“Oh, the unspeakable greatness of that exchange,—the Sinless One is condemned, and he who is guilty goes free; the Blessing bears the curse, and the cursed is brought into blessing; the Life dies, and the dead live; the Glory is whelmed in darkness, and he who knew nothing but confusion of face is clothed with glory.” Trailady

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A person God turned around many times.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

“I did my best”

The mother recounted the troubles she endured while raising her daughter from a baby to young adulthood. Being a proud, self-confident woman, all she could see in her methods of training and discipline were only good. There was no room for improvement for her; no instruction or correction need bother her conscience. The final statement ended all discussion on the matter, “I did my best. (End of discussion.)” Thus, she deceived herself.

It sounded unarguable. What more could she have done? Nothing. Humanly speaking (apart from God) that kind of mentality is so rife throughout the world that most people accept it with no further question. This person has also used this argument toward high expectations of her employers. But they weren’t very sympathetic.

It should be no surprise that employers, managers, and supervisors are unlikely to let “I did my best; don’t judge me” be good enough whenever “my best” results in less than perfect performance, and even less so, if work related problems were the byproduct of poor performance, and must be dealt with.

If the motto, “I did my best” does not satisfy a supervisor, would God be Ok with it? Imagine the Day of Judgment, and the hosts of the wicked standing before Him. And He says, “Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” (Matt. 25:41). But, in one accord they all lift up their voices in self-defense, “But I did my best!”

What would God say? Would that leave the King speechless? I think He would say, “Make hell seven times hotter,” before throwing them into it.

“My” best isn’t good enough, and never was. The problem with fallen humanity since, Adam and Eve, is our propensity to make ourselves the standard and then coast to its easy attainment. This is the motive behind righteousness by works. It is the act of substituting my own easy standard and accomplishments for God’s sky-high requirements. It results in doing other than what God asks; our selfishness in the place of perfect unselfishness.

And to build some credence for our brand of morality, our own works are often ostentatious so that no one will suspect us of disobedience. We blow a trumpet to proclaim all our good acts. And then no one has recourse to doubt our sincerity or innocence and bring it up for peer review. This method is very effective, especially if everyone is doing morality this way.

My best is good for nothing when it comes to righteousness. The Bible describes our own righteousness as a suit we’ve sewn together to clothe ourselves and hide our nakedness. But it says a suit of our divising is like filthy rags, suitable only for the dunghill—the public latrine. Would you even go around wearing an outhouse? Ever go to a public outhouse like the kind they have at state parks? Until the invention of air sanitizers, they were p-r-e-t-t-y smelly! That’s what a dunghill was in biblical times. Everyone in the city always knew when the wind shifted. Nothing about public sewage has changed over time. As long as sin continues in this world, human waste reeking from public outhouses will remain the perfect object lesson for our righteousness, as God sees it. Righteousness that God didn’t give; my best.

“I did my best” will never fly before God, not for a moment; and it doesn’t fly today. Relying on an argument for self-defense and self-recommendation is the whole cause of God’s judgment day. Why does sin grow from an evil thought to gargantuan exhibitions of evil? Why does it come up out of nowhere and surprise us with horrendous acts of barbarity and atrocity? Because it is not dealt with at its inception. Why is it not dealt with? Because it is excused.

What is the excuse used? “By my standard, compared to Mr. So-and-so or Mrs. So-and-so, I don’t need to be corrected. I’m doing my best. Leave me alone.” By such subliminal strategy, a person will never warrant shame and guilt. So the sin divides and multiplies exponentially.

Paul referred to this thought pattern and said it turns people into fools. “For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.” (2Cor. 10:12).

No; through comparing and measuring by a human standard, whether I set myself up as the standard, or, I am persuaded to use another human as the model of morality, we descend into foolishness and depravity.

God has given us His program. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” (Titus 3:5). “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Eph 2:8,9). God has already made the provision for His mile-high standard and the way to attain that standard. It all comes as a gift package. Bowing to His grace will get us to His righteousness, through His gift of our simple trusting in Him as our friend. It’s not our doing, except in response to His doing, for us and in us, through a lifetime commitment to spend time and effort sitting at His feet before His word. So, pride and confidence in self goes out the window.

“Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.” (Rom. 3:21,22,27). For the people who can’t live without proclaiming to others their talents, ability, power, et al, or rehearsing it all in their own mind, this may come as the worst news possible. But it's all God has to offer, with wonderful results in the way of reclaiming a life in the toilet.

The proud heart strives to earn salvation; but both our title to heaven and our fitness for it are found in the righteousness of Christ. The Lord can do nothing toward the recovery of man until, convinced of his own weakness, and stripped of all self-sufficiency, he yields himself to the control of God. Then he can receive the gift that God is waiting to bestow. From the soul that feels his need, nothing is withheld. He has unrestricted access to Him in whom all fullness dwells. “For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” Isaiah 57:15. Desire of Ages, p. 300.

Only through grace can a sinner ever acknowledge the existence of God’s standard. Subconsciously we deny it; it just doesn’t seem possible to live in the presence of a mile-high standard which we can never, without God’s grace, attain in this lifetime. That would entail a lifetime of shame and guilt and defeat, with no room for telling and retelling our great feats of morality and goodness. How could any sane person live like that?

Many are deceived as to their true condition before God. They congratulate themselves upon the wrong acts which they do not commit, and forget to enumerate the good and noble deeds which God requires of them, but which they have neglected to perform. It is not enough that they are trees in the garden of God. They are to answer His expectation by bearing fruit. He holds them accountable for their failure to accomplish all the good which they could have done, through His grace strengthening them. In the books of heaven they are registered as cumberers of the ground. Yet the case of even this class is not utterly hopeless. With those who have slighted God's mercy and abused His grace, the heart of long-suffering love yet pleads. "Wherefore He saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. See then that ye walk circumspectly, . . . redeeming the time, because the days are evil." Ephesians 5:14-16. Great Controversy, p. 601.

And so rejecting God’s offer, this world goes on living apart from God, oblivious to His love for it, and even as it watches its lofty framework of morality collapsing all around. Like the twin towers, 10 years ago, came tumbling down in 10 seconds, we are witnessing the demolition of the human fabric, as the world relies on the argument to end all self-examination, an argument that is threadbare and hoary with age, “At least we did our best.”

It is never safe for us to feel that we are possessed of virtues, and that we may congratulate ourselves on our excellences of character and our present state of purity and piety. David often triumphed in God, and yet he dwelt much upon his own unworthiness and sinfulness. His conscience was not asleep or dead. “My sin,” he cries, “is ever before me” (Psalm 51:3). . . . As he saw the depths of deceit in his heart he was deeply disgusted with himself, and prayed that God would keep him back by His power from the presumptuous sins, and cleanse him from secret faults. That I May Know Him, p. 242.

There are many who congratulate themselves upon having a kindly feeling for men generally. They sometimes supply money to the poor, and contribute to public funds; and when they have done this, they consider their duty performed. Wherein, they argue, can I be deficient? They perform a part of their duty; but not all. Self stands supreme. Their neighbor is not loved in the way that Christ would have his children regard each other as members together of the family of God. Signs of the Times, January 7, 1897.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Any who want better may come and call out to the Unknown God for His help. Without blinking He will dispense His grace and immediately touch you.

“The Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” (Rev. 22:17).


Blogger Nsubuga Daniel said...

I want to thank you so much for this post brother David, I liked the approach you made of your mom who thought always she did her best. As was reading through I remembered when I used to count the Sabbath I have gone to church. I used to mention it that I have not missed a sabbath in ten years. I did my best too. But as you mentioned, all is like a dunghill. here in Uganda some cattle keeper up to today the gather cow dung and it can make a hill. Its what I see. Its terrible that all our righteousness is filthy before God. It gave me the courage when you quoted Eph 2:8,9.
It has been so nice. Thank you for the time you have put in, to say but the least.

4/29/2011 12:36 PM  
Blogger David said...

Hi Daniel,
Thanks for your comment. Actually, I wasn't speaking of my mother, but of "a" mother.
Its always good to hear from you, brother.

5/05/2011 2:16 PM  

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