The test of observance of Christ's teachings is our consciousness
I love the book selected by Chris and Ken for our teaching series Sundays at ATB. For those not able to come, it is The Jesus I Never Knew by Philip Yancey. The honesty that flows throughout his writing is incredibly enlightening, as he deals with his own flaws, doubts and the search for the true nature of Jesus. Not one taught or portrayed to him by others, but the one who he finds through his own adventure in learning.
Many of us have done that as well, maybe not to his extent, but we have searched far and wide for truth. The quote above from Tolstoy probably is the one we have arrived at, that compared to God, we are far short of perfection. That's a good thing to realize; however, if we focus on our faults, we can only hope to live a life that falls far short of what Jesus is all about. Yes, we can work on them, but if we wake up every day feeling like we are a disappointment to Him, we have read only a part of what he taught.
As Philip talks about, at the time of the Sermon on the Mount, there were 613 Laws in effect in the Jewish faith, 248 commands and 365 prohibitions with 1,521 emendations. The practicing Jews were so commited that they would not even mention the name of God for fear that they would break the 3rd Commandment. Think about that last fact and how it relates to today's language and how we abuse that as a society.
So, when we read His sermon and consider all these rules and regulations, it becomes easy to see why we tend to focus on our faults. Who of us can even come close to this kind of perfection? If we read all the books, translations, commentaries and the words themselves, we can only come to the same conclusion as Philip did, "Jesus made the law impossible for anyone to keep and then charged us to keep it."
Are you kidding me? How can I possibly consider myself to be a Christian? And then I think, there but by the grace of God go I, and I get the point he was trying to make. I can't make it, live up to His standards, without his forgiveness and way into a relationship with God. He is the way, the truth and the light and on my own understanding I am lost without His guidance.
In actuality, He focused on my faults so that I could focus on Him.
Constantly striving for perfection without understanding how that possible perfection can be reached (not by human effort), can lead to the same fate that Tolstoy met. His failure to live up to those ideals consumed him. It consumes us through our addictions of all sorts, to even being a religious fanatic.
Focusing On Our Faults too much can not only take away our focus on Him, it can lead us into a valley of despair. If you feel this way, read the 23rd Psalm and take heart that big dumb sheep aren't usually thinking about how long their wool is or where the grass is greener....no sir, they are just listening for the Shepherd's voice to follow!
Glenn is an ex-Marine Viet Nam vet who is also a recovering alcoholic, clean and sober for 30 years. He has been involved in start up and ongoing recovery ministry at North Atlanta Church and Campus for the last two decades. He has a passion for outreach and to spread the message that the answer to lasting and fulfilling recovery from addiction is in a relationship with Jesus Christ. He and the ATB team are available to assist in your questions or needs on an individual basis and will do so maintaining complete confidentiality. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.