Summary: How do we make ourselves acceptable to God? We can’t! We can only make ourselves available to Him and accept His forgiveness.
1. Last week as I introduced our current series, Living in Light of Easter, I asked you a question, “Who Are You?” It is a question about identity because when we make the decision to acknowledge the sin in our life and choose to accept and receive God’s forgiveness of our sin, those choices involve a change in our identity. We are no longer a sinner or a saint. We are no longer strangers to God we become children of God.
2. There are three parts to this new identity, three important I am’s as Neil T. Anderson writes; I am accepted in Christ, I am secure in Christ, and I am significant in Christ. We need to understand what each of these mean and how important they are for help us grow and mature as followers of Jesus Christ.
3. So, what does it mean to be accepted? It means to be acknowledged. All of us here have had the thrill of being acknowledged in some meaningful way. All of us here have also had the pain of being unacknowledged as well.
4. But there’s an additional question regarding acceptance How do we make ourselves acceptable to God? It is a question that people wrestle with and agonize over because we think that we have to do something to make ourselves acceptable to God.
5. Before we answer these questions I want to address this issue of trying to make ourselves acceptable to God because there are three barriers this issue raises.
a. Barrier number one – the barrier of faith. A Jewish Rabbi named Simlai once noted that in the Mosaic Law there were 365 prohibitions and 248 positive commands.
Let me stop here for a moment. Have you ever heard yourself or someone say, “There are so many do’s and don’ts in the Bible!” There are! But, do you know why there are do’s and don’ts? When God gave Moses the Law in the early part of the Old Testament there were two important reasons why there were more don’ts that do’s. Reason number 1 – God was creating His plan of redemption through the Israelites. He chose them to be the group through whom Jesus Christ would come and so God needed to guide them into a relationship with only Him. That is called monotheism or one God. The nations and people around the Israelites were polytheistic which means they worshipped many gods.
Reason number two – Because there were to be no other gods before God, a large part of what other people did as part of their worship became off limits to the Israelites. This nation would be different from the other nations. They would not have multiple gods and all sorts of other things. So there were a lot of “don’ts” on the list. And I would also remind us that a common statement in the Jewish tradition is this one, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord God, He is One.”
Rabbi Simlai goes on to say that David reduced these 365 prohibitions and 248 positive commands to eleven in Psalm 15. He begins this Psalm with a question, “Who may worship in your sanctuary, LORD? Who may enter your presence on your holy hill?” (These are questions of acceptance, by the way.) Then he answers these questions in the verses that follow: 1. Lead blameless lives 2. Do what is right. 3. Speak the truth from sincere hearts. 4. Refuse to slander others. 5. Harm their neighbors. 6. Speak evil of their friends. 7. Despise persistent sinners. 8. Honor the faithful followers of the Lord. 9. Keep their promises even when it hurts. 10. Do not charge interest on the money they lend. 11. Refuse to accept bribes to testify against the innocent.
The prophet Isaiah, Simlai continues, reduces them to five as we read in 33:15 that also is a response to a question in verse 14 of acceptance: 1. Are honest and fair. 2. Reject making a profit by fraud. 3. Stay far away from bribes. 4. Refuse to listen to those who plot murder. 5. Shut their eyes to all enticement to do wrong.
He then cites the prophet Micah in Micah 6:8 who binds them into three: 1. Do what is right. 2. Love mercy. 3 Walk humbly with your God. And finally indicates that the prophet Habakkuk reduces them all to one in the latter part of verse 4 of chapter 2: “The righteous will live by their faith.”
A challenge for many people is to live by faith and not by sight. Faith comes hard for many people. If we are honest, faith comes hard for us, too. And, given our current culture in which skepticism abounds, faith seems childish and simplistic. “Who believes that?” we hear so often these days.