What do you have to prove? Becoming sinlessly perfect is good enough for God. You have to be better than the people around you. That is why Jesus’ words “unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” must have been an initial shock to the ordinary people to whom he wrote.
Micah said that what is good and what God requires is to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God. The Old and New Testaments both demand holiness like God’s holiness.
Does that sound like some of the “legalism” you saw while growing up? If calls to performance make you restless, they should.
I love the way God brings his people to despair over their souls before they realize what grace is. The whole point of the despair is not to be mean to us but to show us that faith is the casting of our entire sinful bulk at the feet our Intercessor, Jesus Christ, the Righteous, and pleading for mercy. I try and try to be good and finally I cry out, “I can’t play this game anymore!” At that point I either run away in confusion or run to the one who set the standard in the first place.
I memorized a poem years ago that says:
To run and work the law demands,
But gives me neither feet nor hands.
Better news the gospel brings;
It bids me fly and gives me wings.
You will note that confusion (“unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you have no life in you”) is precisely what happened to anyone who encountered Jesus (especially when he told parables). As John MacArthur says, Jesus had a way of discouraging half-hearted disciples. Like the pillar of cloud/fire in the Red Sea or Jesus’ parables, one side provided refuge (not necessarily answers) and the other provided confusion and judgment.
The call to holiness is not like the moral codes that exist elsewhere—even in some fundamentalist churches. This holiness is free and the performance of it is achieved through the working of another who lives inside us. I prove my faith by my works (trusting God, praying, kindness, studying Scripture, fellowship with Christians, serving in church…), but I do it as a loving response to him for what I already have.
Man-centered religion (including some forms of Christianity) calls on people to decide whether or not they want to pay the dues and live the life. To biblical Christianity there is no decision. I must not decide for Christ, I must run to him.
Christians should look at flood-ravaged New Orleans and rather than saying this was God’s judgment on commercialism or riverboat gambling, should echo Jesus words, “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” A few hymnals still include the "Rock of Ages" verse that says, “Foul, I to the fountain fly. Wash me, Savior, or I die!”
And he never turns away from those who come his way. You will not find that kind of grace in the religions that have evolved in the world.
I was not saying that we have to defend Christianity. Yes, propositional truth must be accepted by faith (“thus saith the Lord”). I said it is defensible, i.e., faith in Christ is not a step into the darkness to one among many options. Our world says, “Whatever works for you” and “Whatever is truth to you.” Jesus said “I am the truth.”
The God of the Bible is there and he has not been silent. The one who set the universe in motion told us how he did it and how he sustains it. Science confirms, not proves, the designs of God.
The big difference between Christianity and the religions of the world are twofold: (1) A living Savior and (2) a way to become different. The deliverance from the basic human cussedness that honest people (Christian or Buddhist) have to admit is only offered by a person who can give you the righteousness you do not have.
Too long… time to throw this south.
Blessings as you ruminate.