In our day as in Paul’s, people try to establish a righteousness of their own. In fact, we live in what might be the most self-righteous moment in western history. So much of the impetus behind the “woke” movement is derived from the desire to be “in”. To say I am “woke” is to say I am on the inside, others are on the outside, and I am therefore more righteous than they are.
But “wokeness” is only the latest of a myriad of ways for people to establish a righteousness of their own. I belong to the right political party (the one on the right, of course) – which means I am righteous. I drink fair-trade coffee, watch PBS, and recycle—I am clearly righteous. I go to church every Sunday and I never (well, hardly ever; at least not very often) fail to give a tithe—I am righteous.
To think this way is to assume that we have the authority to claim our own right standing, to place ourselves inside the people of God. That authority is not ours. We can no more place ourselves inside the people of God than we can place ourselves in Harvard’s student body or declare ourselves a United States Marine.
Imagine going to the Marine Corps base at Twentynine Palms. Somehow you get on base, find a uniform, put it on, and report for duty. It wouldn’t be long before your were tossed out on your ear. You can’t make yourself a Marine – you don’t have the authority. You have to be accepted. And even if you are accepted, your acceptance is conditional upon your profession of the oath of enlistment. Only then will you have the standing of a Marine.
So it is with the people of God. You cannot force your way in. You must be accepted. We talk a lot about accepting Jesus, but the biblical emphasis lies the other way around: with God accepting you. We speak of accepting Jesus into our hearts. The Bible speaks of God accepting us into his kingdom. Why should we not accept Jesus? He is perfect. Anyone in their right minds would want Jesus in their heart. But we are not perfect. We are rebels, sinners, and disingenuous frauds. It’s clear why we would want Jesus. It’s not clear why he should want us in his kingdom.
But he does. Wants us so much that God in Christ took our flesh on himself and died in pursuit of us. Tozer gave us a helpful book that describes The Pursuit of God but God gave us a more helpful book that describes his Pursuit of People.