There was a little girl who loved to bake. Every Saturday morning she and her mommy would be the first ones up in the morning so they could get an early start on their baking. She knew where all the baking materials were so she would get them out while her mother took out all the baking ingredients. They would measure everything carefully, making sure everything was mixed well, double checking their measurements. As one thing went into the oven they would start on the next batch. They would do this all morning until they had enough baked goods for the week. One Saturday her mommy was too sick to do any baking so while her mommy slept the little girl decided that she would do all the baking herself. She took out all the materials and then started looking for the ingredients. Confident that she had it all she began her work. It didn't take long for disaster to hit, as she added wrong ingredients, made wrong measurements, set the oven on the wrong temperature. She soon realized that the main ingredient to her baking success was her mommy.
Just a story to convey a spiritual truth that is often hard for us to grasp: although we are to walk in righteousness and we are called righteous, we have no righteousness of our own. In other words, although we are to live free from the guilt of sin, and we are called guiltless, this is only true because our Father has declared it. We are only children, imperfect in every way. We are told to pursue holiness but it is just like the little girl who loved to cook. She knew how to go through all the motions but without her mother beside her, making sure everything was measured properly and that all the proper ingredients were added, her efforts ended in disaster.
Sometimes we hear the words of our Father through the Bible but limit our understanding. We hear him call us righteous but that is because of our relationship not because we are capable of producing any righteousness in ourselves. After we have been walking with the Lord for a while it is easy for us to fall into the trap of relying on our own "right" living and letting go of our dependence on God's righteousness. We start believing in our actions instead of the relationship. Self-righteousness sneaks up on us and leads us into religious thinking so that when disaster strikes, and it will, the illusion of our righteousness falls away and we are left confused and lost. We are left with a whole bunch of useless baking.
The problem is that we can slip into this self-deception while still believing that we are relying on God's righteousness. We can go for years thinking that we are okay, that we are growing closer to God, that we are reliant on him, all while we are growing further away and heading for a terrible fall. A right relationship with God is when we are open and honest about who we are, our condition without him and our need for repentance and forgiveness. In such a relationship we are able to mature but never become independent. Jesus is able to keep us from sin but we will never be strong enough on our own. Righteousness is declared over us when we believe and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, when we recognize that only he is the source of our strength and salvation. Then our ways become acceptable to our Father as he examines our heart and forgives our actions. One of the psalms reads:
If the LORD delights in a man’s way,
he makes his steps firm;
though he stumble, he will not fall,
for the LORD upholds him with his hand. (Psalm 37:23-24)
The first line describes the good relationship we need to have with God. The second line tells us who is measuring the ingredients and making it right, the third tells us that we may make mistakes but it will not end in disaster, and fourth tells us why; because God is actually in control. We are going to sin. We are going to stumble. We are going to make mistakes. Not understanding that it is more about the heart, about relationship then it is about action will lead us to despair instead of repentance when we fail. Read that again, in fact, allow me type it again: Not understanding that it is more about the heart, about relationship then it is about action will lead us to despair instead of repentance when we fail.
This can be a struggle to understand because we can go too far in trusting our actions and we can go too far in grace. We cannot use grace as an excuse to sin. It is always a matter of the heart. What is the desire of your heart? What is your motivation? John writes:
If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. (1 John 1:6-7)
Our responsibility is to walk in the relationship and God adds all the ingredients of love, forgiveness, grace, mercy. It must be an open and honest relationship, where we do not try to hide our sin but we confess it. We own our mistakes and repent of them. And we will make mistakes, we will sin because we are not righteous of ourselves but only because of Jesus Christ. Me makes us righteous:
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:8-10)
We can't allow ourselves to believe we can do it on our own. We cannot do the baking without Jesus Christ. When we mess up the ingredients it should be natural for us to tell Jesus. When we get confused over the instructions it should not be a hard thing to ask to be rescued. We need to have more than belief in God, we need to have faith in the relationship and the promises that are part of it. We have to wake up and join in the baking but understanding that the real ingredient is Jesus. The verse that best sums it all up for me is found in 1 John 2:
My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. (1 John 2:1)
If you can understand this then you will be able to live in the joy and peace of the relationship we have with Jesus Christ. If you are becoming dependent on your actions, on your own righteousness then you will constantly fight against guilt and your peace will always be disturbed. Faith is more than trusting God will help in the hard times, it is also living this beautiful relationship every day of our life. Don't attempt any baking today without the main ingredient of your relationship with Jesus Christ.