There are parts of the Bible I don’t like to read. No, it’s not the boring genealogies. Or the staccato proverbs.
These parts are different. They don’t put me to sleep; they awaken within my conscience a beast I prefer to let slumber. The more I read them, the more he growls. Bares his teeth. Roars.
Soon this beast with a head of guilt, claws of doubt, and a body of shame begins an all-out attack upon the peace of heart I have tried so hard to nurture.
When I hear Paul say, “I urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called,” (Eph 4:1) all I hear are the catcalls of the demons who have recorded, in excruciating detail, the manifold ways I have lived in a manner unworthy of the name Christian.
When I hear Paul say, “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ,” (Phil 1:27) all I see are the major and minor events in my life in which I gave the unbelieving world opportunity to ridicule the church as a horde of hypocrites who don’t practice what they preach.
When I hear the apostle say that his prayer is that I “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God,” (Col 1:10) I slam the Bible shut, shove it back on the shelf, and say, “I give up."
Worthy of the Lord?
Fully pleasing to him?
Every good work?
Each phrase invites the beast within me to rake his claws over my soul.
And I could go on. I could quote verse upon verse from the Bible that demands worthiness from us. That tells us to be the people God wants us to be. That calls us to an obedience we have not attained, to a holiness we have not acquired, to a bar we can never jump over.
@@These parts of the Bible are bad news for a bad person who’s lived a bad life.@@
Maybe all we need to do is try harder? We’ve done that. Maybe all we need to do is live a more disciplined life? We’ve tried that too. Maybe we just need to work harder, pray harder, push ourselves more to be holy, worthy, good the way God that wants us to be? Listen, we’ve done that. And eventually we fall flat on our face. Every. Single. Time.
We are no good at being good.
In the din of shrill voices that accuse us there is one that sounds different. It’s a voice that gradually increases in volume until it shouts down all the others. It beckons us away from all the verses that make demands of us.
It asks nothing of us. Requires nothing. And gives everything.
It says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” (Rom 8:1). And before we can begin to dispute with it, to list out all the reasons we stand condemned, it puts a finger to our lips and says, “There is therefore now no condemnation.”
And as we begin to object, “But look at all I’ve done,” it repeats, “There is therefore now no condemnation, no condemnation, absolutely no condemnation.”
The dying words of Jesus were not, “Make it worth it,” but “It is finished.”
Our sins are finished. Our guilt is finished. Our unworthiness, the beast within us, the accusing demons—all are finished.
There is therefore now no condemnation for those—for me, for you, for all of us unworthy ones—who are in Christ Jesus.
Other Bible verses haunt me. This one chases away those ghosts of guilt. Our whole life hangs upon it, for our whole life hangs upon the one who looked down from the cross not to say, “Earn this,” but, “It is finished, all for you.”