14th Sunday of Pentecost
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, dear friends who are saints before God because of Jesus, Winston Churchill the prime minister of England during World War 2 once said, “Sometimes doing your best is not good enough. Sometimes you must do what is required.” What did he mean by that? I think what he meant by that was that instead of making the excuse, “I tried my best, that’ll have to be good enough,” that there are times when a person has to rise beyond what they normally think is their best to meet a challenge. Perhaps it was something that he felt strongly about since there were quite few times during WWII where it seemed that the fate of the world hung in a balance. Sometimes doing your best is not good enough. Sometimes you have to do what is required.
But we say that all the time, don’t we? “Just do your best.” “Try as hard as you can, that’s all that can be asked.” “All God expects is that we do our best. We can’t do any more than that.” I know I’ve heard that plenty of times in my life. I know that I’ve even told that to people. The world we live in has for the most part determined that whatever a person’s best is, that is good enough. Sounds nice. Sounds reasonable. But is our best really good enough?
When it comes to God, not at all! It’s dead wrong when it comes to the most important thing in all of life: our salvation. God’s standards, if we are going to enter heaven, is absolute perfection. And God doesn’t lower His standards – perfection- that’s what God demands. And there’s not one of us whose “best” even comes close to that standard of perfection. No, God IS NOT satisfied with your best. Not when it comes to salvation. God’s standards are far higher; God’s standard is perfection.
And what do we see when we look closely at our lives? Don’t we see failure after failure? Think about it with regard to the Lord’s Supper. God wants each of us to examine ourselves before we take the Lord’s Supper, so we do that. As you examine yourself, what do you find? If you’re anything at all like me, you’ll quickly see a disturbing trend. I end up confessing the same sins over and over and over again. Yes, there are times when something “new” comes up. Great, I’ve found a new way to offend God! But for the most part I find myself confessing the same sins over and over again.
And it’s not for a lack of trying either. Each time I make a promise to myself that I’m going to work hard, try harder at fighting those temptations. And I give it my best effort, but when the Lord’s Supper rolls around again, what do I find? Great! Those same sins have happened again, and again, and again! It’s incredibly frustrating! Do you have the same experience? Yep, I’m guessing we all do. So, to ask, “Is God happy with my best efforts? Is He satisfied with my best?” It’s almost laughable to ask the question. We’re just not good enough, and we’ll never be! And the reality is, if we’re not perfect, if God isn’t pleased with us, we face the horrible future of spending an eternity absent from God and His blessings in hell. God’s Word makes it very clear that hell is a reality and Jesus tells us that it’s horridness is beyond comprehension. Anyone who isn’t perfect won’t go to heaven and there’s only one other option and that’s hell. And over and over again as we examine ourselves we see how our best efforts have failed and how much we deserve hell.
Well, perhaps the Old Testament priests understood this. They were to offer sacrifices to God day after day. They offered burnt offerings, which indicated that the people were going to give themselves completely, wholly, 100% to God. They offered sin offerings, where they confessed that they’d sinned against God and deserved His punishment but relied on Him for mercy. They offered fellowship offerings, where part of the animal or grain was sacrificed and part was eaten by the person bringing the sacrifice, indicating that there was wonderful fellowship between God and His people.
Now, if those sacrifices had been done perfectly, what would have happened? They would have only needed to be offered once. One time would have been sufficient because they were done perfectly and correctly. But what happened? “Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices” Day after day after day after day they brought the same sacrifices and no matter how heartfelt they were, no matter how much they desired to “do it right this time,” no matter how hard they tried to do their best, those sacrifices failed, over and over again, why? Because finally those sacrifices couldn’t take away sins.
But there is one sacrifice which could and which did! That’s the sacrifice which Jesus made when He sacrificed Himself on the cross. “But when this priest [Jesus] had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.” Just one time Jesus had to sacrifice, just one time he had to go to the cross, just one time he had to give his life, His sacrifice was perfect and complete. It worked! Verse 17 says it very clearly, “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.” The original has this idea, “I will in NO WAY remember their sins” it’s a permanent prohibition. In other words, God has made the choice of His will that He will no longer remember your sins. Your sins and your lawless acts God will never ever remember them. Why? Because Jesus forgave them. Jesus offered Himself as the ONE sacrifice which really worked. Because of that God has decided NOT to remember your sins anymore!
