Why does God have such impossible standards?
No one can live up to them. Take the end of 2nd Corinthians chapter 10, verse 5 for example. It says to take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. I don’t know about you, but I can’t do this. I don’t know anyone who can do this.
Even Peter, the rock upon whom the Christian church was formed, couldn’t do it. Almost everyone knows the time he denied Christ, shortly after claiming he would die for him. You can read about this in Luke chapter 22.
So, if Peter couldn’t meet the standards of God, how can we?
The law God gave the Israelites in the Old Testament was a huge burden to them, and they just couldn’t live up to it. That’s why they had rituals and sacrifices to purify themselves from their breaking of the law and sinning against God and each other. That law was put into effect by God to show the Israelites their need for salvation. They could not be righteous on their own strength or their own will. There is a good discussion about this in Romans chapter 7, and elsewhere in the Bible.
Romans chapter 3 verse 10 tells us there is no one righteous enough to fulfill or to meet all the requirements of the law. Not one, that is, except Jesus. He meets these requirements, and he lives up to the very standards of holiness and righteousness that God requires.
Heaven is a perfect place and if we desire to live in a perfect place we must be perfect to get in. God cannot tolerate wrongdoing (sin). This is written in the book of Habakkuk chapter 1 verse 13.
Was it easy for Jesus to be pure and righteous and to live up to the standards that he, being God, wrote? After all, he was fully divine and holy even when he was born and walked among his people. Yet, Jesus was also tested and tempted both in the desert, which is recorded in Matthew chapter 4, and before the crucifixion in Matthew chapter 26 verse 39.
Now, if I fail at meeting the standards of God and there is only one who does meet the standards of holiness, I guess I am doomed to be condemned both under the Old Testament laws and the standards of the New Testament. There is no hope of being saved from the judgement that falls on everyone when we die. I may as well give up trying to please God.
This is not so. There is hope.
Believe it or not, this hope is based on both the very standards we fail to meet and this Jesus, the one who meets all the requirements of holiness and righteousness. Jesus didn’t get murdered or killed by humans. We can not kill God. He is not an idol or a stature that we can tip over and smash into pieces. He is the creator of the universe, and everything that is in it, seen and unseen.
As it says in Colossians chapter 1 verse 16: For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.
Jesus sacrificed himself on the cross and paid the price for our failure to live up to the standards of God’s righteousness and holiness. Through faith in Jesus and accepting him as our Lord and Savior, we can enter heaven. Not by our own strength or will. Certainly not by our lack of holiness. But by the blood shed so that our sins can be forgiven.
God has incredibly high standards that humans cannot reach. But as we respond to this gift of salvation, the standards give us a goal. There are the rules by which we strive to live. And to help us do this, Jesus summarized them into just two laws. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and, Love your neighbour as yourself. This is found in Luke chapter 10 verse 27.
These two things lead to Jesus and our faith in him means that through his strength and his will, we are forgiven and are set free from our sin and failures. And as we follow these commands, we become closer to the God who loves us.
Andy Becker is a pastor, retired counsellor and former CEO of a Hospice organization. His book, The Travelers, is available at Amazon.com and Amazon.ca.