Mark 2:13-17 (ESV)
13 He went out again beside the sea, and all the crowd was coming to him, and he was teaching them.
14 And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.
15 And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him.
16 And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
17 And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
I would hope that your answer to the title of this short blog article would be “yes.” I would hope that such is the case because you realize that, no matter how mature you are as a Christian, the call of our Lord and Savior never intended to call any to perfection in this life, but towards perfection in the age to come.
Every day, it is brought home to me how far I fall short of the grace and glory of God. I have some dear brothers and friends on Facebook who incorporate the term “wretch” into their Facebook name, and I can well understand that need to recognize the reality of the remaining corruption of the flesh we must endure, constantly repenting and, by our Lord’s grace, overcoming it, until that time when we will be perfected, not by our own efforts to attain that holiness without which no one will see the Lord, but by the Lord of perfection Himself.
This, however, does not mean we do not strive toward such holiness; rather, it keeps us in the knowledge that what began with the grace of God continues with the grace of God, and will be completed by the grace of God.
It is very tempting to think we have arrived at some semblance of that perfection to which we are called. The reality, however, is that no matter what we attain in this life, none of it is to be considered as having arrived at anything that would make us more acceptable to God than when we first were called into that grace by which we are saved (Philippians 3:12-14).
The works we do now, in the present age, were preordained, not to give us that assurance that God alone bestows upon those who are His, but to give Him glory (praise) in various expression. Yes, we may gain some assurance when we do such good works, but the true assurance is always in the objective promises of our great God and Savior.
Too often, we look to the works of piety for that assurance, and doing such a thing will only end up leading us to that place where we see that we have fallen short of that perfection which is in, of and through God alone, and which we will only see and realize in the age to come. When we turn inward, looking at that which we have attained, we fail to see that all perfections are of that grace which called us, and that we were called as sinners.
The New Testament used frequent and various terms to designate those who have believed in Christ Jesus for salvation: called ones, saints, holy, beloved, etc. However, none of these descriptive terms should ever cause us to cease to know, and wonder at, the fact that our Lord called us as sinners, and that even as we have been saved, are being saved, and will ultimately be saved, at this time, He still calls us as sinners. We are to strive for those things which reflect our ongoing conformity to our Lord Jesus Christ, because these prove that fruit which is from abiding in Him; however, it must not be lost sight of that it is because of what He did, is doing, and will do, that these fruitful works are possible (John 15:1-12; cf. 2 Peter 1:1-10). To view these good works as meritorious in and of themselves is to take out of the equation He who brought us into union with Himself, His Spirit and our heavenly Father, as well as one another (thus, the greatest of the fruits we manifest, after love to God, is love to one another).
Our focus must be outside ourselves, which I have found is not that easy a thing for me, but which I am realizing, more and more, is necessary to experience that peace we have with God. It must focus on, first, He who called us, His perfections and merits, and secondly, those He has put us in covenant union with through His work. When these things of objective view are our focus, we can also see the need of those who have not yet gained that grace-given faith, and appeal to them to be reconciled with He who died to save sinners.
SDG – Bill