Last night, I told Justin I was going to read a few pages and then turn out the light...about an hour later, I finished the book I was reading. I sat in my reading chair, highly upset that my book was finished and full of energy. I looked at Justin sleeping and thought, "Hey, I could do something really nice for him." So I quietly sneaked out of the bedroom and went to work. I made a sandwich for his lunch, put some chips in a bag, got down the toaster for his breakfast, a plate, the bagels, and a knife, and I even filled the water in the coffee pot and left him a sweet note telling him to enjoy his extra time this morning (somehow, he still didn't leave on time...). I discovered his note in response this morning: "Thank you for laying out my morning. Not sure what I did to deserve this!"
Deuteronomy 9:4-6 - 4Do not say in your heart when the Lord our God has driven them out before you, 'Because of my righteousness the Lord has brought me in to possess this land,' but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is dispossessing them before you. 5It is not for your righteousness or for the uprightness of your heart that you are going to possess their land, but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord your God is driving them our before you, in order to confirm the oath which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. 6Know, then, it is not because of your righteousness that the Lord your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stubborn people.
Pretty clear message here - it is not because of your righteousness. In these three verses, this is mentioned, not once or twice, but THREE times! Why? "Because it is hard to bring people from a conceit of their own merit, and yet very necessary that it be done" (Henry).
This passage ends with "for you are a stubborn people." So we could interpret this whole passage as "Do not think that it is because of the righteousness of your heart that you are getting this because you are a stubborn people!" (AKA - don't be proud) Stubborn in the Hebrew from this passage is made up of two words, qasheh (kashay) meaning "hard, cruel, severe, obstinate" and 'oreph meaning "neck" or "back of the neck" (Strong's H7186, H6203). So what this is literally saying is "stiff-necked." Wesley describes stiff-necked as "rebellious and perverse, and so destitute of all...righteousness."
That is us, we are stubborn and rebellious, destitute of righteousness... We have done nothing to deserve what God has done for us. Like me setting out Justin's breakfast stuff and making his lunch - he didn't deserve it, I did it because I love him and want him to be happy. God doesn't do things for us, He didn't give us salvation because we deserved it; He gave us salvation and more because He loves us and wants us to be happy!
You see, "In Christ we have both righteousness and strength" and "our gaining of the heavenly [kingdom] must be ascribed to God's power, not our own might, and to God's grace, not our own merit. In Him we must glory" (Henry, Wesley). This is why salvation is by grace through faith, not works! Our works cannot gain us access to the kingdom because no matter how much we do, we are still undeserving. But the amazing truth - God doesn't love us any less! It is because of His love and grace for us that we are able to enter the kingdom, nothing more.
Today, take a post-it, or piece of paper, or something and write: "Even though I am stubborn and rebellious and completely unrighteous, God still loves me!" Stick it in a place where you will see it at least twice a day. Leave it there for at least a week. When you read those words, take a moment to let the truth of those words sink in: I am completely undeserving but God STILL loves me!!! That truth is absolutely amazing and life altering! It makes you want to shout it from the roof top, "Hey, I fail everyday at being righteous and upright, but I am loved and accepted!"
Get the picture?? I think if we truly grasped this, people would stop trying to maintain "perfection" and we would all be a little more real...and so much happier. :)
Thank you Lord for your relentless love!