This was an article originally published on a phenomenal gospel-saturated, grace-focused, Christ-exalting ministry website named TWO ROSES. Unfortunately, the curators of that ministry have closed up shop. I wish the best to the two young gentlemen that ran it, and hope they continue to remember how important grace is to the believer.
Now read on!
I’m a Christian and naturally to be a Christian is to be one in every environment. That means I’m a Christian at home. I love my wife, guide my children and help my neighbors. It means I’m a Christian at work. I am diligent in my profession and I’m an example to follow to all who come in contact with me. I’m a Christian with my friends. I love them and encourage them and serve them in all things. I’m a Christian in the world. I am the best tipper where I eat, and the most respectful customer where I shop. Whoever I’m engaged with throughout my day will be blessed by our interaction. Finally, I’m a Christian when I’m home alone. When no ones around, I successfully refrain from porn, pray without ceasing, and always do my devotionals and bible reading.
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” -Romans 3:23
Wait. Hold up a minute. I’m a good Christian. That’s not me. All those things I listed above are proof of how well I follow God. Its proof positive of what a good Christian I am.
“As it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.'” -Romans 3:10-11
I could do all of these things and I’d still fail at it. I know, because I still fail at it now. I have lived the “just do it” Christianity. I was failing miserably at it. Not because I wasn’t doing some of these things. I looked like the cleanest and most “white washed tomb” you’d ever come across. I was looking so good, people would hang things from my tomb walls. Things like:
Men’s ministry leader,
Food pantry leader,
All around great guy.
No one had a clue about my dead bones. The bones that were reaching out and tearing me apart from inside. The ones that cried out, “LIAR! FAKER!” It was only when I truly dealt with the truth of myself in light of the Gospel-in light of grace and forgiveness-that I found freedom. The freedom that says, look at the cracked and broken walls of this tomb that stands before you. Look at the dirt and dust that have gathered. It’s sometimes a horror to see a thing so unkept. This is me now. I don’t hide my failures like I used to. That Christian man I described above never existed. I certainly want to be a good husband and father, but most days I fall short and it doesn’t help when I remember all the other times I’ve fallen short as well. I am not the shining example of a neighbor or friend. I am not the guy you want to emulate at work. If you were to follow my examples, then too often you’d wonder when someone would finally acknowledge how good you are, or how helpful you are. You’d wonder if there were some kind of reward for your good behavior. You might even wish a tip jar were appropriate in your particular line of work. You might complain inwardly about what others don’t do, even while you’re doing your share. It’s not that I don’t want to be better or strive to be better. It’s just that it will always, ALWAYS fall shy of God’s standard, which is perfection. The law and prophets are summed up in this manner by Jesus:
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” – Matthew 22:37-40
The moment Christ amplified the law in the Sermon on the Mount to include not just our actions but the very thoughts and intentions of our hearts, I knew I failed. My thoughts would not be confined to a “PG” movie rating if shown on a big screen for all to see. Jesus made these points and amplified our understanding of the law to make it clear that no one can keep the law on their own. No one should even try. They don’t have to because Christ did. Christ is the one who beat back every temptation into submission. He obeyed every point of the law. He lived a life that required his persecutors to make things up to accuse him of. If we could live a “Christian” life, we would live exactly like Christ. The church so often likes to look at Jesus’ life and say, “this is how we should act” and,”this is what we should do”. The church is right in this regard but misses the point of Christ coming to earth and living as us. HE DID IT! He did it, because we never could. He did it so that when we do walk and stumble and walk and stumble and walk and stumble, it is covered in Christ’s perfect walk on our behalf. We might look good for a while trying to imitate him, but it wouldn’t last and it couldn’t last. Its nothing more than whitewashed tombs again. It looks good outwardly, but we couldn’t keep up that standard while hiding the decaying bones of sin behind those doors. Jesus lived this life, walked this walk not so we could simply emulate a great teacher’s life, as if we could even come close, but so we might find an empty grave inside our dusty old buildings. Christ succeeded for us and applies that success to every aspect of our lives.
That’s our hope and that’s our encouragement. There is therefore now NO condemnation for those in Christ. That means when we fail, again,WHEN WE FAIL, and we still look broken down and dirty on the outside, we are still made new on the inside. When people look at us and point at us, shouting, “sinner” and “hypocrite” because they caught us in some misstep, ANY misstep, because people who judge don’t need much of a reason to cast a stone, we can know and trust inwardly that there is no condemnation for that sin. There is forgiveness for that sin.
Failure as a Christian is NOT an option. It’s a guarantee.
There is a greater guarantee that comes after every failure. It’s at the end of a tear and in the dawn of each morning. It is a constant, unwavering staple of a Christian’s life and I could not go on without it. It’s forgiveness and grace. Whatever the tomb looks like on the outside, we know it has been emptied of all its dead bones.