I wish I could say, “I surrender all.”
I wish I could say, “I do all things to the glory of God.”
I wish I could say, “I’ll give everything up for Jesus.”
I wish I could say, “I’ve never broken a promise to God.”
I wish I could say, “I’ve overcome [this sin] and [that sin] in my life.”
I can’t honestly say any of those things. I still say and sing these types of lines in anticipation of the day my life will reflect their reality, but as of today my life falls desperately short.
I am a hypocrite.
As a pastor, people often tell me they don’t go to a church gathering because Christians are hypocrites. At that point I heartily agree, and then I affirm their belief by giving them a glimpse into my life.
I’m a pastor. I sing, “I surrender all,” but I really mean, “I surrender a some.” I valiantly proclaim, “Do all things for the glory of God,” and then I struggle to do a few things solely for the glory of God. This list only gets worse. I stopped making promises to God because I grew tired of breaking them.
And then there’s sin, it’s so deep and intertwined in my life that even the “good things” I do are merged with self-centered self-glorifying motives. My heart resonates with Paul in Romans 7:15, “I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.”
Even now, as I write this, my sinful inclination to appear morally upstanding and religious is squirming on the inside. My religious moralism wants you to think more highly of me. My religious ego wants attention and praise not criticism. That’s what religion does.
Religion creates a system that builds up your external spiritual appearance while leaving you dead and weary within. Religion tricks you into thinking you are good because of what you do rather than what Jesus did. Religion sets up a spiritual ladder for you to climb with good works and external behavior, but the ladder never ends, it never gets to God. Religion says, “do more, earn more, work harder, or else.”
Be done with the burden of moralistic religion, and embrace the free gift of grace. True Christianity calls out to the streets, “Come and live. You’re life has been bought with the blood Jesus, come, repent and believe in the good news of Jesus”
Christianity is not about how good I am. It’s not about how good you are. It’s about how good Jesus is.
Christians may sing, “I surrender all,” but Jesus actually surrendered all on our behalf. Christians may intellectually know that all things should be done for the glory of God. Jesus actually did all things for the glory of God. Are you getting the picture? Jesus gave up everything… Jesus kept his word… Jesus overcame sin.
Jesus did all these things to perfectly satisfy God’s law because he knew we could never satisfy God’s law on our own. Remember, He left heaven, was born in human form, lived a perfect life in the midst of a broken world, and was subjected to punishment and death for something he didn’t even do. In fact, it was something we did. Something I did.
I failed to live up to God’s perfect standard. I am still failing. I will continue to fail.
That’s why I needed Jesus to save me from the penalty of sin. [Past]
That’s why I need to keep saving from the power of sin. [Present]
That’s why I look forward to the day he saves me from the presence of sin in my life. [Future]
And it’s all a gift of grace.
Why did Jesus do this?
He didn’t die on the cross so that we could pretend our life is okay. He died because our life is anything but okay. We are all broken and sinful people in need of complete rescue and restoration. We can all stop pretending now.
He didn’t go to the cross so that we could live morally constricted lives under the burden of religious rules. He to went to the cross to rescue us from the heavy burden of external religion, and to set us free in the ocean of God’s grace where the burden is light and the yoke is easy. We call all rest in him now.
He didn’t pay for our sin and give us his perfect standing before God so that we could go around attacking others with an, “I’m better than you,” attitude. He took our sin and He gave us his perfect standing before God so that our tendency toward self-righteous religion would crumble under the realization we did nothing by our–self. We can stop pointing fingers now.
So How A Person Get Right With God?
Nothing we bring to the table counts toward our forgiveness. Rule keeping doesn’t count. Being more upstanding than your neighbor doesn’t count. Raising good kids doesn’t count. Giving to a church doesn’t count. Abstaining from “bad things” doesn’t count.
We bring nothing to our salvation. Jesus brings everything. Position your life under the waterfall of God’s grace and ask him to save you, to rescue you, to transform you, to adopt you into His family. This is called being born… again! Spiritual birth. We all start life dead in our sin, but God’s mercy that flows from his great love has the power to make anyone alive in Christ.
Do you have a story of grace to share? Have you had a rocky journey in a graceless religion?