Are you a contented Christian? Or do you have a quiet unease that God is displeased with you and unhappy with your performance? Are you resting in his righteousness? Or are you striving to make yourself acceptable to God?
Many churchgoers are zealous for God with a zeal based on ignorance and unbelief. They are working like slaves but in God’s eyes their deeds are incomplete. Like the church in Sardis they have soiled their clothes through works of filthy self-righteousness.
What is the remedy?
Like the Sardisians, they need to remember what they heard (the gospel), heed it, and start making different choices. They need to stop banking on their own futile attempts at right living and submit to God’s righteousness.
I don’t think anyone gets out of bed planning to be self-righteous, but self-righteous is what you are if you are trying to impress the Lord with your offerings and sacrifices.
When we talk about self-righteousness we tend to think of the Judaizers stalking Paul around the Mediterranean with their circumcision knives. But Martha was self-righteous and she was literally serving the Lord. She was a one-woman ministry baking cakes for Jesus.
Martha’s problem was not that she was cooking; it’s that she wasn’t eating. The Chef of Heaven had come to visit and all she wanted to do was make sandwiches.
That’s not how it works. That’s back to front. We’re not saved or made righteous because we bless him but because he has blessed us. The lesser is blessed by the greater.
Jesus never condemns Martha; that’s not his way. But he does say her sister Mary made the better choice.
Do you see the significance of this? The one who made an impression was not the one who came with food but the one who came with an appetite.
We can get so caught up serving the Lord that we forget the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve (Matt. 20:28). And the main dish on his menu is a hefty helping of righteousness. Hear the words of the Heavenly Chef:
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. (Matthew 5:6)
The word for filled means gorged, indicating that the Chef of Heaven serves hearty dishes. He is not stingy with grace. When you partake of his righteousness you are filled to the point of satisfaction. When you eat the Bread of Life you get a meal that sustains and nourishes you for eternity. You will never hunger again.
He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. (John 6:35)
When you have had a hearty meal, the last thing you feel like doing is cooking. You just want to sit and digest and heap praises on the chef. This is a very appropriate response to Jesus!
How can you tell when a Christian has submitted to God’s righteousness? They have a look of well-fed contentment. They are not sweating in the kitchen making sandwiches for Jesus. Neither are they singing discontented songs of hunger and thirst (“Oh feed me, Jesus”).
Instead, they are pointing hungry people to the Bread of Life by proclaiming the gospel of his satisfying righteousness.
Extracted and adapted from Paul Ellis’s book, The Gospel in Ten Words