And two hopes that cast wonderful light on them.
1) I’m never going to be good enough on my own.
Hope: Christ offers His staggeringly perfect righteousness to me through faith in Him.
I am, of my own devices, a wicked, wretched rebel against the good King. I deserve nothing but eternal damnation and judgment for my sins. But by the unfathomable grace of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, I have been offered forgiveness and peace with God, adoption by and friendship with Him, through faith in His only Son. Jesus Christ has perfect righteousness, pure and unstained obedience, and it is all given to me through faith in His Name.
Romans 3 describes “the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”
This is ridiculously, heartstoppingly beautiful, guys. The God who has the right to be our Judge offers to be our Redeemer. God made Jesus the willing sacrifice for the sins of those who would believe in Him, and those believers are then counted as righteous and good based on Jesus’ perfection. The Jesus who is God and the Son of God accomplished everything for the sinners who will repent and believe in Him. It should really startle us, how loving this reality is: God was and is under no obligation to save us from our awful deeds, and yet He extends safety and eternal life to us.
I do not measure up to the standard of God. I can never measure up to the standard of God. I am, by my own devices and by my first father Adam’s, a twisted and hideous sinner. But the goodness and purity of Jesus of Nazareth, who never lied, never stole, was never unrighteously angry, never idolized anything, and never had sinful hatred for anyone is given to me through faith in Him.
2) I will never be a good enough Christian to win people to Jesus of my own abilities or winsomeness.
Hope: Christ can save anyone, and Christ can use anyone to save anyone.
I should try to be a good teller and liver of Christ’s Gospel and wondrous goodness. I must try, in fact. But while my brain can’t comprehend it, it is Biblically true that though much hangs in the balance, though my proclaiming and living faithfully in the light of the Gospel are vital, my words, deeds, and life are just not sufficient to make another soul love Jesus.
There are people whom I desperately hope will come to love, follow, worship, and believe in the Messiah. I have often been sinful in those relationships, and have certainly not done enough in any of them. But even if I had done and said everything correctly, those things are no guarantee that their hearts will be softened and that they will bend their knees, repent, and believe. Becoming a Christian is not merely a matter of being convinced of something; it is a matter of the heart being changed, converted, regenerated. I can’t cause someone else to love God or to truly repent of his or her sins.
I am both an imperfect witness (I’m still a sinner with idolatries, anger, hypocrisies, laziness, etc.) and an insufficient witness (I can’t cause someone to be born again or draw them to Jesus). Those people who I want to see redeemed and brought into the church and family of God need more than me. They need more than you. They need the Holy Spirit of God.
In John 3, this interchange happened: “Jesus answered him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?’ Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, You must be born again. The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
I cannot be enough by myself. They need the Spirit of God to give them faith and repentance. And I should pray accordingly.
Listen, I think it’s fair to say that we live in a largely self-absorbed culture. Fun and games and ease and distractions are everywhere in our time and place. And when you live in a world like ours the idea that you aren’t good enough is taken as particularly offensive. Most of us are, for the most part, used to getting what we want when we want it (the right temperature in the right room with the right TV show on as we check the e-mails on our phones). When that’s the sort of existence you have, you can start to think that you’re a sort of sovereign, entitled, and even divine entity, and that no one (and I mean no one) has the right to tell you you’re anything less than good.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is fantastic, amazing News, and it is great news precisely because we don’t measure up. Because we’re not good enough, capable enough. It is a supernatural, heart changing, righteousness-giving gift. And it is given to those without an ounce of deserving in them.
The greatest hope in the world is offered to each of us who have heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ, of His salvation by grace through faith in Him. We do not measure up. None of us. And yet God the Father is willing to give us an eternal inheritance through faith in His Son and by the power of His Holy Spirit.
That’s good, true news, and I need it. I am, indisputably, a man who could never measure up on his own.