The man I met was from El Salvador. Even though he had lived in the US for 13 years, his accent was still thick and reminded me how I love Latin American speech patterns. We only talked for a short time. He told me he was a concrete worker and when I saw the “fish” decal on his truck I asked him if he went to church. What he said next was classic. He said, “Yeah, you know, I try to do all the right things for God.”
We had only just met and we only talked briefly, but I took the chance to tell him I could
relate. But then I added what good news it is that our hope is really found in the fact that Jesus has done it all for us. How great it is that Jesus has done all the right things for God for us! He nodded in what seemed like polite agreement, but I hope this small see
d of gospel truth will go deep into his heart to change what he, along with millions around the world, think Christianity is all about.
As I drove away his statement stuck with me. He reinforced once again the
default thinking of both Christians and unbelievers around the world.
Maybe you are not a Christian and Christianity appears to be just another lifestyle choice. Everyone has to choose what will drive them, what values will occupy the center, what “kind of person” they will try to be. Some people go the route of religion. Therefore, Christianity is just one option of many to choose from. All things considered, it’s a pretty tame option (with the plus of a good amount of spirituality mixed in for th
ose who like or need that stuff). But in the end, you might think it really seems a lot about what you have to do. What do I need to do to get in? What do I need to do to stay in? If I convert or walk an aisle and get saved, isn’t Christianity then just about a life of doing good things and not doing bad things? Like my new friend’s brief commentary: isn’t Christianity about trying to do all the right things for God? Meh. I could see why you could take it or leave it!
Surprisingly, even Christians get trapped in this mindset. Most Christians tend to think about their lives in 3 Phases: 1) Life before Christ, 2) Became a Christian, 3) My Christian life now .
Most would admit that Jesus was the main player in phase 2. We sing Amazing Grace because we are amazed that Jesus would save even people like us “t
he hour [we] first believed.” Something about His death in our place for the payment and forgiveness of our sins melted our hearts, and we believed and were saved. Something about being restored in a relationship with a loving God who made us seemed more than attractive–it seemed like the answer to the deepest longing of our heart. And something about eternal life in a perfect new heaven and new earth gave a glimmer of real hope that made much of this life make sense for the first time.
However, after becoming a Christian, most people begin to live like the rest is now up to them. The work begins. The work of staying on track, the work of pleasing God with obedience, the work of staying on the straight and narrow, the work of feeling sufficiently convicted of sin, repenting of sin and trying to stop sinning. Of course, the Bible has plenty to say about each of these categories and their place in the Christian life, but the subtle tone of most people’s view of the Christian life is it’s all about my performance. A good Christian performs well and deserves God’s blessing. A horrible Christian performs badly and deserves whatever punishment one gets in this life.
In our most recent series on Sundays we keep seeing something different than this all-too-common mindset. We are studying Christ in the Old Testament, and how all of stories of the Bible point to good news found in Jesus Christ. And we have seen again and again:
Christianity is not about what we do for God;
Christianity is about what Jesus has done for us!
This is the message of the whole Bible! At no point can sinful humanity reach to God; at every point God must reach to us and rescue us by doing for us all that is required to get back to Him. Every story proves this. We fail. God relentlessly intervenes and saves. And each facet of His salvation points to the true and greater salvation to come in His Son Jesus Christ who came to do what we could never do.
And this the only way the gospel is good news: if all that needs to be done has already been completely done for us and is offered to us to be received. Jesus didn’t come to give a little boost in our efforts toward God, but to completely do everything we couldn’t do for us. As the Son of God wrapped in flesh, He lived the perfect life we could never live, in our place, for us. And He died the perfect death in our place, for us.
All that God requires of us is to receive this good news, to take it in, to believe it and trust it. We must simultaneously remove all trust in our ability “to do” for God, and place all of our trust in Jesus’ “done” on our behalf. And it’s only when His “done” for you truly sinks in, when the completeness of His salvation for you and freeness of His grace to you and wonder of His eternal love for you truly sinks in–only then will the Christian life be something different than you ever thought. The Christian life will become one of joy and gratitude and rest; and then worship and obedience and response, instead of drudgery, external duty and exhausting performance.
Christianity is not like my new friend thinks. It is not about trying to do all the right things for God. Here’s some good news: One already came and did all the right things for God for us! He now offers, “and all that I have done can be yours.”