Broken Cisterns

I have met some of the most compassionate and “good” people I know in medical school and residency, and most of them were not believers. Their dedication to serving those in need often shamed any such desire in my heart. It has been such an inspiration and honor meeting these physicians and physicians-in-training. But what do generally good people say when confronted with their need for a savior? “Why? I’m a good person.”

We have to be careful, even as believers, because as people who have hearts to do good, we can mistake doing good for being good. It is easy to profess a trust in Christ for the forgiveness of sins, but really believe that there’s not all that much that needs forgiving. Sure I’m not perfect, but I’m not that bad, right? I’m certainly better than those “real” sinners like murderers and child molesters, and no worse than those sitting around me at church. We can be so busy comparing ourselves to ourselves that we forget the ultimate standard: God’s perfect holiness.

God is so holy even one sin is enough to condemn us to hell. But none of us have committed just one sin, have we? Isaiah 64:6 reminds us that even our best behavior is like filthy rags to God. At our core we have all fallen short of God’s perfect standards, and no amount of good deeds or nice intentions can deal with our sin that separates us from God.

We need to remember our need for the blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of my sins. Otherwise, our faith is no faith at all, because we are simply trusting in our goodness to get us into heaven. Throughout the Old Testament, the Israelites continually turned away from God and trusted in man-made idols. Jeremiah 2:13 God brings his accusations against the nation: “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”

God’s people rejected the source of life and turned to worthless idols instead. While most of us are not bowing down to little statues, many have made an idol of ourselves, trusting in our own abilities to save. Even Christians, in a way, hold the living water of the Spirit in broken cisterns when we try to live life apart from God, on our own strength. The cross alone rescues us from our sins. The cross alone opens the way to the Spirit. Let’s trade in our broken cisterns for the cross, depending on Christ not just for salvation, but to live day-to-day until God calls us home, or Christ returns.

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