I was studying Lev. 22:20 one day recently:
"You shall not offer anything that has a blemish, for it will not be acceptable for you."The upshot is that is that ancient Israelites were banned from using crippled, blind, maimed or otherwise defective animals as sacrifices to God. To do such would be to grievously insult the Lord by giving Him what we ourselves wouldn't want (Mal 1:8), and more importantly, deface the type (or picture) of the sacrifice in pointing to a spotless Saviour, who alone can please God.
Good truth, but nothing you probably haven't heard before... then I realized that these deformed animals are a perfect picture of the folly of what's called "Works Righteousness", or trying to please God based on what we do: W.R. is the basic operating principle of every manmade religion. It offers up what we think would be wholesome offerings, truly good deeds...but is God satisfied with them?
So, the very same day, I had finally gotten around to listening to a recorded interview: a brother in the Lord had interviewed a Mormon man for a comparative religion class, and when asked what heaven was like, he responded:
“If it's [heaven] gonna be through all that work here, I think the reward is gonna far exceed all the hard work here. I believe that wholeheartedly. I've seen it here on earth. I just do one little thing, and I get blessed tremendously. And so I think if you take that...kinda that grouping of all the little things that I did on this earth, in the short time we're here compared to eternity, I can only imagine the blessings afterwards.” (Emphasis mine)
Do you see what I see? This Mormon man had been taught, trained and was truly convinced that his deeds, his self-sacrifice, his human effort and discipline was praise-worthy, good and that he deserves a reward from God. What does Scripture say about this?
“Who has first given to me, that I should repay him? Whatever is under the whole heaven is mine.” (Job 41:11) God claims ownership of everything; that includes us! Just as it's tough to pay your rent with your landlord's money, it's impossible to make God our debtor by using what's His. Paul also quotes this in Rom 11:35 to prove God's primacy.
“We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. There is no one who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have made us melt in the hand of our iniquities.” (Isa 64:6-7) God's standard on good and evil is not the same as ours... we see only the outward action, He sees and judges the inward motive. Our motives are always self-centered, and are thus unworthy of God's approval.
And then there is, of course, the spiritual significance of our original text (Lev 22:20); an unblemished animal points to an unblemished, sinless Saviour, “a Lamb without blemish or without spot” (I Pet 1:18) and “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn 1:29). This is the perfection required to please God, to do justice to His honor and majesty. Do you have this perfection? Does anyone (apart from Christ)? It is not merely external obedience God is entitled to... that would be a crippled, maimed offering. God requires purity of heart, fixated on His glory; what's in yours?
Filthy... just like us“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer 17:9)
“ For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person...” (Matt 15:19-20)
Gen 6:5 and 8:21 concur; every act we do, every word we say, every thought we think is tainted, and can only arouse God's anger if offered to Him. If you are trusting in a perfect Sacrifice, Jesus Christ, to reconcile you to God by grace through faith alone, you do well. If however, like this Mormon man, you are trusting in yourself, in your good deeds and hard work, you are fatally deceived. You have every reason to shudder and think of your shock, quickly turning to despair, when you hear Christ's answer for all those who trust in themselves:
“On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'” (Matt 7:22-23)