There is only one way to heaven. It’s by being totally perfect. And either you provide your own perfection or you trust in the perfection provided by a substitute. If you refuse to believe in that substitute, you are asking God to judge you by your own efforts and your own work. God’s answer will always be, “Away from me to the eternal fire.”
But it ISN’T your work, your sacrifice, your job, your best efforts, your best intentions that satisfy God – God requires perfection – rather, it’s Christ perfect, once-for-all sacrifice that God is pleased with. So, in one sense, God’s goal for you and me has been met. We’re told in verse 14 that because of Jesus’ one sacrifice, God has made His believers perfect. In fact, it says, “perfect forever!” The results of Jesus’ life and death and resurrection, the results of that one sacrifice mean you’re going to heaven forever! You stand before God as perfect right now! You will stand before God as perfect forever! God has done the very best, the very best that we in no way could accomplish, Jesus accomplished in our place!
But God still has lots of work to do in you and in me! Did you notice verse 14? It says that God has “made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” What does that mean? Well, think about it. When you and I are born into this world, we were conceived as sinful human beings that deserve only to be sent to hell. But God loved us so much that He sent Jesus, who offered himself as that ONE sacrifice for sins on the cross. He paid your sins in full. Then, in wonderful grace, God called you to faith – convinced you that what Jesus did, He did it for you. For many of us, it happened when we were baptized, for others it happened later as God worked through His Word. But either way, God called you to faith and brought you to know that your sins are forgiven. And that leads the believer to say, “Thank you” to God.
And how do we do that? Well, we do that by loving God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind and loving our neighbor as ourselves. When God first brought us to faith we struggled with that. As a little child I had to be taught to say “please” and “thank you,” had to be taught to show respect, honor, share, be unselfish and so on. My faith grew, so did yours. As we continue in God’s Word and learn it more and more, we see more applications, more and more opportunities to serve God with all that we have, continue to see opportunities to love our neighbor. And the more and more we want do it because the more we mature in our Christian faith, the more we understand God’s grace and the more we see what’s most important in life: serving God and focusing on eternal matters. More and more we want to say, “Thank you” to God.
As believers we continually want to grow in our faith and grow in our life of faith. Our attitude is not, “I’ve reached my goal, God better be content with where I’m at, I’ve made certain concessions with the devil to commit these certain sins and so God you better learn to deal with it.” That’s not the attitude of the believer! The believer wants to grow, wants to improve, wants to find more ways to serve God, wants to get better. The attitude of the believer is one that wants to do the very best for God, I owe God my very best efforts, I want my life to conform to the life of Christ.
So, we’re already perfect. In Jesus we’re perfect. But as long as we are on this earth, we will continue to need to be “made holy.” We’ll continue to need God to keep teaching us, strengthening us, growing our desire to serve him, growing our motivation, so that we have more and more unselfish love for God and others. God’s goal is that we live perfectly! Like Jesus!
But, even with our very best we won’t be perfect. That’s why we need to go back again and again to the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross and look at the empty tomb to be assured that we are forgiven, that God has made us perfect forever, that God’s ultimate goal has already been accomplished – our salvation.
And so we come back to that question. Our best – is it good enough for God? In regards to your salvation, no way! Not even close! That’s why Jesus came – because we needed to be saved!
But now, knowing that you’re saved, knowing that Jesus has washed you clean, now you want to do your best to serve your God! You’re going to do your best! And in wonderful grace, God accepts that as wonderful worship, worship coming from one of His dearly loved children.
And so we thank God! We thank God that He gave HIS Best, sending Jesus to save us. We thank God for the amazing status which we now enjoy – God regards you as perfect! He sees you as perfect! And so we thank God with our lips and lives, serving Him with our best. And we thank God yet again, that He accepts those acts of worship. Wow. What a gracious God we have! Amen.