Posts Tagged ‘doing the right things’

Deuteronomy 6:1-25 (Part 6 of 6)

Love the Lord Your God

Although I am not an architect or a carpenter who design and then build things from scratch, when I look back on my career, I have been a build it from scratch kind of guy. In every job I have ever had, it seems, I have either created a function that did not exist before or I have had reclaim or rebuild something. Much of my career, I have been internal auditor which means you often have to audit business units of your company that have never been audited before. Even when those business units have been audited before, each audit is a unique animal unto itself. As an internal audit director in one of my jobs, I had to create a department that did not exist before.

 

When I have been on the other side of the accounting fence, as a controller of a business or controller of a business unit of a larger organization, I have often been hired to create or reclaim. In my first controller’s job, I had to create the corporate function of the small business that I was working for that had multiple plants and was growing through acquisitions. In my current job as controller, I had to reclaim a finance function that had gone haywire because of poor leadership and underqualified individuals holding the position of controller. I spent the first year on my current job just trying to figure out our balance sheet and income statement. Many, many hours were spent reconciling balance sheet accounts that had not been reconciled or reconciled properly in over 3 years. It was a mess. Back in those days, I was working 70 hours a week, in the office and at home, just to clean up the mess that was my company’s finance function. I had to write, institute, and enforce policies that had not existed before. I had to establish structure that had not existed before. I had to provide leadership to employees who pretty much had danced to their own drummers as the previous three inept controllers were in the position. Our legal parent company thought Fujikura America, Inc.’s (FAI) finance function was a joke (and it was!). No one at the corporate office of our parent company trusted any financial report that came out of FAI and who could blame them. It was a long struggle to get things whipped into shape but now 8 years later, our financial statements, our general ledger, our reconciliations and the trustworthiness of our financial statements is without question. Internal Audit at our parent company often uses our reconciliations of general ledger accounts as examples to the rest of the companies that they own and manage.

 

In the same way, I have accomplished the same thing in my role at my church. Prior to my becoming involved in the financial management of my church, there was nothing but a checkbook. Managing a church through a checkbook is fine when it is a small church and money is small and the need for information is small. However, my church had grown to a church of 700 people. Financial performance could not be determined by looking at a checkbook. Sure, a checkbook tells you how much net cash you have but it does not tell how much we are spending on payroll, how much we are spending on office supplies and how much of each type of revenue we received and so on without extensive work. In order to refinance our church’s debt, we had to establish structure where none had existed before. We had to create a chart of accounts. We had to go through three years of excel checkbook registers and assign revenue and expenses to our account structure so that we could generate financial statements. It took about three months to wade through all of that. Once we established where we were at as of 2013, we implemented an enterprise management software. As my position at the church has evolved into not only finance but also administration, it is again charting uncharted waters for a church that is only 9 years old. Most of the time, whatever I do from a financial or administrative standpoint at my church is something that has never been done before.

 

So, I guess that’s me. I am that something out of nothing guy. I am that fixer guy. I am an architect and carpenter of sorts that creates a building from nothing. I am accounting architect and carpenter. Having said all I guess that is the thing that intrigued me about the verses in this passage, Deuteronomy 6:1-25, that we are going to focus on today. Those verses are vv. 10-13. Let’s read with a focus on those verses as we read through this whole passage one last time before we move on:

 

6 These are the commands, decrees and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, 2 so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. 3 Hear, Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, promised you.

 

4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.[a] 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

 

10 When the Lord your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you—a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, 11 houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant—then when you eat and are satisfied, 12 be careful that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

 

13 Fear the Lord your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name. 14 Do not follow other gods, the gods of the peoples around you; 15 for the Lord your God, who is among you, is a jealous God and his anger will burn against you, and he will destroy you from the face of the land. 16 Do not put the Lord your God to the test as you did at Massah. 17 Be sure to keep the commands of the Lord your God and the stipulations and decrees he has given you. 18 Do what is right and good in the Lord’s sight, so that it may go well with you and you may go in and take over the good land the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors, 19 thrusting out all your enemies before you, as the Lord said.

