“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.” Romans 3:23-24 NASB
I have grown up in the South and witnessed the best and worst of “Bible Belt” church culture; and without hesitation I would say that it never ceases to astound me how many people are convinced they are Christians but are not. It’s disturbing and disheartening to know that people are still under the impression—after roughly two thousand years of structured Christian history—that the Christian faith is all about being a good person and earning God’s approval in exchange for a free ticket to heaven.
Realizing that you are a depraved, sinful person who is utterly in need of God’s grace and mercy, even in your seemingly best moments, is difficult. I’ve been experiencing it intensely over the past few months; my eyes have been opened to some of the depths of my motivations and secret habits, and I have glimpsed at these things in people all around me. Paul understood this, too. “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me” (Romans 7:18-20 ESV).
So what hope do we have as Christians? We are unable to reconcile ourselves with a just and holy God through our own works. We are unable to pay off the debt that we owe, even if we genuinely wish to do good. As Paul goes on to say in verse 25, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Because the gospel, and the Christian faith as a whole, is not about what we do, but rather what Christ has done. And that is something we can rest and persevere in.
Father God, thank You for Your grace, Your mercy, and the work of the Son in reconciling me to You. Keep this truth at the forefront of my heart and mind as I walk through this life, battling sin itself as well as the lie that I am good, or that I must earn Your approval in exchange for Your love. Give me the gospel. I need You desperately, in Jesus’ name.
Have you forgotten or neglected the base truth of Christianity, that only Christ can accomplish the work required to redeem you? Do you truly believe that, or do you slip into the mindset that you have to work to gain or keep your salvation?
Take the time to meditate on the following verses today: Isaiah 53:4-6, Romans 4:4-5, Ephesians 2:4-5, and Titus 3:4-7.