We're stalled out in the swamps between the end of college football season and the 54th Annual Grammy Awards on Feb 12. Howzabout an illustration from each category to illustrate a very important point.
Play By Play #1: On Oct 29, 2011, Stanford faced USC for a college football game. With a tied score and 3:15 to go in the game, everyone’s projected top NFL draft pick, Stanford QB Andrew Luck, threw an interception that put Stanford down by seven points. On the sidelines after the interception, Luck got the attention of his intended receiver and tapped himself on the chest as if to say, “My bad.” Stanford recovered and scored with 38 seconds to go, tying the in the game in regulation and eventually winning in the third overtime. After the game, ESPN’s Erin Andrews noted Luck’s distress on the sidelines and asked, “How did you calm down.” Luck replied, “I had to realize we still had time left, still had time to atone for your mistakes.” By “your mistakes”, I’m quite sure Luck meant “my mistakes”. I guess there is no “I” in “team”, after all.
Play By Play #2: On February 20, 1991, Bob Dylan accepting Lifetime Achievement Award at 1991 Grammy Awards (see video, Dylan’s comments begin at 1:50). The audio is poor - here what he says:
Well, my daddy, he didn't leave me much, you know he was a very simple man and he didn’t leave me a lot, but what he told me was this, he did say, “Son…”, he said, he said so many things, you know? He say, “You know it's possible to become so defiled in this world that your own father and mother will abandon you and if that happens, God will always believe in your own ability to mend your ways."
Dylan, an alleged creative songwriter, is actually plagiarizing an old rabbi (who like Catholic priests were called “father” / aka “daddy”), Rabbi Shimshon Rafael Hirsch, who grossly misinterpreted Psalm 27:10. This is how our Sponsor originally worded His own thoughts:
Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me.
Is it true that “God Helps Those Who Help Themselves”? Granted, the whole testimony of scripture is God working on behalf of His faithful followers. There’s no disputing that. But there is a dangerous dark side of this coin that is called “works righteousness” or “works salvation”. It is the core of every religion other than Christianity, especially Hinduism and Islam. It’s the idea that you don’t need salvation delivered by God if you are, by and large, a righteous person as demonstrated by your works – if you atone for your own mistakes.
Rather than “believing” in us to “mend our ways”, God offers to receive us in our un-mended condition. (Aren’t we perpectually “un-mended”?) This misstatement is really alarming, but not unheard of. Another word from our Sponsor really clarifies God’s position on this.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
If you “mended your ways”, then you wouldn’t need a gift from God for salvation, you’d be perfect. (How’s that working out for you, anyway? Perfect much lately?) If you did such great work that God wanted you as a trophy on his heavenly mantle, then salvation would be a reward for your good work, not an escape from your bad work. I do believe in rewards in heaven, but I don’t believe in heaven as a reward.
Followers of Jesus know this much:
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
If we could mend our ways, we wouldn’t be at risk of perishing.
If we could mend our ways, we wouldn’t need the gift of eternal life.
If we could mend our ways, we wouldn’t need to believe in Jesus, we’d believe in ourselves.
Problem: I know how “if” turns out.
Followers of Jesus thank our Father for knowing we can’t mend our ways and loving us anyway and giving us eternal life through our faith in Jesus.
Clark H Smith