Last week at the end of my sermon I asked you to give up, to just let go of working so hard, of endlessly trying, to take a deep breath and breathe in the freedom of knowing that you will fail at being righteous because you can not make yourself righteous. So stop striving to be righteous. You can’t do it. No matter how hard you try, no matter how long you work at it, you will never succeed. You can not make yourself righteous. Stop trying; stop working, to gain something which is unobtainable by your efforts. You simply can’t be something you are not. You can’t will yourself, or make yourself to be good anymore than you will or make yourself be a tree. So stop attempting to grow leaves and sway in the breeze. It is something you can not do.
Paul tells us that we all sin. We all make sinful choices. We all fall short of the glory, the righteousness, the goodness of God. We can not work ourselves hard enough to ever reach the glory, the righteousness, or even the goodness of God, so there is no need to try, so don’t, just stop. I told you all that last week, but I also told you last week to come back this week to hear the rest of the story, to come back this week to hear how you can be what you can not make yourself be.
Paul tells us that not being able to try, to work, and to strive to be righteous is a good thing. The fact that we will fail whenever we try is actually a sort of blessing. If we could work to be good enough, if we could strive to be righteous, if we could make ourselves worthy of God then we would be able to boast in our accomplishment. The fact that we are unable to accomplish goodness by the work of our own efforts, by the sweat of our own brow takes away our ability to believe that we have done something, anything to accomplish, to attain the love of God.
Righteousness, goodness is a gift. Gifts are fun. Who does not like waking up on Christmas morning and finding colorfully wrapped packages under the tree? What woman does not squeal with glee when sitting at an intimate restaurant table and the one she loves pulls out a small box with a bow on top? What child does not anticipate their birthday and the amazing amount of presents that will be given on that day? We all like receiving gifts.
I am a gift giving kind of person. I like to give people things. If money were not a problem and spoiling them not an issue I would constantly be giving things to my children. I would give them gifts every chance I got. The thing about my gift giving is that my children don’t have to do anything for me to want to give them gifts. They don’t have to be nice enough. They don’t have to a certain amount of chores. They don’t have to obey. They don’t have to eat all their vegetables or work to make me happy with them in any way.
This desire to give gifts to them comes out of the love I have for them. And they never had to earn my love. I loved them from the moment the second little line appeared on the pregnancy test. I loved them when I saw that first sonogram picture. I loved each and every little kick I felt. I loved them when I was sick to my stomach for 13 weeks straight. I loved them when I ached so bad that I could hardly sleep. I loved them when I could barely walk. And that was before I had even laid eyes on them, because when I was handed that pink, squishy, little girl and I held her for the very first time, I already loved her. I already was willing to give all of myself to her, already desiring to give all the wonderful things I could possibly want to give her. Neither of my daughters ever did anything to make me love her. Neither of them ever had to do anything to earn my love. And because I love them I want to give them gifts. I want to give them what they need, what they want, what is the very best for them.
I am just a mama who loves her girls, I am not God. God is good beyond comprehension and God’s love for us is fathom’s deeper, and richer and purer than the love I have for my girls could ever be. God created us, God loves us. God wants to give us what we truly need, what is best for us.
God loves us, not because we have done anything to earn it. Not because we have done anything that makes ourselves good enough for it. God does not love us because we have prayed every morning and every evening before we go to bed. God does not love us because we gave $5 or $500 dollars to orphaned children. God does not love us because we give up every Saturday to volunteer at the women’s shelter. God does not love us because we have seen a set of rules which tells us how a good Christian should live and have lived by those rules and have not strayed from them even once in our lives. God does not love us because of anything we have ever or could ever do. God just love us, because God created us.
The gift that God gives us which is shown in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is unfathomable love, which will do anything, endure all things and pay whatever the cost, to be in relationship with us. The gift that is given in salvation is relationship with the one who loves us no matter what we do, relationship with the one who loves us no matter who we have become, it is relationship with the only one who can love us for exactly who we are.
It is given to us freely. Not because we have worked so hard, not because we have won a prize, not because we have earned it, but because God loves us. It is a gift given to all who believe in Jesus Christ. It is a gift given to all who accept the love that God is giving to them.
Not only can we not strive to make ourselves good enough to earn the love of God (because it can not be earned), but it is actually a blessing the we can not make ourselves good enough for God, that we can not make ourselves worthy of the love of God, because then being loved by God would be something that we accomplished, something that would some how be our own. Look how wonderful I am, God loves me.
“Look what I did, God loves me. I took out the trash every day, I did whatever I was told and now I am loved by God. I am good enough, I am righteous enough. I have accomplished the most important task of earning the love of God. I have done it. I am awesome. I am amazing. I did, all on my own.”
No. It does not work that way. We could never be good enough for God, we could never earn the love of God, and it is not an accomplishment of which any of us could boast. Being loved by God should not ever be a source of pride.