 

20 In the future, when your son asks you, “What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws the Lord our God has commanded you?” 21 tell him: “We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. 22 Before our eyes the Lord sent signs and wonders—great and terrible—on Egypt and Pharaoh and his whole household. 23 But he brought us out from there to bring us in and give us the land he promised on oath to our ancestors. 24 The Lord commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the Lord our God, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today. 25 And if we are careful to obey all this law before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness.”

 

Here, in vv. 10-13, God tells the Israelites, through Moses, that He is giving them the Land that they are entering and that it will not be a situation where they are having to start from scratch as they did at each stop in their wilderness journey. There would be cities but they did not build them. There would be houses that they did not build. There would be goods in those houses that they did not produce. There would be water cisterns that they did not construct. There would vineyards and olive trees that they did not plant. The Promised Land was ready made for immediate occupation like a move-in ready house. They did not build it but it was ready for them. They did not earn it but it was gifted to them.

How contrasting that is to what I have had to do in my career. In most of my jobs, I have had to create something out of nothing or organize what was once chaos. When I look back at how I left those positions and when I look back on what I have accomplished in the last eight years in my current job (as well as what I have accomplished in the last four years in my functions at my church), you can look back and say I did that. I accomplished that. In each of the past jobs, I have left the function better than it was before I got there. Now, in each of my full-time job at FAI and my part-time job at LifeSong Church, I can look back and see how far we have come. We have accomplished a lot. And we are better off than before I got there. You could say I have earned the success that I have encountered. The attaboys are because of a lot of hard work and sacrifice.

 

However, sometimes we think of our salvation in the same way. We think that if we do all the right things, God will smile upon us and let us into heaven. We think if we do more good than bad that He will smile upon us and let us into heaven. It is a lot of hard work to try to be good enough to get into heaven. When heaven is based on me doing more good than bad, that can be and is an all-consuming balancing act because of our penchant for doing bad things.

 

What the Bible tells us though is that we can never do more good than bad to get into heaven. Just one sin is enough to condemn us much less the daily sins that we commit. Just one. That’s all it takes. God is holy and pure and righteous and is truth. Everything about Him is pure and positive. Therefore, we cannot exist in His presence with our impurities, our sins. We are condemned by the fact that we are impure in His sight. Just as a single ink drop into a glass of pure water will taint the water and eventually permeate the whole glass of water, we are the same before God. Our first sin taints us. Our subsequent sins permeate our being. We simply cannot come before God and are condemned to hell by Him because we are not holy, pure, and righteous like Him.

 

The only chance that we have is through Jesus Christ. He is our gift. He suffered on the cross to take our condemnation away from us. Through Jesus Christ we are gifted the Promised Land. Our entry into the presence of God will not be because of our own efforts to be more good than bad. It is simply the gift that is the Son of God. We will enter the gates of heaven because of His gift. We will not have earned. We will praise God all day long not because we the builder and achiever of our lives but because of the gift of Jesus Christ. We will walk the streets of gold not because we accomplished great things for the Lord in this life, but rather because we beneficiaries of the mercy and grace we have received through Jesus Christ.

 

Amen and Amen.

Romans 9:30-10:4 — Why is that when you put religion in man’s hands, we always screw it up?

The Jews of first century Palestine had become so married to the law that they failed to see to whom it pointed. Keeping the law was the most important thing. It was checklist religion to them. They had a worthy goal – to honor God. But they lost sight of God and Scripture in the process. They lost sight of the spirit of the law and of Scripture. They became more dedicated to the law than to God. They built layers and layers of regulations around the law itself so that they would come nowhere near actually breaking God’s law. There was a dizzying array of regulations. You had to be a scholar to keep up with it all. They also used it to separate the “good” people from the “bad” people. It was religion. It was about performance. I am better than you because I have not violated this law or regulation but you have. I have less demerits than you. Jesus was the Messiah, the completion of the law. They didn’t even notice. He was a giant boulder in the road but with their blinders on they did not see Him. The law itself had become their god not the God who gave them the law.

