Summary: If you truly want to become a better person, don’t depend on the law; depend on Christ, your powerful and perfect High Priest.
In his recent book Soul Keeping, John Ortberg talks about being with friends at an open-air street fair when they spotted a mechanical bull that tries to buck people off. They guy operating the bull said, “Watching it isn't nearly as fun as riding.” So John told the bull operator that he wanted to ride. The operator took one look at John’s middle-aged body and asked, “Are you sure?” John Ortberg said, “That guaranteed that I would not back down.”
The operator explained that the bull has 12 levels of difficulty. “It might not be easy,” he said, “but the key is you have to stay centered on the bull. You have to follow the bull. You have to shift your center of gravity as the bull moves.”
So John got on the bull and it started slow, and then it started moving faster and jostling around. John was holding on real tight. Then he remembered the operator’s advice and loosened up. The bull kept moving faster and jolting and bucking and jumping. John was hanging on sideways. His arms were flailing around all over the place, but he hung on and finally the bull slowed down and stopped. John was still on the bull. “It wasn't pretty, he said, “but I made it!” He imagined how surprised the operator of the bull would be that he had triumphed. So John looked over at the operator, who only shook his head and said, “Nice job. That was level one.” (John Ortberg, Soul Keeping, Zondervan, 2014, pp. 98-99)
Some people are not as good as they think they are. In fact, the truth be told, all of us have a long way to go before we reach the beautiful perfection of Christ.
The question is: How do we move on towards that perfection? How do go on to Christlike maturity? How do we truly become a better person? Well, if you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to Hebrews 7, Hebrews 7, where the author is describing how to “go on to maturity”, a discussion he starts in Hebrews 6:1.
Hebrews 7:18-19 For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God. (ESV)
If you want to become a better person, don’t depend on the Law. Don’t rely on the rituals of religion. Don’t trust in some list of do’s and don’ts. That’s because the law is “weak” and “useless” to make anyone “perfect” (or mature)
Benjamin Franklin settled on 13 virtues, by which he sought to better himself. They included:
Silence: “Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.”
Frugality: “Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; that is, waste nothing.”
Industry: “Lose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.”
Tranquility: “Be not disturbed at trifles or accidents common or unavoidable.”
He set up a book with a page for each virtue, lining a column in which to record “defects.” He chose a different virtue to work on each week, noting every mistake he made every day. Then he , starting over every 13 weeks in order to cycle through the list four times a year. For many decades, Franklin carried his little book with him, striving for a clean 13-week cycle.
He never made it, but as he made some progress, he found himself struggling with yet another defect: pride. And pride the worst character defect of all, because it is the source of all sin. Philip Yancey says, “Even if I could conceive that I had completely overcome [pride], I should probably be proud of my humility.” (Philip Yancey, What's So Amazing About Grace, Zondervan, 1997, p. 34; www.PreachingToday.com)
Trying to live by a list of rules never made anybody a better person, so don’t live your life that way.
Instead, depend on Christ, who alone has the power to bring you close to God. Rely on Jesus, the only way to draw near to God.
You see, Jesus provides “a better hope” than any law. Trying to keep the law keeps you away from God, because you can never measure up to His absolute standard; you always fail. However, Trusting Jesus gets you closer to God, because He never fails! God swore to it. He is a priest forever!
Hebrews 7:20-21 And it was not without an oath. For those who formerly became priests were made such without an oath, but this one was made a priest with an oath by the one who said to him: “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, ‘You are a priest forever.’” (ESV)