Do you want what you deserve? It's not as simple a question and answer as you might think, because we want what we deserve for the good things we do, but we don't want what we deserve for the bad. But there is one thing we all can agree on: we all want favor in our lives.
Traditionally, we link behavior and blessing together. When people see something really cool happen in your life, what do they normally say? I've had people tell me that "you must be living right" Or "you must be doing something right." Where do people get that? We link good behavior and blessing. This is so common that everyone believes it. It's a universal belief that we get what we deserve.
Those of us who are influenced by the Bible (pretty much all western civilization), also believe that the good behavior has to come before the favor comes. That's pretty foundational for much of the Old Testament.--
Deut 28:2 And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the Lord your God.
So, we tie these two things together: obedience and blessing or performance and blessing. Or disobedience and punishment. And the obedience has to come before the blessing. It is a foundational truth of our very culture. We are raised to think that way and we teach our children accordingly. And further, it is pretty much accepted among most Christians that God gave the Ten Commandments so man would be obedient and thereby get the blessing. But is that true? Was the law given so that we would be obedient to it and receive the blessing?
Paul, the writer of most of the New Testament, didn't believe that at all. He claimed the law it had a different purpose entirely.
Rom 3:19 obviously, the law applies to those to whom it was given, for its purpose is to keep people from having excuses, and to show that the entire world is guilty before God. 20 for no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.
The purpose of the law was to keep people from having excuses and show that they were guilty.
Also, no one can ever be made right with God by keeping the law, because it simply shows us how sinful we are. According to Paul, God's purpose in giving the law was not so men would obey and be blessed, God knew that men would fail to keep it when he gave it. His purpose was to prove to them that they were guilty and could never get right by their own efforts. Now why would God do that?
He did that to reveal the correct way for us to get right with him and receive his blessing. God used the law (merited favor) to teach us about unmerited favor, or grace. Merited favor is commonly called works righteousness - you get what you deserve or your favor is based on your merit. But unmerited favor is different; it is faith righteousness or righteousness through grace. It's unmerited, because you have done nothing to earn or deserve it.
Where it used to be, the good behavior comes before the blessing, now it’s the blessing before the good behavior (yes, that's what I said!)
Rom 3:21 but now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the Law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. 22 we are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.
Now, God considers our believing to be the good behavior. This is called faith righteousness because we become righteous by having faith in the truth about what Jesus did for us. That's all God requires of us and it pleases him. Rom. 3:28 in the JB Phillips translation says "the whole matter is now on a different plane: believing instead of achieving."
The truth is, he loves us as we are, as demonstrated by Jesus' willingness to sacrifice himself for us. He accepts us warts and all, and by believing that, it pleases him and he calls us righteous for it. Actually, Jesus made the whole world right with God. Righteous standing belongs to everyone since his death. The problem is, they haven't believed it and received it, and it doesn't become real for anyone until that happens. Though the blessing and favor of God is all over us, it does us no good until we accept it.
There's two types of people; those who give a hoot about God and those who don't. Of the ones who care, most of them are still trying to be good enough to earn God's favor and blessing. That's what all the world religions are about. They are trying to earn God's favor through merited favor. If you had a million years, you would never be able to make yourself good enough through merited favor. Remember Romans 3 v.20 - no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands, it simply shows us how guilty we are.
There's a story about a Russian pastor who was thrown in prison by communist officials for preaching the gospel in the former
Soviet Union. They did not allow him to see another human being, and fed him by pushing the food under the door. Years and years passed and one day the Lord appeared to him. He was so grateful he asked the Lord "is there anything I can give you to say thank you?" "No, everything is mine," the Lord responded. "There is nothing you can give me." "But Lord, there must be something I can give you to say thank you." "There is nothing you can give me" the Lord repeated. "Your very body belongs to me. Your very life is mine." But the man asked again, "oh please, there must be one thing I can give you." The Lord said, "There is. Give me your sins. That's all I want."
Don't stand too close to anyone who wants what they deserve based on their own righteousness. Sometimes lightening explodes when it strikes. Self-righteousness is one of the worst things a man can do in God's eyes. Even thought you may do well for a while, you will mess up eventually. You don't want what you deserve by your performance. If Jesus had committed one sin, do you think he would have risen from the dead? The devil's power (death) was such that one sin is all it takes for you to get the death penalty.
Because of this policy change that happened between the Old Testament and the New, we are delivered from the consequences of our failures. But, that's not all! If you pick up the phone and call right now, you will also get…just kidding, seriously, this is what happened. Jesus traded places with us. He received who we are and what our lives deserve. Are you ready for the best part? We receive who he is and what his life deserves. And what did Jesus deserve? Just a clue, he never sinned. What did he deserve? The blessing and favor of God without measure. That's the Good News and that's why Paul was beaten and stoned wherever he went; some people don't want to hear it.
Well, we get it with this one qualification, we have to believe it. Unfortunately, unless you do believe it, you will not see it. But for those who do, it doesn't get any better. I expect to receive based on Jesus' righteousness rather than my own. And that a good thing, because I know myself too well.