Derek Prince - What's Wrong With Trying To Be A Good Person?
This excerpt is from: The Holy Spirit As Guide
And I learned that that’s how the natural mind of man thinks. When we think about being righteous, each of us turns to some sort of list of rules and we think I’ve got to keep this and I’ve got to keep that. Now, the Bible says there’s nothing wrong with keeping the law If you keep the whole law all the time. Fine. If you can do it, praise God. But then the Bible goes on to say that in actual fact nobody ever succeeds. And this is very clearly stated in many passages. We’ll look at only just two of them. In Romans chapter 3 verse 20 Romans 3: 20 Therefore, by the deeds of the law [or by the keeping of the law] no flesh will be justified in God’s sight; for by the law is the knowledge of sin. So Paul says no flesh, that’s no human being, will ever achieve righteousness in God’s sight by keeping a law.
Then you argue well why did God give the law of Moses? And Paul says one of the results of the law is it shows us we’re sinners. It doesn’t make us righteous But it shows us we need to be saved. The law was actually never given by God to make anybody righteous. One of its main purposes was to show us we need to be saved. Another main purpose was to show us that we can’t save ourselves. And, another purpose was to foreshow and predict the savior who would be able to save us. But returning to what Paul says, he says by the deeds of the law, no flesh, no human being, will ever achieve righteousness with God. And If we go back to Galatians chapter 2 verse 16, Paul says: and it’s in the middle of a sentence but we won’t give the whole sentence: Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law. The question is, dear friends, do you know it? Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law. But by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we may be justified by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the law; For by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.
So again, very emphatic. No one will ever achieve righteousness by keeping a law. We have believed in Christ that we might be made righteous by faith, not by keeping the works of the law. And then going back to the passage in the next chapter of Galatians, chapter 3, verse 11, Paul says: But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident; For the just shall live by faith. And he’s quoting the prophet Habakkuk. And then he says the law is not of faith But the man who does them shall live by them. If you can keep all the law all the time you’ll live that way, You’ll be righteous in the sight of God. But, the alternative is by faith which is not observing a law. These are mutually exclusive alternatives. Now, I think only God has conceived the method of achieving righteousness by faith. I think left to himself, natural man would never conceive such a way of righteousness.
As far as I know, every other religion has some way of achieving righteousness which is doing something. Different religions have different things that you have to do But, in essence, all of them think along this line, I’ll be righteous if I do this, this and this, And don’t do that, that and that. That means the Christian faith, If we understand it rightly, is absolutely unique. There is no other religion that even tries to offer faith on the same basis that the Christian faith offers it. The question is does it work? If it works then we are of all people the most privileged because we’ve discovered the only way to achieve righteousness. Because, God in His mercy has shown it to us. Now I want to look at some passages in Romans. This is where you need to tie a towel around your forehead and really concentrate. I know this is not the ideal climate in which to concentrate but I have great expectations of you people. I believe you’re going to achieve it. We’re going to read from Romans chapter 7. I didn’t know what the climate or situation would be like when I arranged this. I think God must have intended it.
All right, we’re going to begin with the first 6 verses of Romans. This is a rather elaborate comparison, Taking an analogy from marriage. The principle being If a woman marries a man, as long as the man remains alive she’s not free to marry another man without being called an adulteress. But if the man she’s married dies, then she’s free to marry another man without being called an adulteress. And then Paul applies this to the relationship of the Christian to the law. This is where it becomes a little difficult but I’ll try and illuminate it for you. The thing is this is so important because my observation is most Christians are living in a twilight, neither law on the one hand nor grace on the other but halfway in between the two and they usually get the worse of both worlds.
Now I’m going to read. Do you not know, brethren [for I speak to those who know the law, that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives? Once you come under the law, there’s no escape from the law except by death. The law continues to rule over you. But once the law has put you to death it has no more dominion over you, you have escaped from the dominion of the law. The message is, I’ll say it in advance, We have escaped from the dominion of the law Through the death of Jesus. Now we’ll show you how it works. For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives; But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man.
Now, this is the application to us as believers in Jesus. Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law, through the body of Christ, That you may be married to another, even to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God. Let’s consider that one. Here is where you just have to grasp Paul’s thinking. The Jews are very analytically minded people. It’s in the background of their religion. That’s why you’ll find there are probably more successful Jewish physicists proportionately than any other nation. And if you can work through this, you’ll have a sharp mind, It will make you sharp. I’ll put it in my words. Paul is saying when you come under the law, that’s a marriage contract by which you’re married to your fleshly nature. All right?
Because the law works on your fleshly nature and says do this, don’t do that. It’s kind of held up there as a set of rules speaking to you and saying do this, don’t do that. And once you’re under the law you’re married to this fleshly nature of yours which is a rebel. And no matter how you try to keep the law, you don’t succeed, because the rebel in you won’t do the right thing. How many of you would be honest enough to admit that’s your experience? You really tried to do the right thing and keep the rules and somehow you didn’t succeed. All right I won’t ask for any hands if you don’t want to put them up. You’ll lose nothing by raising your hand. So, Paul says as long as this fleshly nature of ours remains alive, we’re not free to marry another man. But the good news is that when Jesus died on the cross, our fleshly nature was put to death in Him. That's he said that in the 6th chapter of Romans. Our old man was crucified with Him, Jesus. So now the flesh, having been put to death, executed, Paul says we’re free to marry somebody else.
Whom should we marry? The one who was raised from the dead. So we’re married now by the Holy Spirit, we’re united to the resurrected Christ. We're not married to the flesh, we're not under the law When the law put us to death, that’s the last it could do to us. Death has released us from the law. We’re free now for a different kind of union, a union through the Spirit with the resurrected Christ. And, he goes on to say that, chapter 7, verse 6: For when we were in the flesh, [when we were controlled by our fleshly nature] the passions of sin which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death.
That’s an astonishing statement for most religious people. But it says the passions of sin were aroused by the law. The law didn’t stop us sinning, it stirred up sin in us. Paul comes to an example in a little while so hold that in the pending file, we’re going on. Verse 6: But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by [that’s our fleshly nature] So that we should serve in the newness of Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter. So we’ve been delivered from keeping the law as a means of achieving righteousness because the thing that the law dominated, our fleshly nature, has been put to death. Now we can be married to another person, the resurrected Christ. And what Paul says is through marriage you bring forth offspring. When we were married to the flesh, we brought off the offspring of the flesh.
And in Galatians 5 he lists the works of the flesh, there’s not one good thing in them. You see, if you’re married to a bad man, you’re going to have bad children, that’s the message. Now we’re free from that union. By the Holy Spirit we can be united to the resurrected Christ and we bring forth the fruit of His righteousness in us which is the fruit of the Spirit. So you understand, in a way it’s not what we try to do, it’s what we’re united with that determines the way we live. This is really the essence of the Christian message. See? As long as you are just trying to be good and do the right thing you haven’t grasped the message. The message is get united to the right person and it will work out naturally.