“By the works of the law shall no flesh be justified in his sight” Rom 3:20 (ASV)
The euphoria of salvation did not last long. I soon came back to earth with a loud thump. I had to start living as a Christian or rather as I had been wrongly raised to believe Christians lived. All my life I had been taught to be sinless meant not having one wrong thought, dressing right (no trousers or clinging clothes!), being holy (& holiness was equivalent to being dowdy and passive), read my bible twice daily, pray without ceasing, start each prayer with confession of sin, plead for God’s forgiveness and mercy for my sinful unworthy soul, be humble, give to the poor, help the needy, pay my tithes, fast regularly, obey the 10 commandments. The list was endless!
I was told repeatedly that “narrow is the way to heaven” and that “the kingdom of God suffereth violence”. I had to work hard to get there. If I was found wanting in the smallest thing, I would lose my salvation and be a candidate of hell once again.
How horrible for a young Christian! How was I to attain perfection and be counted righteous by God by doing good deeds? All I heard were fire and brimstone preachings. About how dreadful it is to know God and then backslide over a little sin; the dangers in the world; what not to do; how not to do them; what to do and exactly how to do them; how to know and understand the devices of the enemy etc. My dear friend had travelled far by then and I could not talk to her but I was determined to be a very good Christian by the time she returned so I redoubled my efforts on striving for holiness.
What a hopeless cause! How unnecessary! I was already righteous! Righteousness was already bestowed on me as a free gift when I accepted Jesus as my Lord. – “…………………even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ unto all them that believe; for there is no distinction” (Rom 3:22) and it goes on in Vs 24 – “being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus”. There was no way man could ever attain righteousness – “all our righteousnesses are as a polluted garment” (Is 64:6). And if we could attain that impossibility, then Jesus came to waste his time on earth – “for if righteousness is through the law, then Christ died for nought” (Gal 2:21).
I do not know where such stupid teachings came from but we should all read our bibles and know the truth. Just as it wasn’t our sinful deeds that condemned us – “For if, by the trespass of the one, death reigned through the one” (Rom 5:17a) so also it is not our good deeds that makes us worthy before God. Righteousness was freely given to us by God through Jesus – “and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one, [even] Jesus Chris” (Rom 5:17c)
“So then as through one trespass [the judgment came] unto all men to condemnation; even so through one act of righteousness [the free gift came] unto all men to justification of life.” (Rom 5:18) We are saved once and for all. We do not earn our salvation, we received it through faith. Neither do we earn our right standing with God; we also received it through faith! “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Rom 10:10)
To try to do otherwise or try to earn it by our own doing is wasting time and rejecting God’s gift – “For being ignorant of God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God” (Rom 10:3) We have been freely given righteousness by God, we should freely accept it and enjoy it!
I do not mean to preach but this is a problem in the Church that agitates my mind. Young innocent Christians are made to focus on an impossibility instead of learning to love and know God as a loving and caring Father. Attention is diverted from Christ and turned to stupid ‘dos and don’ts’ when Christ has already replaced law with grace.
I wasted a lot of time trying to be good. I was completely robbed of my joy in Christ and feared my Heavenly Father as a stern, unyielding, impossible-to-please, slave-driving, punishment-loving, faraway absentee God. I was only set free when I learned the truth. And I only learnt the truth when I received the great teacher, my companion, my comfort, my friend, my helper, the spirit of truth – The Holy Spirit!