Leaving Mount Trashmore

Paul starts out his letter to the Romans saying – this is MY identity and this is MY purpose. He goes on to say – this is YOUR identity and YOUR purpose. You have been called! You belong to Jesus! You are loved by God and are called to be his own holy people – set apart and consecrated for His purposes. Your identity isn’t about who YOU are but about who HE is. Your purpose in life isn’t about YOU but about HIM. So, when He makes YOU right, it’s not about how right YOU are but about how right HE is.

This, however, is not an excuse to sin in hopes that HIS righteousness will cover us. Some choose to do their own thing and walk away from the sovereignty of God, from HIS purpose for their life. Paul spoke of the unrighteous who know what they are doing is wrong, yet they do it anyhow. He used homosexuality as an example but spoke of all who abandon God to do their own thing. God gives them the freedom to make that decision and allows them to walk away from Him and into the life they choose with its painful consequences (1:18-32).

They know the truth about God because he has made it known to them…Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks…So God abandoned them to do whatever shameful things their hearts desired…Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, he abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done…They know God’s justice requires that those who do these things deserve to die, yet they do them anyway. Worse yet, they encourage others to do them also (Romans 1:19,21,24,28,32).

He goes on to warn the church to not judge the unrighteous too quickly. He challenges his readers to see the ways in which we in the church also deny the sovereignty of God and do what we want to do instead of what God calls us to do. Are we in complete submission to God? We may not blatantly walk away from God but we still choose to do and say what we want instead of submitting to God’s ways and His Spirit. Jesus did not die on a cross to save us from our sins so that we could keep on sinning – He called us to a much higher purpose!

He will give eternal life to those who keep on doing good, seeking after the glory and honor and immortality that God offers. But he will pour out his anger and wrath on those who live for themselves, who refuse to obey the truth and instead live lives of wickedness (Romans 2:7-8).

Paul warned the church about unrighteousness but he also warned them of the dangers of self-righteousness –the danger of seeing all of the good things we are doing and making our salvation about what WE have done right in light of how wrong others are, forgetting that it is by HIS righteousness that we are saved and not our own.

You who call yourselves Jews are relying on God’s law, and you boast about your special relationship with him. You know what he wants; you know what is right because you have been taught his law. You are convinced that you are a guide for the blind and a light for people who are lost in darkness…You are not a true Jew just because you were born of Jewish parents or because you have gone through the ceremony of circumcision. No, a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God. And true circumcision is not merely obeying the letter of the law; rather, it is a change of heart produced by God’s Spirit. And a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people (Romans 2:17-19, 28-29).

We can do all the right things and obey all the laws set forth by God and still miss out on His purpose for our life because it is not about US but about HIM. It is not by our own good works that we are saved or made right with God.

For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are…We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned, we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as a sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood…God did this to demonstrate HIS righteousness, for he himself is fair and just and he declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus (Romans 3:20,22-26).

What can I take from these words of Paul to the church in Rome? When I make a mess of my life, God can take all of what I have done wrong and make something right out of it. He can take my life, totally surrendered to Him, and make me right in His sight. But I cannot start looking at the unrighteousness of others and think too highly of the new me. I am not SO righteous that I am better than them or acceptable to God. It is about how righteous HE is and how HE has made me right with Him. I am called not to judge the sins of others and not to continue in my own sin, but to submit to His sovereignty in my life. It is by placing my faith in Jesus that I am made right with God – not faith in myself. It is by believing in HIM that I am made right with God.

We have been in Williamsburg, Virginia, for a conference this week. On the first day, we chose to drive over to Virginia Beach for a few hours. On the way there, we passed Mount Trashmore Park. This 165-acre park is a trash landfill made into a park. There are two mountains of trash, covered in soil and grass, now complete with a playground, two lakes, a skate park and lots of walking paths. This park is just a few short miles from the beautiful sandy beaches of the Atlantic Ocean.

This park came back to my mind this morning. Unrighteousness is like living in a big pile of stinky trash. Self-righteousness is like covering the trash pile with a beautiful park and considering myself renewed, only the trash remains just under the surface. I know that God’s best for me is to move away from the landfill, whether the trash is still exposed or hidden neatly under the surface. His plan is to do more than hide or cover the sin in my life, but to wash me in the ocean of His righteousness so I can fully experience what it means to be made right by Him.

When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. Because of his grace he declared us righteous and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life. – Titus 3:4-7