“Many a man proclaims his own steadfast love, but a faithful man who can find? The righteous who walks in his integrity — blessed are his children after him!” - Proverbs 20:6-7
Who among us is faithful? Who loves steadfastly at all times? Who can say, “the Lord dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he rewarded me”? Who has kept the ways of the Lord and has not wickedly departed from his God? Perhaps one will read this text and confidently defend himself by his works. “I have done such and such, and my integrity is evident to all who know me.” Indeed, that may be true in a measure for someone, but how easily and how often we esteem ourselves faithful while overlooking our faults. Every man’s way is right in his own eyes. There is a way which seems right to a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death. Another will hang his head in shame and self-pity at the reading of this text, smitten by the piercing difficulty of the question posed. He insists, in utter shame, that he can never be like the man described. He is stuck evermore in the reality that “there is no one who does good, not even one.” “Which of the two is right?”, we ask. The second man is surely the more right of the two; yet if we share in his estate, what hope have we of escaping certain judgment? How can we be lifted out of utter despair? For we know there is One who is unceasingly faithful, who is spotlessly righteous, whose love never fails, and who walks in His integrity at all times. He is the Man by whom God will judge the world in righteousness, and we must all admit our utter filthiness and vileness when held up against Him as the Great Standard. What comfort, then, have we that there be such a Man in our midst? How does He help us if we be so far from Him in nature and character? Surely such a Man cannot be a comfort to us, but a terror.
Were our gospel to stop here, it would indeed be no gospel at all. But (O how often does this word bring hope in biblical texts!), God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ - by grace you have been saved - and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. You were washed, you were sanctified, your were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God! When the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people.
O Christian, do you fail in steadfastly loving? Your Redeemer has stood steadfastly in your place and, in love, has drunk the cup of wrath due you, that you might enjoy sonship. Do you backslide in faithfulness? Your Saviour has faithfully finished the work the Father gave Him to do, that you might enter into His rest. Have you let righteous integrity slip? Your Lord has suffered once, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring you to God. The great hope of our gospel is thus twofold: He died FOR us, so that He might live IN us. We have failed in every conceivable way, and will surely fail again. Yet where sin abounds, grace does much more abound. There is inexhaustible forgiveness. Further still, there is a greater hope that where we have failed, the One who lives inside can succeed. He is well able to make known to us the path of life and lead us forth to walk in steadfast love, faithfulness, and righteous integrity as we fix our eyes on Him. He has prepared good works for us to walk in. He stands ready to transform us into His very likeness. He has made us ambassadors for Him. O that we would forsake other priorities and pleasures to enter into His presence today and remain at His right hand, where there is fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore. Only then, as we are worship in awe and bow in humble surrender to the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, can we say with confidence, “I have made my heart pure; I am clean from my sin.” Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! This is our birthright. Let us lay hold of it today!
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