When it comes to where you’ll spend eternity (and who you’ll spend it with), every man on earth will either get what he deserves or what Christ deserves.
If you want your wages, if you want what you’re owed, then you want the first fistful of earth thrown over your coffin. If, on the other hand, you want what you don’t deserve, what you could never ever possibly deserve, if you want to be rescued from the fires you started by somebody bigger and better than you, than you’re in for some Good News.
For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.’ Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.
The Gospel is that God offers to give sinners what they could never possibly earn. And so the Gospel is an incredibly joyous proclamation for the desperate and downtrodden. But I think it’s a tedious afterthought (or outright annoyance) to the morally self-reliant. To those who know they’re sinners, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is hope. But to those who don’t, it’s unmoving, even if they pay lip-service to it.
And Romans would warn that second type of person: Beware of wanting what you deserve.
The other side of that demand isn’t going to be as pretty as you think.