Have you ever known people like that in our day and age? If I do the right things! If I don’t do many bad things! If my good deeds outweigh my bad, then I will be OK. These are the unhappiest people in the world. There is such a great burden of trying constantly to do more good than bad that it leads to judging others for how we are in relation to them on the good-o-meter scale. We often think that if we keep “the law”, God will have to accept us and reject others who are not as good at keeping the law as we are. God will accept us if we just keep a running ledger of how much good we do in comparison to our bad. Ultimately, when we live this way, we are trying to control God. If I do this, then God will do that. We can make this faith thing into religion of do and don’t. Checklist Christianity. Can we not see? The Jews could not see that the Old Testament taught just as the New does that salvation comes by faith and faith alone. It does not and cannot depend on human effort (Gen 15:6).

The great rock that Paul speaks of in this passage is Jesus Himself. The Jews did not recognize Him as the one and only true Messiah because He did not match their expectations and He threaten the cult of the law that they had created. They, and sometimes we, want our relationship to be about what we can do to earn brownie points. We want to earn our way to God. It is the spiritual American Dream. With effort you can earn your way to God’s favor. With effort you can separate yourself from the pack. You can stand above others when it comes to God. Look what I did and what you didn’t! Do more. Be more. I am better than you. It is religion. Religion is man-made. And man it is very tiring to be religious. All the scorecards we have to keep! God does not want religion. God wants relationship.

People stumble over Christ because we are too busy keeping our checklists of the “right stuff” that we do. If we do more good than bad, maybe God will accept us. The law was created by God not for us to make it the center of our lives and our dizzying attempts to keep it. It was designed to open our eyes to the fact that we are utterly unable to keep the law 100% of the time for all our lives. The law was created to show us that we are condemned by its judgment. It was created to show us our desperate need for Jesus Christ as the covering that we need for our utter failure in the eyes of the law. Instead of reacting to it by making it checklist religion, it is intended to humble us that there is nothing we can do to earn God’s favor. It is only when we are so humbled that we realize that we do not control our path to heaven by our own actions that we can come to God. Being humbled by the law leads us to see that we need a Savior. The law shows us the pits of hell because we are condemned by not keeping it 100% of the time for a lifetime. The law demands perfection 100% of the time for a lifetime. It is impossible. The law points us, humbles us, and prostrates us at the feet of Jesus. Once we are humbled and speak out our need, we forget our pride. We forget our checklists. We forget trying to make ourselves out to be acceptable to God on our own. That’s when we are ready to obey Him.

Israel rejected Jesus because they had forgotten the spirit of Scripture. They were so busy swatting at gnats that they missed the Savior. They worshiped the law instead of the Savior. Are you so busy trying to control you own path to heaven that you have missed the Savior. There is no amount of good we can do to make us right with God. Face it. Even when we try to do all the right things outwardly, our thoughts will condemn us in the eyes of the law. We come up short. We need something to get us beyond our futile efforts to make ourselves right with a perfect and just God. Doing the right things does not save us. We start off in the penalty box to begin with. We can never be perfect enough because we have sin in us. It’s existence condemns us regardless of what we do. We need an intervention!

His name is Jesus. God made it so. God said that the purpose of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection was to give us a way out of our condemnation before the law. If we believe in our hearts that God sent His only Son for the purpose of saving us from our sins by being the sacrifice for sin on the cross, then, and only then are we made right. No checklists. No doing more good than bad. Just realization that we need a Savior. Just realizing that we cannot make it about us. Humbled by the law. Begging God to relent on our deserved punishment. Realizing that we need Jesus. It’s not religion. It’s not checklists. It’s a relationship with a Savior to whom we owe everything. Jesus. We need Him. Not just something nice to add to our mantlepiece. We absolutely need Him. Need. Need. Need. Need Him. When we are in need, it means we have to have something from outside ourselves. We NEED Jesus! Not the law. Not checklists. Not religion. Jesus, we NEED Him!