The gospel is always meant to be an encouragement. It's never meant to feel ordinary, and when it begins to feel familiar, God has a way of showing it off from a fresh angle so that we're encouraged by it yet again.
That happened to me recently. I was reading a very familiar Bible passage, Romans 3 (which I've written about before), and I suddenly felt freshly impacted by how a door that had once been closed to me is now wide open. Not just any door, but the door to God. And as I read verse 20, I felt sobered -- and even alarmed -- by the reminder of how desperate my position once was in regards to God. It says, "For by works of the law no human being will be justified in His sight". Zero. None. No one will be justified -- that is, declared righteous -- by such means. And the means that that verse is speaking of is a life of trying to measure up to a code of rights and wrongs -- trying to live right. It's that kind of trying, with all the sweat and effort and good intentions we can muster, that leaves people staring at a tightly closed door to God. "No human being will be justified" in God's sight that way.
But how much time do I spend trying so hard to do right so I can measure up in God's eyes? And how much time do I waste worrying about my intentions and my limitations? Too much. And then I'm reminded that the only thing that such toil leads to is a closed door -- to an absolute "No..." -- no entry, no admission, no acceptance. A big NO from God.
That is why those words, "But now..." in Romans 3:21 are among the most encouraging words in all of the Bible! Because as I continued reading, I felt an excitement grow as I was once again reminded of how God has swung open a door for us to approach Him through. If we long to know God, the door to Him is wide open for those who trust in what Jesus has done for those who can never do enough! For even though "no human being" is justified by their own efforts, "all" whose efforts fall short (3:23) "are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" (3:24).
What a contrast. "No human being" is justified, compared to "all" are justified by God's grace who receive what Christ has done for us "by faith" (3:25)! An impossibility has become possible for those who trust Jesus. A door to God that was locked tight is wide open in Jesus! And it takes no effort on my part to open it, because it's Jesus who did all that was necessary to open the door for us to truly know God.
This reminded me once again of the wonderful fact that all God invites us to do is to believe what Jesus has done on the cross for us and to receive Jesus into our hearts. There are many people seeking God who desperately need to hear these wonderfully reassuring truths -- truths that thrill us when we first embrace them, and that are meant to continue to encourage us even after knowing them for years!
© 2010 by Ken Peters