Yesterday we talked about building on the right house. What was meant by that is we need to put our efforts on our spiritual relationship with God and our devotion and faithfulness to His Son, Jesus. Otherwise, we are putting our efforts into something that isn’t lasting. Today’s devotional also comes from Haggai and reinforces the point that how we are on the inside is of great importance.
“Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘Ask now the priests for a ruling: If a man carries holy meat in the fold of his garment, and touches bread with this fold, or cooked food, wine, oil, or any other food, will it become holy?'” And the priests answered, “No.” Then Haggai said, “If one who is unclean from a corpse touches any of these, will the latter become unclean?” And the priests answered, “It will become unclean.” Then Haggai said, ” ‘So is this people. And so is this nation before Me,’ declares the LORD, ‘and so is every work of their hands; and what they offer there is unclean. – Haggai 2:11-14, NASB
God’s point in these verses is to show holiness doesn’t come from the outside. He uses the example of meat that has been set apart, meat that is considered holy. Just because it touched some other substance didn’t make what it touched holy. Similarly, just because we’re at church on Wednesdays and Sundays, because we volunteer for the work days, because we help teach Sunday School, because we do this or do that, we shouldn’t expect that makes us holy. It doesn’t. After all, we are reminded in Romans that our righteousness and justification is imparted to us through Jesus Christ. We are not righteous because we are involved in what we consider to be righteous things.
But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; – Romans 3:21-25, NASB
However, the warning Haggai gives is that being around unclean things, we can make ourselves unclean. That makes a lot of sense. For instance, if we’re hanging around folks that are always getting into trouble, sooner or later we’re likely to join them. If we’re reading things, watching shows, or listening to music that goes against God’s commands, sooner or later we’ll realize that our mental processes are affected and changed by what we’re consuming, just as our bodies are altered by eating too much junk food.
Our righteousness and justification are found in Christ Jesus. Those are not found in the things we do, the ministries we’re part of, or even how frequently we attend church. None of the things we do save us and they certainly don’t alter us in the sight of God with respect to sin. Only Christ does. As a result, we must be made righteous and justified from the inside out, from Christ’s matchless gift of grace. We have been redeemed by Him, and Him alone. Once we are redeemed, God expects us to walk in relationship with His Son. As part of that relationship we’ll do all these other things. We won’t do them because they make us holy. We do them because our Lord and Master asks us to participate in His Kingdom. We do them because the One who saved us when we could not save ourselves has called us to them.
It goes back to question, “What is our chief focus?” If our chief focus is anything other than Christ Jesus, then we are trying to use what we do to make ourselves holy. That’s the holy meat touching the bread argument. And that doesn’t work. Only by putting Jesus first in our lives, by focusing on Him above all else, do we live the life God wants us to live. We live by faith. And that faith should direct the deeds that we do. After all, it is God that saves, not our deeds. When we take that to heart, then this applies to us, too:
And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground. And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect. – Hebrews 11:32-40, NASB