Knowing who you are
Sat May 25, 2013
by Jeremy Pace
Resurgence roundup, 5/24/13
Fri May 24, 2013
The places grace empowers us
Thu May 23, 2013
by Justin Holcomb
‘Each next risk is the biggest one’: James MacDonald talks with Mark Driscoll
Wed May 22, 2013
by Mark Driscoll
Tue May 21, 2013
by Amanda Edmondson
You Must Have 1,000 Points to Enter Heaven
I know that illustrations always break down at some level, but I still think the following one makes a good (albeit, not perfect) point.
1,000 Points to Enter Heaven
A friend of mine recently told a silly story about a man standing at the gates of heaven waiting to be admitted. To the man’s utter shock, Peter said, “You have to have earned a thousands points to be admitted to heaven. What have you done to earn your points?”
“I’ve never heard that before, but I think I’ll do alright. I was raised in a Christian home and have always been a part of the church. I have Sunday school attendance pins that go down the floor. I went to a Christian college and graduate school and have probably led hundreds of people to Christ. I’m now an elder in my church and am quite supportive of what the people of God do. I have three children, two boys and a girl. My oldest boy is a pastor and the younger is a staff person with a ministry to the poor. My daughter and her husband are missionaries. I have always tithed and am now giving well over 30% of my income to God’s work. I’m a bank executive and work with the poor in our city trying to get low income mortgages.”
“How am I doing so far”, he asked Peter.
“That’s one point,” Peter said. “What else have you done?”
“Good Lord…have mercy!” the man said in frustration.
“That’s it!” Peter said. “Welcome home.”
My friend who used this silly illustration ended it by saying, “Teach the law. The Psalmist called it perfect. Teach it until people recognize their inability to keep it and cry out for mercy. Mercy always comes running.”
Paul makes the case here that we need Jesus just as much after we’re saved as we do before.
The Law = Hercules
In his commentary on Galatians, Martin Luther describes the Law as a divinely sent Hercules to attack and kill the monster of self-righteousness and to show us everyday just how desperately we need God’s grace:
- To curb and crush this monster and raging beast [that is, the presumption of their own righteousness], God is obliged, on Mt. Sinai, to give a new Law with such pomp and with such an awesome spectacle that the entire people is crushed with fear. For since our reason becomes haughty with its human presumption of righteousness and imagines that on account of this it is pleasing to God, God has to send some Hercules, namely the Law, to attack, subdue, and destroy this monster with full force. Therefore the Law is intent on this beast, not on any other.
The law exists to crush any sense that we can "get ‘er done." The law shows non-Christian’s and Christian’s the same thing: how we can’t cut it on our own and how much we both need Jesus.
A Much Graver Situation
Regardless of how well I think I’m doing in the sanctification project or how much progress I think I’ve made since I first became a Christian, like Paul in Romans 7. When God’s perfect law becomes the standard and not “how much I’ve improved over the years,” I realize that I’m a lot worse than I fancy myself to be. Whatever I think my greatest vice is, God’s law shows me that my situation is much graver: if I think it’s anger, the law shows me that it’s actually murder; if I think it’s lust, the law shows me that it’s actually adultery; if I think it’s impatience, the law shows me that it’s actually idolatry (Matthew 5:17-48).
We tend to think that we need Jesus more before we’re saved than we do after we’re saved, or we need him a lot for justification and less for sanctification (at least that’s the way some of us sound). But Paul makes the case here that we need Jesus just as much after we’re saved as we do before. The law shows us that our best is never good enough. For, as J.C. Ryle said, “Even the best things we do have something in them to be pardoned.” The law smashes our “rose-colored glasses” view of ourselves. No matter how decent I think I’m becoming, when I’m graciously confronted by God’s law, I can’t help but cry out, “Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death” (Romans 7:24). The law alone shows us how desperate we are for outside help.
It’s only when we come to the end of ourselves that we come to the beginning of God’s grace.
After the law does its crushing work, we are then able (with Paul) to break out into the song of freedom—the laughter of the redeemed, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord…There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 7:25-8:1). It’s only when we come to the end of ourselves that we come to the beginning of God’s grace—which yields freedom! We will always be suspicious of grace until we realize our desperate need for it. Desperate people love grace. Deceived people (i.e., those who think they’re basically “making it”) fear it. Those who know (and I mean really know!) just how much they’ve been forgiven, love much (Luke 7:47).
The reason Paul breaks out into loud praise is because he knows that the determining factor in his relationship with God is not his obedience (the law showed him how bad he was at this), but Christ’s obedience for him. He finds great freedom knowing that his standing with God is not based on his struggle for Jesus (he fought the law and the law won), but Jesus’ struggle for him—God doesn’t relate to us based on our feats for Jesus, but Jesus’ feats for us.
The law reveals how quick we are to run from God; the gospel reveals how quick God is to run after us. So, “Cheer up, you’re a lot worse off than you think you are, but in Jesus you’re far more loved than you could have ever imagined.”
This article was adapted from Tullians's blog