There is a policy promoted by successful business owners that if you want to succeed you must say “no” to almost everything. The reason is that if you say “yes” to too many things, everything you do will be only “good enough”—nothing will be done well!
This “good enough” situation is not serious along some lines, but when it comes to our obedience to God it is VERY serious. God has set His standard at the highest—not to daunt us, but to bring us to His standard. He wants—and will have—the very best. If we settle for “good enough,” that isn’t BEST. I saw a business advice article just today that was commenting on the difficult climate right now that everyone must face, and the author’s point was, Don’t settle for “good,” go for “BETTER.”
Isn’t that the standard we find in Scripture?
That was the difference between the national law of Moses and the Law of Faith.
Hebrews 7:19 19for the law made nothing perfect; on the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.
The law of Moses could not make “perfect,” because it only demanded outward compliance. It didn’t compel a change of the heart. For example, one could THINK hatred, or jealousy, or revenge, but no problem so long as he didn’t show it openly. Hebrews explains it well. Speaking of the “first tabernacle,” the Levitical system, we read:
Hebrews 9:9 9It was symbolic for the present time in which both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make him who performed the service perfect in regard to the conscience—
That system could not make “him who performed the service perfect in regard to the conscience”—another way of saying that the higher law of Christ COULD make perfect.
The young man who came to Jesus to find out the way to eternal life was one who might have been satisfied with “good enough.” When Jesus asked him about keeping the commandments, he responded with lots of confidence!
Matthew 19:16–21 16Now behold, one came and said to Him, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” 17So He said to him, “… if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” 18[The young man] said to [Jesus], “Which ones?”
Jesus said, “ ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’
19‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” 20The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?”
He didn’t mind telling Jesus how good he was—already! Can’t you hear it in his tone?
If he were responding today, he might have said something like, “No worries, Master! I’m right there with You.”
But Jesus had other thoughts about the matter. Not so approving. What was Jesus’ response?
21Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect [i.e., complete, mature], go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”
Pause. Slow down. Stop. Go, sell, give, come, follow ME.
Can’t you see the young man’s ego deflating?
Not “good enough.” FAR from it.
If you want to be perfect … If you want to be perfect …
There was more to seeking Eternal Life than the young man had imagined. There was something MORE required. NOTHING could stand between him and that goal.
EVERYTHING here had to be viewed as a payment toward laying up treasure in heaven. Even his money. He had to be willing to let it go? YES!
The standard comes up over and over again. Take Paul’s laundry lesson for the church:
Ephesians 5:26–27 26that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word,
There is a whole process outlined: To “Sanctify” and “cleanse” her with the “washing of water” how?
26that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.
Without spot or wrinkle or any such thing. There is the standard: all clean, all holy, without blemish.
Now think about our words. Any commands relative to what we say?
YES! How careful we need to be about the words we use. It is so easy to pick up unclean phrases from those around us—at work, at the store, at the office, wherever we go. Hear it again, from the same author, Brother Paul:
Ephesians 5:3–4 3But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; 4neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.
The newer translations make it even more forceful. This is the same passage from the New Jerusalem Bible:
Ephesians 5:3–4 (GNB) 3Since you are God’s people, it is not right that any matters of sexual immorality or indecency or greed should even be mentioned among you. 4Nor is it fitting for you to use language which is obscene, profane, or vulgar. Rather you should give thanks to God.
This from the New English Bible:
Ephesians 5:4 (NEB) 4No coarse, stupid, or flippant talk; these things are out of place; you should rather be thanking God.
We are in a society that thrives on flippant talk. I was waiting in a doctor’s office, I think it was a talk show that was playing on the TV, no way to get away from it. I tried to block it out as much as possible, but one could not miss the tone. Senseless, stupid, flippant—Paul had it right.
We don’t want even a taint of it in our conversation. No vulgarity, no expletives, no off-color words, no insulting others to make jokes. Who are we trying to impress if we talk that way at all? Certainly not God, nor anyone godly.
What is the alternative Paul suggests?
4…you should rather be thanking God.
What a contrast: thanking God!
We had a story in the Message some years ago about a large dairy farmer who owned and operated one of the best farms in that section of the country. At the same time he prided himself in being a good Christian, “Good,” as he put it, “on the whole.”
What did that mean, “on the whole”? Well, he would explain that he never did anything really bad. He wouldn’t tell an outright lie, but he might do something a bit shady once in awhile, if the situation demanded it. He wouldn’t swear, but he could get pretty upset with his animals at times and lose his temper. It was “necessary” to get them back into line! His language was usually in line, but there were times he might throw in an off-color word or two. But he would say, “on the whole, I’m a good Christian.”
Time came that his animals were getting out of the pasture too much. He needed a new fence, and didn’t have time to build it. So he hired a friend to do it for him.
Delighted with the new fence, he settled with the friend and put his cattle into the pasture. It wasn’t long before there was a phone call from the neighbor down the road: Several of his cows were out, and were in the neighbor’s garden. The neighbor was UNhappy.
As soon as the farmer had rounded up his cows, he called the fence builder.
“You didn’t give me a good fence!” the farmer complained. “I trusted you to do good work. And right away my cows are getting out.”
“It IS a good fence,” the man explained. “Good on the whole. On the whole, Sir, it is very strong.”
The farmer was not satisfied. “There is a weak area around that tree on the south end, and one of my cows found it. And others followed her. You know how cattle are.”
“I’ve heard,” said the fence man, “ that being good on
e-the-whole was being a good Christian. But I guess it doesn’t make a good fence.”
Doesn’t that explain the logic of James? What did James say?
James 2:8–10 8If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well; 9but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.
A broken law is a break in the fence—good “on the whole” is NOT good enough! Let’s repeat that last verse together, James 2:10,
10For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.
It makes perfect sense—one command we refuse to keep is not good enough because it isn’t total obedience. That is why God said to Abraham,
Genesis 17:1 1When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless.
Blameless. No room for good “on the whole.” What was the ancient royal law?
Mark 12:30–31 30And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. 31And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
“All your heart” means just that: ALL.
“All your soul” means just that: ALL
The same with “all your mind” and “all your strength.” No holes in the fence. No “good on the whole.”
It is the same that I saw in an article today, the writer said:
If you want to succeed you can’t be satisfied with being “good,” you always want to be BETTER.
Isn’t that the motto for us? Not good “on the whole” but always BETTER.
Because our commitment is to God, and the goal is LIFE ETERNAL.