Righteousness, not Ritual
Proverbs 15:8-9 The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but the prayer of the upright is His delight. 9 The way of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but He loves him who follows righteousness.
Did you know that wicked people come to church? And I’m not talking about that shady character that comes in late and sits in the back. I’m talking about people we’ve known for years, eaten together at potlucks with, even served alongside of in ministry. The fact is, there are a lot of people who are active and involved in church life for the wrong reasons.
Why am I doing this? Why do I attend church services and serve in various ministries? I do it because I was a broken wreck, a wicked sinner, and God saved me from myself. I recognized my desperate need for Him and threw myself on His mercy. Now, I’m so in love with Him and grateful for what He’s doing in my life that I just want to be a part of His work in any way I can!
That means I’m righteous… not because of anything I’ve done, but because of what He is doing right now in my life. I’m not perfect, I’m not entirely clean, but I’m being changed day by day and the truth of God’s word is that He sees me as righteous because He sees the work as if it was already completed. Wow!
On the other hand, if you’re doing all of this to prove to God (or others) how good you are, or for any other reason, then you’re still wicked. Your works, your religious rituals like church attendance, Communion, or serving in ministry do not make you right with God. They are intended to be an expression of a heart that is already right with Him.
Why does it matter? Because God looks on the wicked man or women who is outwardly going through the motions of Christian activity and His heart is filled with disgust. He’s not impressed that you’re in every church service or that you pay tithes or feed the homeless. He’s repulsed because, inwardly, you’re a filthy mess and you haven’t allowed Him to clean you up. He’s the only one who can!
However, to you who still struggles with sin and failure but cry out daily to the Lord for His grace and help… He has covered you with His own beautiful white robe of righteousness (Isaiah 61:10). He sees a completed work of perfection, not just the ongoing construction project that you are today, and He loves you… oh, how He loves you! He takes delight in your prayer and He rejoices in every step you take in His direction. Whereas the wicked can do nothing right to please God, short of repentance, there is nothing you do for our Father that doesn’t bring joy to Him. What a sweet thing it is to be clothed in righteousness!