I grew up in church but somehow I perceived that Christianity was a religion all about “being good” and I seemed wholly incapable of “being good.”
Later, I read guys like Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud and decided that “religion” was just a crutch for people afraid of life and afraid of death and a tool to try to make “bad people” be “good people.”
What I discovered after being saved by God in 1997 was that “being good” in order to be accepted by God is not a view taught in the Bible!
The term “justification” refers to how a person in open rebellion against his/her creator is reconciled to God. Some churches still teach, or at least strongly imply, that a person is justified via the type of person they are.
Some churches teach a type of “moralistic deism,” where you are justified depending on what you do or what you don’t do.
The Bible teaches that there is nothing you can do to be justified…only Jesus can do it for you (2 Cor. 5:21) and he has done it.
Jesus died to take the punishment for our sins and grants us his right standing before the Father, so that when we all stand before God in judgment, we are judged by Jesus’ life, not our own. This is what the Bible calls “good news.”
Take a look at John 11:45-12:11. 11:45
Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him, 46 but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the Council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” 49 But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. 50 Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” 51 He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52 and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. 53 So from that day on they made plans to put him to death. 54 Jesus therefore no longer walked openly among the Jews, but went from there to the region near the wilderness, to a town called Ephraim, and there he stayed with the disciples. 55 Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves. 56 They were looking for Jesus and saying to one another as they stood in the temple, “What do you think? That he will not come to the feast at all?” 57 Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where he was, he should let them know, so that they might arrest him.
12:1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. 3 Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, 5 “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” 6 He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. 7 Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. 8 For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.” 9 When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, 11 because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.
Note that the “religious” people want to kill Jesus while the thankful just want to worship him. That’s the difference between religion and relationship.
It’s not about keeping the rules, it’s about living in gratitude.
“What about the Ten Commandments? What about all the “rules”?”
Okay, here is a news flash for you, women and men are different! They tend to even think differently.
Ever seen books like “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus”? It, and books like it, are written to help someone who wants to be in a relationship with someone different. Books like this try to teach you to understand the other and to love the other by learning how they think, what they care about and how they want to be loved.
All of the “commands” in the Bible are not “rules” but helpful guides on how to be in a relationship. To turn gratitude for the love given to us into a set of rules to keep demeans it!
There is a story about a mother and daughter in a South American country. The daughter wants to leave their small town and move to a city where she can make her own decisions. Her mother doesn’t want her to go because she knows that pretty young girls with no education often end up being taken advantage of or worse.
Yet, the daughter persists and sneaks out one night for the city. The mother waits a week for her to return, then two, then three and then a month before withdrawing her life savings and boarding a bus for the city.
The mother spends every dime she has on hotel rooms as she wanders through the large city posting fliers in the bathrooms of bars and hotels where prostitutes are known to work. After the mother runs out of money, she boards a bus and heads home.
One night, the daughter walks into a hotel bathroom after selling herself once again to a man in order to eat. She washes herself in the sink, trying hard to scrub away the filth she feels. She looks over and sees a picture of herself as she once looked and below is a note stating, “I don’t care what you’ve done. I don’t care what you think you’ve become. You’re my child and I love you and I want you to come home. ”
The cross is like a note written to all of us saying, “I don’t care what you’ve done. I don’t care what you think you are. I love you and I want you to come home.” We live a life of thanks in the light of this mercy.