There is an aching in all human hearts. It’s a deep concern that all mankind shares. It is the question all people of all tongues and all ethnicities will ask themselves, at some point in their lives:
“Am I just before God?”
This question haunts the best and the worst. For even though people can put on fronts and appear innocent and good, everyone knows his or her own heart, and what we see in our own hearts is not good.
Now if you ask the average person about their moral standing, most will confidently claim their own goodness. This “goodness” is usually framed in the context of “more bad”; in other words, when someone says he is good, he is really saying he is not as bad as he could be. For example:
“Yeah, I’m a pretty good person. I have never…”
“Yes I consider myself good because I always do such and such and I don’t do such and such…”
“Me? Of course I’m a good person. I’m a lot better than a lot of people I know who…”
The next question to ask is why being good even matters. Though this is a discussion for another time, let me quickly sum it up by saying everyone, and that means absolutely everyone, believes there is a God.
Atheists, you remind me, don’t they disbelieve?
Atheists SAY they do not believe in God, but in countless ways every day, all through their lives, they show they do believe in God. It is impossible for a human being not to believe in God, for if there is anything greater in scope, power, and intellect than anything else, then that “thing” is god to that person. For a fuller discussion of that difficult subject, see an upcoming post!
For now, let us consider the truth that all people are concerned about whether or not they are acceptable to a higher power (God), AND it matters to them because a higher power means accountability. Accountability means each person will give an account, or answer to, that higher power some day.
So, back to the question: Am I acceptable to God?
The oldest book in the Bible, the book of Job, asks this same question. Eliphaz, a friend of Job, had come to visit him after hearing of the great tragedy that had befallen him. (Job, a very wealthy and powerful man, was tormented by Satan to make him deny his God. For the full story, see Job chapter 1 & 2)
Assessing Job’s situation, Eliphaz told his friend what he knew about God and life – that God made laws to follow and if man followed them he would be blessed but if he failed to follow them, he would be cursed. Though Eliphaz was partially right, in his efforts to assuage Job’s angst he oversimplified the laws of blessing and cursing in this world.
It would be great if things were so black and white, so clean cut. But the truth of it is, there are a lot of paradoxes, exceptions and apparent inconsistencies in this world we live in.
To his credit, Eliphaz posed a very poignant and provocative question:
“Can mankind be just before God? Can a man be pure before his Maker?” Job 4:17
Eliphaz’s question was rhetorical. He was considering the fallen nature of mankind, realizing all people, from every language and tribe, are flawed. All have sinned, and all stand before God, lacking. His question was less of a question and more of a statement. And the obvious conclusion was this:
No, man is NOT just before God!
This word “just” is the Hebrew tsadoq which means “acquitted, made righteous, vindicated”. The word “pure” is the Hebrew taher which means “purged, pronounced clean”.
God is holy, God is perfect. By contrast, we humans are riddled with imperfections and sins, and in the light of His holiness, we are stained and dirty. Taken at face value, the situation looks pretty grim.
But God, in His gracious goodness and kindness, made a way for us to be made right. Job knew about this provision (Job 19:25) and had entrusted his life to it. In fact, the only way he was able to endure the massive heartache and physical suffering brought upon him was because he believed in his future salvation and justification, made possible by God. He looked to that future hope, and he was sustained thereby.
No one can claim perfection. No one can live a perfect life. No one can even live a good life.
However, there is Someone who did. God provided the perfect life in His Son Jesus Christ. He made a way for sinners to inherit, or put on, the righteousness of Christ because we could not do it on our own. (John 5:24, Romans 5:1)
This truth is the greatest truth ever revealed! Because on our own, we cannot make ourselves acceptable to a holy God, God made a way. Now we can know without question, that being just before God is both real and possible.
The way to this salvation and justification is by knowing Christ, and believing in Him. For a more complete discussion of this free gift of salvation, see here.