David Sargent, minister, and author of Living Water, relates the unusual story of Dennis Lee Curtis.
In 1992, Curtis was arrested for armed robbery in Rapid City, South Dakota. In his wallet, police found a list of rules Curtis had written for himself – guidelines for his robberies. For example, he wrote:
“I will not kill anyone unless I have to.”
“I will take cash and food stamps — no checks.”
“I will not rob mini-marts.”
“If I get chased by cops on foot, I will get away. If chased by vehicle, I will not put the lives of innocent civilians on the line.”
“I will rob only seven months out of the year.”
“I will enjoy robbing from the rich to give to the poor.”
However, the judge before whom Dennis Lee Curtis stood didn’t consult his list of rules. He didn’t say, “Well, at least you live by some values.” No, Curtis was judged by the laws of South Dakota. And convicted as a thief.
While Curtis’ behavior may seem odd, it’s no more different than folks who think they can live by their own standard and God will be pleased.
People often compare themselves to others to judge themselves in a more favorable light. We may look at the things that we don’t do, to feel good about ourselves. I don’t commit murder. I don’t steal. I don’t commit adultery. I don’t get drunk.
Some folks excuse their bad behavior, their sinful habits, or their lack of self-control, by saying, “At least I’m nice to people. I help people. And I care about other people.”
Yet, God isn’t going to judge us on the basis of what we don’t do. Or on a curve system based on the lives of those worse than we are. Or on our own value system.
I’m reminded of Paul’s concern for Israel. He prayed that they might be saved. He wrote that they sought to “establish their own righteousness,” and failed to submit “to the righteousness of God” (Rom. 10:1-3). Our standard of righteousness is not God’s standard. Like Israel of old “all our righteousness are like filthy rags” (Isa. 64;6). We are unclean. And by His standard, everyone has sinned and fallen short of His glory (Rom. 3:23).
When we stand before the Great Judge, he won’t consult our list of rules or our personal value system. Jesus said, “He who rejects Me and does not receive My words, has that which judges him; the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day” (John 12:48).
However, if we are willing to admit our unworthiness, submit to His standard of authority, obey His Word, receive His grace, and accept His offer of salvation through Jesus Christ, we can be saved. We can experience pardon, find peace, feel His power working in our lives, and know His purpose for our lives. (Jn. 3:16; I Jn. 2:2; Eph. 1:-1-10; Rom. 6:23).
While none of us will live perfectly sinless lives, we can clothe ourselves with God’s garments of righteousness. Excel to a higher level of living. And exemplify His holy standard in our lives.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman