Years ago I remember approaching a toll booth at a bridge with cash in hand. “It’s been paid for,” the agent said. “Huh? Who?” I said. He motioned to the car ahead of me, which by that time had zoomed away.
I was stunned. “Why me?” I thought. I tore off trying to catch up with the driver and when I did, I honked, waved and mouthed the words, “Thank you!” He smiled in return.
As wonderful as that experience was, it reminds me of how difficult it was to receive that gift and enjoy it. I felt compelled to track down that driver and show him my appreciation. But what if I hadn’t? I probably would have felt guilty instead of grateful. I absolutely had to add something to that act of kindness in order to feel good about it.
It’s not only me that feels that way. We are a nation of can-do people. The innovations in technology, medicine, and the sciences in our generation alone are testament to our skills and ingenuity.
It seems nothing is too difficult to accomplish if we believe it and want it badly enough.
This mindset also permeates our spiritual lives. We are more committed, more involved and more desirous of making an impact on our world than ever before.
But there’s a problem with that. God is not impressed by our overachievement when it comes to knowing him.
Just like I couldn’t believe that driver paid my bridge toll, we don’t want a simple gospel that requires believing that someone else has done the work for us. We want to be involved with hard work and activity so we can take some of the credit.
However that can be dangerous because we can end up designing a god of our own making.
For example, would we ever come up with the idea of sin or that we’re alienated from God because of sin?
I doubt it. It would wound our pride.
Would we admit to needing outside help in order to be made right with God?
Oh no! We believe we have what it takes to handle things our own way.
Would we ever acknowledge the truth that we were created for God and to find our identity and purpose in him?
Are you kidding? We’re usually too busy designing our own lives at work, within the family, and our online social media image.
The reality is we don’t want the real God or to know what he requires of us.
Because if we did, we’d realize to our horror that God will have none of our participation no matter how sincere we are.
“Why?” you ask.
It’s because sin has corrupted every part of our being, including our minds, wills, and emotions. No matter how brilliantly our minds work, or how much we invest our time and energy into searching out the truth, our sin is still in the mix.
And that makes it unacceptable to God because he is perfect and he only accepts perfection.
That certainly puts us in a terrible pickle.
“Our Redeemer – the Lord of hosts is his name – is the Holy One of Israel.” – Isaiah 47:4 ESV
Not only are our deeds tainted by sin, but so are we.
“Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” – Psalm 51:7 ESV
Nobody can clean himself up to be acceptable to God. That’s why he must do the job.
So what does that mean?
It’s believing the truth of what God has done for us by sending his Son Yeshua (Jesus) to live as a man, keeping all of God’s laws perfectly for us, and then dying on the cross in payment for our sins. Jesus did this on our behalf, as our substitute. Being perfect and without sin made him the perfect Lamb of God in our stead.
“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” – John 3:17 ESV
So don’t settle for your own ingenuity. Instead embrace the God who fixed your biggest problem already!
Talk to me.