I stood alone on the cold floor with cold feet. Shivering and staggering at the weight of my guilt and shame. ‘I deserve it’ I muttered to myself. There was no saving from it this time. No escape from the consequences of works I had wrought with my hands.
Hello friends, am I allowed to tell you a personal story that is so dear to my heart? I struggled for a long time understanding what it meant to be right before God. What righteousness through faith in Christ Jesus really meant. My struggle was between two roads I dared not taking either of.
The first road . . .
If I’m saved by grace through faith in Christ Jesus and not through works then what good really is my service to God? I could go on and have a free ride. At least I’m forgiven and saved, so why do I have to do? Even if I have to do, I don’t have to do so much. Jesus paid it all after all.
The weight of my shame was too much for me to bear. I fell to the ground. I looked up and I saw a movement in the dark corner. ‘The penalty for your crime is death,’ The Judge said grimly.
That was the first road, friends. It was a faith that didn’t require works because I believed my works didn’t count. It ended me at a dead end called worldliness.
The second road . . .
I worked so hard and demanded something in return. I thought my ‘salvation’ was a result of how long I prayed, fasted and did other good works. I thought the quality of my Christian life was proportional to the amount of good works I did. It ended me at a sepulcher of dry bones called legalism.
So I die. I opened my lips to plead but no words came out. What would I say? What can I say that wouldn’t be counted against me as wrong? I have sinned and committed high treason. Sincerely I deserved death. ‘He dies.’ A voice came from behind me. It was the prosecuting counsel, the one called to plead against my case. ‘He dies>’ It echoed on in my ears. I let out a silent scream that sends a cold chill through the whole court room.
This was where I was for a long time trying to find my place through these two roads. For so long I swung between days I felt the more good I did, the more God loved me and days I felt I didn’t have to raise my hand to do anything for God.
‘He lives’ I felt a light rest on me from the side door of the formerly dark court room. ‘You joke,’ the prosecuting counsel shot back even before the strange man whose face I couldn’t see stormed onto the room. ‘How? . . . How can he? He deserves to die’ his fumed angrily. The strange man walked over to the center of the court room where I had crumbled. I lifted up my eyes through my tears to see his face. He smiled at me. ‘I will take his place’. ‘You are hereby’ declared not guilty.’ The Judge banged his gavel with no hesitation. Two things happened in the same instant. I heard the prosecuting counsel who had accused me scream an ear piercing ‘NO’ as the guards stepped out of the dark corners to take my saviour away.
But Paul says something interesting in the third verse of chapter three of the book of Philippians:
The real believers are the ones the Spirit of God leads to work away at this ministry, filling the air with Christ’s as we do it. – Philippians 3:3 (The Message)
There’s a road different from the two roads I have struggled with most of my life. It’s the road of the Spirit. It’s a road that calls us in for an experience, not an experiment. We receive God’s salvation and we acknowledge that all he has done and will do is based on his grace and mercy. We don’t deserve it. He chose to die for us even while we were yet sinners. He takes us by the hand and leads us into the new life he has for us, healing us deep inside and teaching us on how to let go of the old lifestyle. He strengthens us to do for him because there’s so much to be done here on earth for Him. And when we start doing we must learn, like Paul, to fill the air with Christ’s praise – thanking him for the mercy, love and grace he has for us, not filling the air with our own praise – our own false self confidence, the ego, the ‘I did it’ and that silent pride that could pass unawares for a while. The latter ends us up in treating God like what he isn’t- we become a commander and we demand ‘OUR’ orders from him. The former places us in the relationship he had in mind in Eden and still has in mind. We learn how to bow and continually say ‘Reveal to me your will. Your will be done’.
This, my friends, is how we learn to become who we are in Christ. This is how we learn what it means to be truly righteous through faith in Christ Jesus.
I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. I didn’t want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ – God’s righteousness. I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally – Philippians 3: 8b- 10a.
In what ways are you filling the air with your own praise and not Christ’s praise? What ‘inferior stuff’ do you need to give up today in order to draw closer to the heart of Christ?