But even though we have done nothing to earn it, even though we know it is a gift, that if it was earnable we are completely incapable of ever being good enough, righteous enough to earn it. Too often we act as if the love of God which we experience is something we have done. We might not ever “say” that we believe that we have earned God’s love. But we act that way.
I told you about the revelation I had in Old Testament class my sophomore year of college where I realized I could not be good enough, I could not make myself righteous enough, that no matter how much I tried, worked, strived, I would always fail and so I decided to stop trying. Well the other side of that revelation is that I could stop trying to be good enough, strive hard enough be to be righteous, was because I was trying to be righteous enough for God to love me. I wanted God to love me. I wanted to be good enough to earn the love of God. Not only could I do nothing to be good enough, or be righteous enough, but the absolute wonderful thing was that God loved me anyway. I did not need to be good enough. I did not need to be righteous enough. I did not need to beat myself up every time I found one small flaw in myself and my effort to be the holy person I felt I needed to be.
God loved me. God loved me no matter what I did. God loved me even if I did not love God back. God’s love was there. It was freely given. All I had to do was believe. All I had to do was accept that God loved me, loved me enough to do anything for me, anything that needed to be done for me. God was willing to give it all up for me.
You don’t have to do anything either. God loves you. You don’t have to do anything to earn God’s love. You can’t be good enough for God to love you. You can’t act righteous enough for God to love you. There are not enough good works to be done in this world to make yourself worthy of God’s love. But, that’s alright. God loves you anyway. And God’s love comes with not stipulations God’s love comes with no strings. God just loves us.
Paul tells us that because God loves us we can actually be righteous. What? Yeah, because God loves us we can be what we can not otherwise be. God can make us what we can not be. God loves us and God’s love is what makes us worthy. God’s love makes us righteous. All we have to do is accept God’s love. Accept the gift which is freely given. Believe that God is willing to do anything, absolutely anything to be in relationship with us. Even if it is something as ludicrous as coming to earth as a human named Jesus Christ, living life as we live life, teaching us about God and what it means to be in relationship with God, dieing and rising again, so that we can know how much we are loved, so we can know to what extent God is willing to go, so that we can understand what it truly means to love and be loved by God.
God wants nothing really. God wants faith. God wants us to believe that God loves us. God wants us to believe something that is true whether we believe it or not. The fact of the matter is that whether we realize it or not, whether we accept it or not, whether we believe or not God still loves us, God still desires to be in relationship with us. All we have to do is believe that God love us. That is what faith is, believing that God loves you, that God loves you enough to come to this earth to live so that you would know. God loves you not matter what you do, and because of that is willing to die so you know exactly how much you are loved.
Paul ends this passage by telling us that the Law of Moses or anything else we can do ourselves can not make us worthy. But then turns the idea of the Law of Moses on its head and speaks of the Law of faith. Being a Jew does nothing for you, being a Gentile does nothing for you, doing anything in particularly good does nothing for you, the works you can do does nothing for you, abiding by the law of Moses does nothing for you, but if you need a law to live by then you can live by the law of faith. The law of faith being a law only in name, what Paul is speaking of is, believing, accepting Jesus Christ, and the love which God showed us in the life, teachings, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Paul wants us to not rely on the
Law of Moses but instead on the law of faith.
You can’t earn the love of God. You can never be good enough. You can never work hard enough, but you can accept it, you can believe it. You can have faith. You can abandon the law of works. You can abandon the law of trying to be good enough. You can abandon any attempt at working to be worthy of God and God’s love and you can simply believe that God love you. You can simply accept that God can make you what you can not be. You can not make yourself worthy of God, but God can make you worthy God love by simply loving you all you need to do believe, have faith.
It sounds too easy doesn’t it? And it is. It seems wrong that it can be that easy. It seems that you would have to do SOMETHING, but you don’t. It is that easy. You are made worthy of God’s love, because God loves you. God loves you not because of anything you have done. God loves you not because of anything you will do. God loves you not because of anything you can do. God just loves you. And believing this, understanding this, having faith is all that God asks of you. Being a Christian is not about living a set of rules. Being a Christian is not about reading your Bible, praying, living any certain way. Being a Christian is about believing that God loves you, accepting that God loves you, having faith that God loves you. It is about believing that no matter what; no matter how you feel; no matter what you do; no matter what happens to you that God still loves you and understanding that God’s love changes everything, it changes who you are, how you live, how you think, how you act. Faith is not about changing who you are, but it is about accepting God’s love and allowing that love to change you, to make you what you can not be otherwise, that is worthy, worthy to be called God’s child, worthy to be loved by God, worthy to be called a Christian. The law of faith is believing the impossible is possible and believing that love, God’s love changes everything about who you are and who you are capable of being.