“Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.”
-Psalm 119:37 (ESV)
Ask just about anyone on the street what it means to be a Christian and you will undoubtedly get replies like, “A Christian is someone who tries to be nice to other people, refrains from [your sinful practice here], and attends church services at least some of the time.” Perhaps the more religiously inclined might add “accepting Jesus into your heart” for good measure. Ultimately, one would be hard pressed, very hard pressed, to find anyone who defines the Christian faith by what the Bible actually teaches.
Is a Christian merely a person who makes it to church meetings twice per year while trying to be nice to other people? Don’t misunderstand the intention, here, beloved. Of course we seek to be friendly and hospitable to our neighbors. And it should go without saying that attending a solid, Gospel-preaching assembly is a wonderful blessing indeed! But, is hospitality, church attendance, or any other human work the dividing line between saved and lost, righteousness and unrighteousness, in the eyes of Almighty God?
The truth is, when trusted for righteousness, each and every human effort is certainly a worthless thing, incapable of making one just in the sight of God. Compared to God’s absolute perfect standard clearly set forth in His own Law, we stand, right down to every man, woman, boy, and girl, hopelessly undone, lost beyond all earthly measure. As lawbreakers, there is nothing we can offer God that can satisfy the righteous requirements of the Divine Lawgiver. We deserve death! This is the prescription for those who defy God’s Law: “the soul that sins, it shall die!” ( Ezekiel 20:18).
The penalty for breaking God’s law is death, plain and simple. There is nothing you can do to change the outcome of the sentence. There is no grace afforded you in the great and terrible law of God. No amount of “not doing” what you’ve already done in violation of God’s Law can undo the sin. You and I stand condemned already! Yet in spite of the clear teaching of Scripture, men try in vain to establish their own righteousness by clinging to worthless things!
Because God has caused them to believe the Gospel of God’s grace in Christ (Psalm 110:3) , Christians freely admit their righteousness does not come from themselves in any way, shape, or form (Jude 25; Philippians 3:3,9; ). They have come to know the truth: everything in this world is but refuse, worthless things, compared to the finished work of Christ on behalf of the poor sinners to which He has granted faith and repentance. The Psalmist who cried to the Lord for strength to keep his eyes from worthless things, also understood that life comes only from God. And this life, beloved, flows from the Light of Life, Christ Jesus.
For what do you depend on for righteousness? Do you trust in your ability to sin differently than your neighbor? Do you take special pride in your unblemished church attendance record? Perhaps you trust in some emotional experience you once had years ago. Here is the truth of it: all of these things are worthless, miserable physicians for the soul in need of true righteousness, true life.
Almighty God, who causes His people to be willing in the day of His power, grant to your children repentance from the worthless things, the dead works of righteousness to which we sinfully cling, that we may turn to Christ for all hope of righteousness and life eternal. Through Christ the Lord – Amen.