So we must have a category of Jesus that doesn’t mean you’ll never be tempted or you’ll never have imperfect motives, but you can live a life of ordinary faithful obedience. One of the problems when we don’t have that category is when we think, You know what? I never really obey. Everything in my life is just polluted, sinful, filthy rags. That is when we need to hear the alarm bells going off. We don’t hear it like we should.
Good Works vs. Obedience
There’s a really important but simple distinction we need to make in thinking about our good works or our obedience. And that is that our good works can be truly good even though they’re not perfectly good. They’re never without some imperfections. They’re always tinged with some kind of selfishness.
I remember a pastoral intern asking me years ago, “Pastor Kevin, how do you know that when you’re stepping up into the pulpit there’s not some part of you that’s doing this to be seen and to be heard or to draw attention to yourself?”
And I said, “That’s a really good question. I’ll let you know when I’m certain there’s no part of that in my heart.”
It’s not to excuse sin, but it’s to say, Yeah, there are layers to the onion of the human heart. So there’s always that presence of indwelling sin. It’s imperfect, and yet the best theologians have said that it can be truly obedient. I think that’s a new concept for some people, though it shouldn’t be, because Paul often praises the churches for their obedience. Jesus, in the Great Commission, said, “Teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.” And there’s no escape hatch that says, Oh, by the way, of course, you can’t really be obedient to anything.