"It's the Bible. You get credit for trying"
Do we get credit for trying? Can we earn God's favor by our good deeds? Many seem to think that if we try our best, God will surely have favor on us, save us from our sin, and give us eternal life. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is an age old lie that has been around for centuries.
In "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" we catch a glimpse of this false idea that we can somehow put forth a good effort and God will be pleased with us. In the scene titled "Divine Providence", the two characters Pintel and Ragetti, while serving under Jack Sparrow, are adrift in a row boat on the high seas. As Pintel rows the boat, Ragetti is thumbing through the pages of the Bible acting like he’s actually reading it. The dialog goes something like this:
Ragetti: “Well I say it was divine providence that escaped us from jail“
Pintel: ”Well I say it was me being clever. Ain’t that right poochie (the dog)”
Ragetti: Well how’d you know it wasn’t divine providence that inspired you to be clever. Anyways, I ain’t stealing no ship”
Pintel: “It ain’t stealing. Its salvaging. Since when did you care”
Ragetti: “Since we’re not immortal no more. We’ve got to take care of our mortal selves”
Pintel: “You know you can’t read”
Ragetti: “It’s the Bible you get credit for trying”.
Pintel: “Pretending to read the Bible, that’s a lie”
The hard truth is this. The only credit we will get is not what we think. The only thing we can offer God or contribute to our salvation is our sin, resistance, and rebellion towards Him. That’s it! That’s the best we have to offer and it doesn’t look good for any of us.
As for many Christians today who have bought into this lie of acquiring God’s grace by their own actions, they live out a performance based salvation. They speak of God’s grace and shout out a hearty amen whenever the word is mentioned. Some live out their lives often times plagued with fear, guilt, and an unsettling feeling of where they stand with God. For others they turn up their noses smug with pride actually believing that they are pulling if off, that is living the Holy life. They gladly welcome grace talk, yet turn and walk away only to work on their new list of “to-do's” they got from last Sunday’s sermon. They seek to acquire jewels in their crowns, add rooms to their mansions in Heaven, earn rewards, and secure multiple blessings.
The songs we listen to, the books we read, the sermons we hear, the Bible studies we attend, and not to mention all the media outlets out there, TV, radio, and the internet all play some part in shaping and determining our doctrine and theology. That which we believe to be true. This accumulative effect ultimately dictates how we live out our Christian lives. A constant and steady diet of self improvement, purposeful living, and moralism among many other popular teachings have developed a performance based mentality for many Christians. I’ve heard this time and time again. “Justification is God’s part and Sanctification is man’s part.” God is responsible for our salvation, but we must continue on to keep it by our faithfulness and obedience to His word. This is not true! Both Justification and Sanctification is something that God does to us by way of His Son Jesus Christ in what He did on the cross in getting us saved and what He does daily through His Word and Sacrament in keeping us saved.
The Bible reveals to us God’s redemptive plan of salvation for mankind by way of His Son Jesus Christ in His death burial and resurrection from the dead on our be half. This is the Gospel. Everything in the Bible before His work on the cross points us to this great event, and everything in the Christian life must flow out that. Again, I’m reminded of hearing another phrase often quoted in evangelical circles “It’s deeds not creeds.” It’s as though the Christian life is all about how you conduct yourself, rather than what you believe to be true about God and His Son, our savior.
The Bible is exceedingly more than an owners manual with rules and principles on how to live out the Christian life. Of course it teaches these, but they are subordinate to Christ and His work and will naturally flow out of the believer justified and sanctified by Grace through Faith. In "Modern Reformation" magazine Jerry Bridges quotes in his article “Gospel Driven Sanctification”, “It is the gospel that continues to remind us that our day-to-day acceptance with the Father is not based on what we do for God, but upon what Christ did for us in his sinless life and sin-bearing death.” A proper understanding of the way Salvation in how it comes to us and how it is kept is critical for the Christian in living out a correct and healthy relationship with God and his neighbor. In light of this, one must have a proper understanding of the Bible that puts Christ at the center of all things and clearly distinguishes between Law and Gospel. Correctly and clearly understanding these will show us what the Christian life is to be like.