By Shane Lockard
Rule keeping. We’re conditioned to think that to gain anything in life, you must give. To get a paycheck, you must work your 40 hours. To enjoy a retirement fund later, you must put something in now. To receive a trophy, an athlete must compete. This thinking even creeps into the life of a Christian. One reasons, “My good deeds must outnumber my bad.” “I know I’m better than my neighbor.” “I give more in the offering tray than him.” “I never miss a church service.” “I’ve taught Sunday school for the last 25 years.”
The Works Mentality Is Out
But there’s a problem. If I rely on my works to save me, I nullify Jesus’ work on the cross. I’m basically saying, “Jesus, your death wasn’t necessary.” Or as Paul puts it in Galatians 2:21, “Christ died for nothing.” The heart of the matter is this: I can’t do enough to be righteous in his sight. Three times in Galatians 2:16 Paul alludes to the fact that the law cannot justify us before Christ. In Romans 3, Paul makes statements like: “There is no one righteous” (v. 10); “No one will be declared righteous by observing the law” (v. 20); “All have sinned” (v. 23).
The Evidence Is In
A trial continued for three days when the accused spoke up and said to the judge, “Your honor, I want to change my plea from innocent to guilty.” The judge asked, “Why did you wait until now, after taking up three days of precious time with the court, the attorneys, and the jury, to do this?” The man replied, “Well, three days ago, I thought I was innocent—until I heard all the evidence against me.”
So we ask, “Is there any hope?” Absolutely! Our hope is found not in keeping rules, but in a relationship with the ruler. We don’t trust our works here; we trust his work there! Listen to the law, and the evidence says we’re guilty. Listen to Jesus, and the evidence says that through faith in him, we’re innocent.
Shane Lockard is the minister of the Zebulon Church of Christ in Pikeville, Kentucky. He and his wife Bethany have three children: Aly, Luke, and Elijah.