggle with the idea that God is perfect? Because we often don’t understand what is going on in life and we can’t see the whole picture and so we wonder why God doesn’t turn up and do something.  Perhaps it’s also because we have had negative experiences in life, especially when we are young, and those experiences act like a stain or scar on our lives and the hurt of them distorts our thinking and makes us question God’s goodness. This questioning is not unusual.

Gideon did it: “But sir,” Gideon replied, “if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our fathers told us about(Judges 6:13) He looked at their circumstances and concluded that God could not be with them. Abraham struggled similarly: Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” And Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!” (Gen 17:17) and this after he had previously believed and been declared righteous (Gen 15:6), and later his wife similarly struggled, Then the LORD said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.” Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him…..Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my master is old, will I now have this pleasure?” Then the LORD said to Abraham, “…..anything too hard for the LORD? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son. (Gen 18:10-14).  When confronted with what seems impossible, we wonder and question, but God is perfect and when God says something He means it!

This idea of God being perfect comes out many times in Scripture:He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.” (Deut 32:4) God is entirely dependable (a rock) because everything He does is utterly good. The law of the LORD is perfect” (Psa 19:7). All of God’s decrees are perfect.  “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Mt 5:48). Perfect here means complete, whole, lacking in nothing. Whereas we may look at our own lives or the lives of people around us and see that they lack a lot (strength, grace, wisdom, humility, love, gentleness, peace – the list goes on and on!) NOTHING is missing from God.  Think of any good characteristic and He has it.  When John wrote, There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear (1 Jn 4:18) the perfect love he was referring to was God.

But our verse above speaks of the way of the Lord.  The Lord’s way refers to the way God thinks, moves, acts, lives and works. It’s all about the way He expresses Himself and interacts with us. This is why this is so important. It’s not only that He himself is perfect but it’s about how He relates to us. We may not understand what is happening, either because it is too complex for us to work out, or because we can’t see the whole picture, but our call is simply to trust Him, that because He IS perfect, He is working the best for us in it. We may not be able to see that fully until we get to heaven, but for now we have to learn to accept this amazing truth. It will transform us!