But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished — he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. Because of what law? The law that requires works? No, because of the law that requires faith. For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.
– Romans 3:21-31
About ten days ago, I posted my latest attempt at my testimony. I called it my ‘Umpteenth’. Even then, I may have left something ambiguous.
A friend commented that he rarely ever heard a testimony from a good person. Those were rare.
I first thought that he had understood where I was coming from. Later, I wondered if he was using sarcasm to remind me of Romans 3:23 (in the Scripture above) or Jesus commenting that only One was ‘good’.
From the first viewpoint, I meant that I always followed the rules. If Pharisees were in charge today, I would have been an up-and-comer Pharisee. I feel we need more of those kinds of testimonies. There are a lot of people, who I might call ‘the walking dead’ sitting next to you in the pew at church. They have always been ‘good’, and because of their ‘goodness’, they never see a need for a personal relationship with Jesus. They think they are doing fine on their own. When they get an empty feeling (the Holy Spirit trying to wake them up to the reality that they lack Jesus in their lives), they go on a mission trip or some other ‘good’ activity. They fill that empty feeling with more ‘goodness’. Goodness that has them destined for Hell.
Those people are very hard to reach, because their works confirm that they do not need a relationship with Jesus (as they are ignoring the Scripture above); they can just wear Jesus on Sunday. I am not saying impossible to reach, just hard. Anything is possible with Jesus. He saved me, a really hardcase ‘good guy’.
But what about the sarcastic remark idea? Romans 3:23 says that we have all fallen short of God’s glory by our sin. But I said that I followed all the rules. I sure did, but the First Commandment went down the tubes when I tried to be ‘good’ on my own. I was making myself God. Then, once I was convicted of that sin, I realized I had not done much better on the other nine when it came to intent. Read the Sermon on the Mount, starting with Matthew 5. Jesus is establishing a new relationship paradigm with His followers. Jesus could have gone through all ten of the Ten Commandments, but He covered a few. Getting angry is just as bad as murdering. Lusting is just as bad as committing adultery. You cannot love your neighbor, much less your enemy, if you harbor such ill-will in your heart. Jesus turned the entire Law on its ear, but as the Scripture above states. We are not abolishing the Law, but we are fulfilling it in its intended use when we have faith in Jesus and trusting in His Grace.
In another post recently, I quoted C. H. Spurgeon who said that Jesus’s message boiled down to repent and believe in the good news. I have written before of how Lee Strobel had learned that the word translated as ‘believe’ in John 3:16 might better be translated as ‘trust’. There has been the often-repeated story of the missionary trying to explain ‘believe’ to a tribe that did not have the word in their vocabulary until a young man sat in a chair and said the tribal words for ‘I am placing all my weight in this chair.’ That was it. A total release and trust in something, in Jesus.
In 3:16, the book by Max Lucado, he uses ‘believe’ and ‘trust’ as the same word. He tells a very comical story about his children talking him into rappelling in the Colorado mountains, and his pride preventing him from saying ‘no way!’ At one point, he asks the young girl who is instructing him what happens if he doesn’t do something right. The girl said that he should trust her. She had his safety in her hands. Lucado says that he looked at the girl and thought that she was not only half his age, but half his size. What could she do?!
One of the character-building exercises in Army training is rappelling. As I read Lucado’s story, and interpreted the fear in his questions, I had fond memories of my junior and senior years of college, rappelling off the back side of the football stadium at the university. The beginner platform was only about 20 feet off the ground, but the big platform was about 150 feet up. And I was afraid of heights to a reasonable degree. I believe that Sheldon Cooper, on the Big Bang Theory, stated that the fear of heights was irrational, but the fear of falling was quite prudent. In rappelling, you fall on purpose.
After learning the basics on the ‘bunny slope’, I moved up to the big hill. I basically bounded down slowly the first time. It was fun. The next time down, I used half the leaps as before, allowing myself to drop faster and farther with each leap. I was starting to process in my mind what the safety rules meant. When I backed up to the edge of the ‘cliff’, I yelled, “On Rappel!” That signaled my safety person on the ground that I was about to start down. My safety person, otherwise known as my ‘belay’, yelled, “On Belay!” I then knew that it was safe to coming down. I knew that if I stumbled, lost my grip, whatever, my belay would pull hard on the rope, creating the necessary tension against the friction point in my D-ring to cause me to stop. It is not the belay (the person) that holds your weight. It’s the rope. The belay just maintains tension on the rope until you straighten out the problem. Since I had taken the utmost care in properly setting the rope into the D-ring, my only wildcard was the tensile strength of the rope. I knew who babied the ropes, like they were new rope. It was a team effort. I had trust in the D-ring, in the rope, and in the team.
For my last rappel of my junior year, the photographer was there to take pictures for the flier that would go out to all in-coming freshmen to the university. They took a picture of me smiling at the camera as I hung with my feet on the edge and my body over oblivion. By the way, the back cover of the flier, was my picture, out of all the pictures they took. Once the picture was taken, I yelled, “Look out below!” and I jumped while I pulled the rope that I had behind my back (to be still for the photo) straight to the side, the least amount of friction, so the least amount of slowing down. I had heard that only two or three people in ROTC had ever jumped from the university’s ‘big hill’ and reached the bottom in one bound. My brain said, “Why not?” Let’s send that fear right down the hill with me. Maybe that would conquer the fear.
What I didn’t figure was that a gust of wind would blow me toward the ‘bunny slope’. As I was falling at a fast pace, I couldn’t instantly stop. My combat boots grazed a beginner on the shoulder and crash helmet (crash helmet on the bunny slope, baseball cap on the bug hill), which caused me to do a complete back flip in the air. I clamped the rope tight as I quickly calculated how far from the ground I was, but the rope stretches at least 10% depending on your body weight. If my calculations were right, I needed to stop. Now! As the rope started to hold, I started to swing, like a pendulum toward the wall of the stadium. Make that fly toward the wall. I thought, “You idiot! You nearly pulled off something rarely done, just to face plant into a concrete wall at ‘who knows how fast’ a speed. Will they find all my teeth?” (This remembrance predates “Blazing Saddles”, or I might have used the Dom DeLuise line, “Not in the face!”)
Then my belay yelled, “Feet down!” I had curled into a ball during the back flip. I basically straightened to a standing position and my feet landed, just two or three feet from the wall. I then focused on ‘sticking the landing.’ Okay, now that I had done it, the macho men of the outfit had to try. One of those, “If he can do it, ANYBODY can do it.” Note: I did not freefall 150 feet. The D-ring was sliding down the rope, leaving the rope hot to the touch. Yet, another factor in trusting.
My point in telling this story, and in Max Lucado joking about his experience, is that there are real-life examples of putting our faith and trust in our very lives into the hands of someone else: a belay or a surgeon.
Notice also that Max and I had at least a healthy level of fear, but once we ‘trusted’, our faith replaced that fear.
But the greatest person to place our trust is in trusting in Jesus. He doesn’t save the mortal husk that we walk around in while we are living. Jesus saves the soul, for eternity.
Are you relying on your own strength, your own ‘goodness’ or do you need someone “On Belay?” Jesus is there. He is prepared to save you. Are you ready to trust Him? Are you ready to place your life in His hands?
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.