Our very best does not reach God’s required standard of perfection. Our very best effort at earning salvation would still leave us separated from God and deserving punishment. Our lifelong attempt of pleasing God through good works alone would not receive any reward or recognition.
But then we find grace, then we find a God who is rich in mercy and the God who alone is love and light.
Many Christians try to live righteous lives in their own strength. Instead of the fruit of the Spirit they focus on displaying the fruit of trying harder or turning over a new leaf. Rather than live honest lives revealing how they have grown, where they struggle, and the battles they face, they try to live up to unrealistic pressures and expectations. Having tried and failed many then give up. They may completely turn away from their faith or, and this is more often the case, they settle for a mundane Christianity. Too often we, as Christians, settle for being almost obedient. We live nominal lives, nearly sanctified, nearly pilgrims, nearly, but not quite.
Can incomplete obedience be any kind of obedience?
In 2 Kings 15 the chapter opens with Azariah (also called Uzziah) ascending to the throne of Judah. He is almost obedient, but not quite. Verses 3 and 4 summarise his reign, ”
(3) And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father Amaziah had done; (4) Save that the high places were not removed: the people sacrificed and burnt incense still on the high places.
Did you notice how verse 4 opens? “Save that” – He did right, expect in this area.
Later in the chapter we read about King Jotham of Judah, the son of Azariah/Uzziah. He followed in his father’s footsteps. He was almost obedient, but not quite. Verses 34 and 35 describe his reign,
(34) And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD: he did according to all that his father Uzziah had done. (35) Howbeit the high places were not removed: the people sacrificed and burned incense still in the high places. He built the higher gate of the house of the LORD.
He obeyed God a little, howbeit…
Again, can incomplete obedient be any kind of obedience?
Where does grace come into this?
When God looks upon the life of a Christian He sees the righteousness of Christ. Our “almost obedience” is under the blood. I do not believe at any stage in Heaven God will look at a saint and say, “You did what was right in my eyes, except for the time you got angry and shouted at random drivers on the road”. We cannot be almost righteous and get to Heaven.
God’s grace has made provision through Christ to punish our sins and to gift us the holiness we need.
But we’re not off the hook. We cannot just live according to the whims of the flesh and simply claim grace. We can choose to please God or to not please God. It is always all of grace. Pleasing God is not in our power alone, but by His grace we can leave in such a way that pleases Him.
Paul wrote to the Colossian church and in chapter 1, verse 10, he encouraged them,
“That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;”
Walk, live, in such a way that is pleasing to God! By God’s grace we can do this.
Do you rely on grace to enable you grow in grace and knowledge? Do you rely on grace to live obediently and submissively to God’s will?
In the flesh we will fail. In our own strength we will be almost obedient. We may never live perfectly until we enter Heaven, but by the grace of God we can walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing!
May I encourage you to not settle for almost obedience, but aspire for more. Lean on the grace of God and live victoriously!