Have you ever noticed that God is not satisfied with “pretty good?” He never tells us that a “B+” is acceptable or that we should shoot for an “A-.” Far too often we are satisfied with almost getting the job done, giving most of our effort, or holding very little in reserve. But we will look in vain for such a standard in Scripture.
Time and again in the Old Testament we read such things as these: “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” (Deut. 6:5); “And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God [without modification], to walk in all his ways, and to love him [without modification], and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, To keep the commandments of the Lord, and his statutes [without modification], which I command thee this day for thy good?” (Deut. 10:12, 13); “And [thou] shalt return unto the Lord thy God, and shalt obey his voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul” (Deut. 30:2). “Yes, but that’s the law,” some might be tempted to say.
But God’s standard does not deviate under grace. Yes, a new economy prevails in the New Testament. But New Testament saints do not breathe a sigh of relief and do as they please, or even do just the best that they can. Although this is an age of charity, Paul reminds us that the charity of Christ in us “beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things” (I Cor. 13:7). Paul instructs the believers at Philippi to “Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless [without modification] and harmless [without modification], the sons of God, without rebuke” (Phil. 2:14, 15). He instructs the church at Thessalonica to “rejoice evermore” and “in every thing give thanks” (I Thes. 5:16, 18a). He exhorts Timothy and the church at Ephesus to pray for all that they might conduct themselves in “all godliness and honesty” (I Tim. 2:2). To the Colossians, he orders that “Whatsoever ye do in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Col. 3:16).
With the advent of the New Testament church, neither God’s character nor His absolute standards change. All too often we may be satisfied with just getting by, with giving a good effort much of the time, and with giving our all on occasion; but God’s standard is higher. When we consider carefully and prayerfully, we discover that our exhortations—even when they do not include such universal words as “all” and “every”—are nevertheless couched in absolute terms. Do such commands as “Set your affection on things above;” and “put off . . . anger, wrath, malice;” and “Lie not one to another” (Col. 3:2, 8, 9) seem to allow for exceptions? Of course, not.
God can make these demands because He is God. God can make these demands and expect us to fulfill them because what He requires of us He provides through the Person of His Spirit. The New Testament saint has the holiness and power of the indwelling Spirit, the Engine, if you will, to take us where God has called us to go.
God is gracious and merciful, longsuffering and forgiving when we fall short of His standards. But we are not to expect less of ourselves than God expects; we should not require less of ourselves than God requires. Such an attitude surely exhibits at least some of the sins of coldness of heart, unbelief, and rebellion.
Have we in any way grown casual or careless of God’s calling? May we in love for our God and Savior, and sincere thankfulness for the grace He has given us, repent and be faithful and zealous for His glory.
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