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Sunday, December 4, 2016

Grace Alone, Not By Living A Righteous Life

"What good are you as friends?" Job asks, as he listened to those who came to comfort him. "What good are you?"
"Have I any help in me, when resource is driven from me? "He who withholds kindness from a friend forsakes the fear of the Almighty. My brothers are treacherous as a torrent-bed, as torrential streams that pass away, which are dark with ice, and where the snow hides itself. When they melt, they disappear; when it is hot, they vanish from their place. The caravans turn aside from their course; they go up into the waste and perish. The caravans of Tema look, the travelers of Sheba hope. They are ashamed because they were confident; they come there and are disappointed. For you have now become nothing; you see my calamity and are afraid." - Job 6:13-21 ESV
His friends were nothing but melted snow and ice that disappears when it gets hot. He felt like men in the caravans of Tema (Gen. 25:12-16), the travelers of Sheba who found no water in the desert. They plodded along in the dry lands, hoping to find water, but found nothing but parched desert. They were but dried up streams. Job's friends accuse him of some wretched sins for which God is punishing and disciplining him.
But now, be pleased to look at me, for I will not lie to your face. Please turn; let no injustice be done. Turn now; my vindication is at stake. Is there any injustice on my tongue? Cannot my palate discern the cause of calamity? - Job 6:28-30 ESV
Poor, wretched, miserable Job (Job 6:1-10). He loathes his life. He cannot sleep. His flesh is clothed with worms and dirt. His skin hardens, then breaks out with new sores. He complains to his "friends" and to his God. In the anguish of his spirit and the bitterness of his soul he cries out. Instead of being comforted he is terrified and scared with dreams and visions. When will it ever end?
What is man, that you make so much of him, and that you set your heart on him, visit him every morning and test him every moment? How long will you not look away from me, nor leave me alone till I swallow my spit? - Job 7:17-19 ESV
OK! Enough already. If I am guilty of sin and deserving of this sick and troubling disease, show me.
If I sin, what do I do to you, you watcher of mankind? Why have you made me your mark? Why have I become a burden to you? Why do you not pardon my transgression and take away my iniquity? For now I shall lie in the earth; you will seek me, but I shall not be." - Job 7:20-21 ESV 
Cyperus Papyrus
Next it is the turn of Bildad the Shuhite. He says the same thing as Job's other friend. God does not pervert justice and the right way of life. If you are pure and upright God will restore you to your former life. You must not forget God. To emphasize this he uses a number pictures drawn from the natural world.
"Can papyrus grow where there is no marsh? Can reeds flourish where there is no water? While yet in flower and not cut down, they wither before any other plant. Such are the paths of all who forget God; the hope of the godless shall perish. His confidence is severed, and his trust is a spider's web. He leans against his house, but it does not stand; he lays hold of it, but it does not endure. He is a lush plant before the sun, and his shoots spread over his garden. His roots entwine the stone heap; he looks upon a house of stones. If he is destroyed from his place, then it will deny him, saying, 'I have never seen you.' Behold, this is the joy of his way, and out of the soil others will spring. - Job 8:11-19 ESV
So Job and his friends struggle with a type of religion that continually seeks to bargain with God. It is a religion that tells us that if we live a righteous life God will bless us. If we do not, He will punish and humble us until we repent and return to His ways. This is a religion of works. It does not look deep into the teaching of God's Word to discover what the Apostles of Christ taught. Listen to Paul as he despairs of ever being righteous. No one is. All have gone astray. This is the true teaching of Scripture.
As it is written: "There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one." "Their throat is an open tomb; With their tongues they have practiced deceit"; "The poison of asps is under their lips"; "Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness." "Their feet are swift to shed blood; Destruction and misery are in their ways; And the way of peace they have not known." "There is no fear of God before their eyes." - Rom 3:10-18 NKJV 
How then shall anyone be saved from eternal death and destruction? Paul's answer:
Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, - Rom 3:20-25 NKJV 
It is all by God's grace, undeserved and unearned, yet given and available to all who put their faith and trust in the death and resurrection of the promised Messiah, the Christ whose birth we Christians celebrate at this time of the year.