Raising the Standard

My ninth-grade algebra teacher graded our tests on the curve. This meant that the highest grade would be counted as 100%. So if the highest grade was 80, our 70 would be considered 70/80 instead of 70/100, thus raising our percentage and grade considerably. There was only one problem. The same girl got 100% right on every test, so we never got a break! The standard always stayed right where it belonged at 100, instead of 70 or 80. The mornings after our tests, we would be anxious to get out results, and to see what kind of a break we got with the curve, and every morning following our tests, we would be disappointed to find that there was no break.


Image © Jeff Preston from GoodSalt.com

Someone kept the standard right where it belonged. That someone was not a popular person with the rest of the class. Why? Because she kept the standard where it belonged and left the rest of us with no excuse for getting the poorer grades that we got. She was plenty popular the rest of the school year when she acted just like us, but when it came time for tests, her study habits made the rest of us look bad, and it was just easier to ridicule her for her study methods, than it was to actually study ourselves.

Likewise, as long as our church blends in with the world, we will never be ridiculed or persecuted. Satan has no reason to persecute a church that looks just like the world. As long as this girl was acting like us it was fine, but we found her study habits to be annoying.

I imagine Judas found the woman washing Jesus’ feet with the expensive perfume to be quite annoying. Not that the perfume did not smell good, but Judas clearly had no intentions of giving all he had for Jesus. On the contrary, instead of giving he tried to take whatever he could. But how do you justify your selfishness in the face of someone else’s giving spirit? You make them look like a fanatic. “What a waste” Judas said, “The money she wasted on perfume could have been better spent on the poor.”

I guess Judas considered himself to be poor, since he wanted the money himself. So he makes the woman out to be fanatical. Do we do this today? Someone gives more of their time and effort for Jesus than we are willing to give, and so to make us look balanced, we portray them as extreme. The woman was no fanatic. She was in love with Jesus! But when people are doing more out of love than we care to do, we label them “legalistic,” “extreme,” or “fanatical” when they are just simply in love with Jesus. Judas was not irked by her behavior when she was falling into sin repeatedly. That did not make Judas look bad. But when she gave all she had to Jesus out of love, that exposed Judas’ selfishness and Judas became offended by her converted behavior.

In Matthew 5:1-12 Jesus pronounces the “beatitudes” or blessings which are also stepping stones to a complete conversion. Once the conversion is complete Jesus says,

God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. Matthew 5:10 NLT

Once God’s people become pure in heart and filled with righteousness, by God’s grace they will keep the standard right where it belongs, not because they are legalistic or fanatical, but because they are in love with Jesus. Now here is the key. Jesus blesses those who are persecuted for doing right.

Sometimes we bring persecution on ourselves by doing what is wrong. We deserve that, and there is no reward for that. I once heard a man who kept getting harassed by creditors, saying he was being persecuted for being a Christian. No he wasn’t! He was persecuted for not paying his bills!

When God’s grace converts us, our standards will rise above the world’s standards, and just like the kids in my algebra class, and Judas, they will not like that. They will persecute us, but Jesus says to rejoice! For ours is the kingdom of heaven.



Raising the Standard — 10 Comments

  1. Such a basic message, but the main point is powerful. Jesus was our perfect example and he should be our main focus. Our eyes shouldn't be on each other, but heavenward.

  2. What a powerful reading about the class and the grades obtained by someone who tried to keep her standard high. But the are so many things wrong with us. Many of us wants to live half and half despite repeated warnings and do not see the need to keep the standards up thinking we can just shuffle into heaven.

    When someone else tries to live for Christ and returns to him in sincerity, we always have a comment to make about their christianity. For example,when the gave more than us-we say the are rich, or use their talents more than us-we say the have plenty time on hand, or they praise God while we keep our mouths shout-we say they are out for a show. But we do not know why people do what they do or why they do what they do, Jesus is the judge.

  3. This is a interesting comparison between Judas and Mary. Indeed men hate the light because their deeds are evil. This certainly hasn't changed today neither would it ever will.

  4. Other people thought Mary was putting on a show and they did not believe her cleaning Jesus's feet with her hair. Some could not understand that the Lord had forgiven her sins and that she really did change. I believe God can change anyone under any point in their lives. We have no idea what Jesus is doing in someone's life. We do not know what their praise is all about.

  5. We need to understand what the standard is before we can set it high. I have seen all sorts of things in the name of keeping the standard high. I was reading only this morning about a 9 year old girl who was suspended from the Christian school she attended because she had shaved her head. She shaved her head in compassion for her friend who was suffering with leukemia and had lost all her hair because of the radiation therapy. Quite frankly the girl had more of a Christian spirit than the Christian school.

    We have to remember that God's standard is a standard of compassion. Even the Sabbath is a day of compassion. God has compassion on you by giving you the seventh day as a rest day. You can only meet God's standard of keeping the Sabbath by demonstrating that compassion to your neighbour and not just on Sabbath either.

    Jesus himself was called a person who didn't meet the standard. He fellowshipped with tax collectors and Samaritans, and on Sabbath mind you. The middle of the road church people called him a glutton and a drunk.

    The more I study the sermon that Jesus gave in Matthew chapter 5 through to 7, the more I realise how much I fall short. I am humbled by the fact that Jesus is the only person who ever lived who was able to live up to the Standard of God. I certainly can't. In the Sermon on the mount, Jesus makes it clear that our righteousness has to be far greater than that of the Pharisees to meet God's standard. Show me a person who says that they can live up to God's standard, and I will show you a Pharisee.

    The beautiful thing about the Gospel is that part of the good news is that Jesus has already run the race and won it on our behalf. He has run the race and on our behalf has met God's standard in every aspect. Paul says that we still have to run the race and pass the finish line. The gold crown is already won, Christ has won it for each of us who participate and finish.

    One of my problems that I have to deal with is that I have trouble keeping focus with the tasks at hand. Because of this I could never get my assignments in. My English teacher called me to his desk one day and we had a long talk. I got fired up and I managed to get a lot of my English assignments completed and handed in. When I saw the scores I got, I started wondering. Each score was marked out of ten. I was getting 9 1/2, 9 3/4, 9 7/8 etc. I asked the teacher about this. His reply was that he never gave a ten out of ten. I can sort of see his argument now, but back then I couldn't. I saw a lot of stuff in English as very subjective material. Because I was unable to achieve a ten out of ten I became very discouraged and never bothered to hand another assignment in that year.

    In Jesus sermon on the mount, He has removed subjectivity out of the law of God and made it clear what God's objective is. Again, all he expects of us is to compete in the race and finish. He is the one who got ten out of ten in keeping the law. He passes that mark to you because as one of the results of running in the race, Jesus becomes one with all who compete and finish. Read John chapter 17. It is Jesus prayer for you and I.

  6. [Moderators Note: Please use your Christian name and surname when commenting.]

    what a factual and straight forward message. It is the plan of the devil to use our sinful behaviors to compromises the law God.

  7. I suppose that one of the more sobering lessons in this account is realizing who is usually the most critical of those who hold the standard high. It wasn't the "sinners" that were accusing, but the "righteous"(in their own eyes). It is interesting how all react to the conviction of truth, and we will always be self-condemned if we aren't fully surrendered to the will of God, accepting His "reproof, correction and instruction in righteousness" with sincere thanksgiving and praise.

    God's grace is sufficient.

  8. indeed God is love... He will never judge us .... He is willing to forgive us...bacause He knew what we are going to go through...He said I am knocking pls open up so that I can enter and eat with you...


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