I've been enjoying reading "Good News for Those Trying Harder" by Alan Kraft. It's a great new book that will help combat the leagalist in all of us, Alan is the lead pastor of Christ Community Church in Greenley, Colorado and I wish that I lived closer because I think I would like to sit under some of Mr. Kraft's teaching!
The book centers around all of the things that we do to try to please God and keep all of the rules. As stated in the book, "Trying to be good can actually keep me further from God than sin ever will." reading that statement made me realize that I am a blind Pharisee, I like to keep a list, I don't even realize how bad that I really am. There is sin underneath my "pet" sins and my standard for goodness, or what I determine to be "goodness" is riddled with sin, I am totally depraved, totally sinful through and through.
I have an extremely over exagerated view of myself and my goodness, I look down on everyone who doesn't meet my "standard". The true standard that Jesus set for me and all of us as Christians is found in Matthew 5:20, "For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees , you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."
The scribes and Pharisees took much pride in outward conformity to many extrabiblical rules and regulations but their hearts were still very impure, just like mine.
The righteousness that Jesus was talking about works from the inside out, making our hearts new (Ezekiel 36:26) changing our hearts, giving new motivations, we then have that righteousness that exceeds that of the Pharisees and scribes. Grace is much larger than any list that I may concoct and man made regulations, it's more than just not doing all of the "bad things; not going to certain places, watching certain things, not drinking certain things. Grace is a much higher standard than anything that I can come up with, It's about the person of Jesus and HIS righteousness not mine. I truly want His grace and His love to motivate me, I cannot do anything on my own.
If you are looking for a new book to spur on thoughts of real life change and not just a bunch of steps to take to discover that you still haven't changed...pick up a copy of "Good News for Those Trying Harder." You'll find a great deal of hope, especiallly if you're a Pharisee like me!