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Excerpt from chapter two of Behold Me, Behold Me Evangelism that Glorifies God by S.M. Platt
Chapter 2 Repentance Toward God and Faith Toward Christ
“But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law.” (Romans 9:31-32)
The Jews did not attain to the righteousness they sought, because they sought it not by faith, but by the works of the law. That statement puzzled me for a long time. I wondered why, if they were faithfully holding to the law, repenting of sin and seeking to be righteous before God through the sacrifices of the law, they could not see the bigger picture. Why were they blinded if they were performing the works of the law as they were commanded? The problem was that they were not seeking to be righteous before God, but merely righteous according to the law. Holding to the law became for them, a mere pretense of worship, making them righteous in their own eyes while they continued in their sin against God.
As his chosen people, God gave them everything they could ever desire and more, showing them his great love and mercy and even made provision for their sin. Through the law with its sacrifices, he made a way for their sins to be covered, picturing the coming of the Savior who would one day take away their sin forever. All he desired was their love and obedience, and to be glorified through them as their good and merciful Father; but they were not willing to glorify him as God. Instead of seeing these sacrifices as a picture of God’s love, and worshipping him because of it, they elevated the 32 laws in importance. They did not see in the law, the sinfulness of their sin and need for a Savior, but rather a license to sin. The performance of these sacrifices became the measure of righteousness for them instead of genuinely repenting of their sin and living by faith. They did not seek to become godlier or glorifying to God, but only to clear their consciences when they were not.
I remember as a teenager growing up in the Catholic church, my best friend and I, in our own self-righteousness, would attend Saturday evening mass together. We would go to confession and perform our penance in anticipation of the sins we were planning to commit that night, as a sort of indulgence, I suppose. Performing these works established (at least in our own minds) our righteousness, but obviously did not attain to the righteousness of God which is by faith. We did not seek to live by faith, attempting to obey his commands, but went as far against them as we thought we could get away with. Our religion was not worship. It was pretense. As a matter of fact, we went through these motions over and over, week after week, with no thought of genuine repentance toward God. We were so intent on fulfilling the laws of the Catholic Church, that we did not even consider trying to please God. We, like the Pharisees, even came up with additional rules with which to further establish our righteousness. We kissed the crucifix necklaces we wore and made the sign of the cross each time we passed a Catholic Church. We even reproved others for their lack of attendance to church. How proud we were of the sacrifices we offered to God. We were basically Catholic Pharisees.
No wonder Jesus called them hypocrites. “And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.” (Mark 7:9) 33 I believe this is a picture of what the law had become for the Jews. They gave to God, not their love and worship and certainly not their obedience, but only what was required by the law. They were not truly worshipping God, but going through the motions of serving him, while in truth they were serving only themselves. “…this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:” (Isaiah 29:13)
Their hearts were far from God and their fear toward him was taught only by the precept of men, as were mine and my friend’s. This was not faith in God, and he was certainly not pleased. As a matter of fact, he was sickened, and rightfully so. Because of Israel’s refusal to turn to God with their whole heart, God blinded them to the truth of Christ. What was needed was a genuine turning to God. He did not desire their empty works or their words, but their hearts. “If thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to keep his commandments and his statutes which are written in this book of the law, and if thou turn unto the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul.” (Deuteronomy 30:10) It is still the same for us today. God does not desire our lip-service or our religion, but our hearts. Our religion sickens him without a heart that is genuinely seeking to please him. Thinking that we can be reconciled to God through a prayer while our hearts remain far from him in disobedience and sin is no less hypocrisy than going through the motions of the law.
“I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies. Though ye offer me burnt offerings and your meat offerings, I will not accept them: neither will I regard the peace offerings of your fat beasts. Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy viols. But let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream. Have ye offered unto me sacrifices and offerings in the wilderness forty years, O house of Israel. But ye have borne the tabernacle of your Moloch and Chiun your images, the star of your god, which ye made to yourselves.” (Amos 5:21-26)
Why did God hate their sacrifices? Because of their hypocrisy. God abhorred the Israelites’ attempts to satisfy him with their sacrifices and their feasts and festivals offered in his name while they continued in their disobedience and worshipping of other gods. They offered to him sacrifices only to appease him rather than giving him their hearts.
This false worship was not a sweet-smelling savor unto him, but a stench in his nostrils that he would not accept. He would not hear their songs or receive their sacrifices, while they cleaved to their sins. We see this over and over throughout the Bible. It is our hearts that God wants, not our professions or our religion that praises him with our lips while our hearts are far from him. God tells us that “…to obey is better than sacrifice… (1Samuel 15:22) Many unbelievers claim to seek the wisdom of God or petition him through prayers in a moment of desperation; but without a genuine turning to him they will not receive that which they seek after.
As we see in Ezekiel, those who approach God through pretense or hypocrisy (believers or unbelievers) are answered according to their hypocrisy. “Son of man, these men have set up their idols in 35 their heart, and put the stumblingblock of their iniquity before their face: should I be enquired of at all by them? Therefore speak unto them, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Every man of the house of Israel that setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to the prophet; I the LORD will answer him that cometh according to the multitude of his idols; That I may take the house of Israel in their own heart, because they are all estranged from me through their idols. Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Repent, and turn yourselves from your idols; and turn away your faces from all your abominations.” (Ezekiel 14:3-6) This is the same thing many do today, adding God as merely another god in their lives, and not as the God of their lives.
We cannot approach God with the stumbling block of our iniquity before our faces while we embrace idols such as sports, TV, money, family, pets, relationships, and careers that we have set up in our hearts. Whatever it is that we love the most, that’s first in our hearts, is our god and most often rules our lives. God will not be second. He demands to be the God of our lives alone. Unless we are willing to repent and believe in him as our only God, we cannot come to him. “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6 emphasis mine)
We must turn from our sin toward him as God. This repentance toward God is essential if we are to receive the sacrifice he has provided. Let me assure you, this is not Lordship salvation, but biblical salvation. To believe in God means a great deal more than merely 36 acknowledging his existence, or even going through the motions of religion. Just knowing that he is God is not enough.
i invite your sincere questions and comments, and will do my best to answer according to God's word. While i do not claim to be without error; I will try to be as true to His word as I know.
is a Fundamental, Bible Believing Christian with a passion for His word and a desire to earnestly contend for the faith.