What Does God Require?

One of the central teachings of the Christian faith is that God is holy. We are reminded in Isaiah 6:3 that God is not merely holy but is “Holy, holy, holy.” The holiness of God is a demonstration of His transcendence and purity. We are drawn to consider in the holiness of God that He is unique. There is no holiness apart from God. There is nothing else in existence like God. But a consideration of the holiness of God also reminds us of our own sinfulness.

Even non-believers can attest to the reality that no one is perfect. Whether we are drawn to consider test scores, or failed projects, or failed relationships. We can examine questionable motives, “white lies” and everything in between. Every one of us has demonstrated throughout our lives that we are less than perfect.

What is difficult to accept is that God demands perfection. Here we do well to consider the words of the prophet Micah, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)

What do you notice about God’s expectations concerning humanity? God is not looking for mostly good people. God requires perfect, complete, and continual obedience as prescribed in the Bible. These are not merely His suggestions. God makes demands of all people everywhere: obey the law of the LORD. As this command comes forward a less than pleasant thought necessarily follows: no living soul apart from Christ has ever been able to accomplish that task.

How does that strike you? We often try hard to veil our failures by redirecting attention towards others. We think to ourselves, “Certainly I’m not so bad as to warrant God’s judgment.” Or things like, “I’m a decent fellow. I pay my taxes. I volunteer. I recycle. I manage my temper.” Or perhaps even worse, “I’m certainly better than this guy on the news!”

God does not grade on a curve. God does not compare the goodness of one person to another. His law is clear. He demands a perfect adherence to His commandments. And that ought to terrify us because not one of us is perfect and our sins must be punished.

If God is holy, then sin must be punished. Now for some reason, that idea is offensive to most people. However, I find it ironic that people have no problem desiring justice when it involves crimes against humanity. If someone is a murderer, no one is enraged when they are tried and sentenced. If someone is a thief, no is enraged when they are tried and sentenced. Why does this celebration of justice disappear when it’s pointed towards sins against God? We pick and choose which sins are more vile. We falsely presume that we have the right to decide the order or priority of how bad a sin or action is.

Why do we think we have such authority? We don’t have the right to adjust the priority or value of the commandments of God. Nor do we have the right to gag God and claim that the only real sins are those against humanity. If it is true that a crime against humanity deserves punishment, why are we surprised when Scripture teaches crimes against God deserve punishment even more? We have misunderstood God’s role by diminishing it, and misunderstood our own place by elevating ourselves upon His throne. We are not the judge; He is.

God requires perfection, and all of us have failed. To deny this is to deny the very reason Jesus came to earth, and some indeed have at the cost of biblical Christianity. The Lord Jesus Christ as the God-man accomplished what we never could. Jesus Christ alone perfectly, completely, and perpetually obeyed God’s commandments. It was a victory not simply for Himself but for all those whom God would give Him (cf. John 17:9). Hebrews tells us that His life was full of temptation and “yet [He is] without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15) Jesus Christ’s righteousness is the only hope for anyone. For Christ has accomplished in our place what we never could. He died the death we deserved, so that we could live the life He achieved for us, His church.

Today I invite to consider the reality that all of us are indeed flawed, weak, tempted sinners in need of a Savior. I want to invite you to consider this today and note that none of your weaknesses keep you from Christ. “Christ came . . . in order that we might be justified by faith.” (Galatians 3:24) You will never earn heaven by your works. As the old hymn reminds us, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus Christ, my righteousness” So believe in Christ. Hope in Christ. Cling to Christ. Abandon your own righteousness and hope in Him.