“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
I grew up in a complicated family to say the least. My parents rose up out of very humble beginnings, most would say poverty. Especially in my dad, these became the primary pursuits: independence, success, and intellectual superiority. These are all topics for another time. But this became my crusade as well – to be wealthy and say that I made it on my own. Everything I sought after, I had to be the best at and if I couldn’t attain it, I’d try something else til I got it right. Things had to be perfect and I had to be in control.
We were a religious family, well that’s to say we went to church. I wanted to be “religious” but I felt favor with God was near impossible. My life became a series of trying to do more good things than bad things. I thought that was fine and was mostly content to continue my quest to be the best dang lawyer in Chicago, drive a blue BMW, and live in my 2-story sandstone house in Naperville with a 3-car garage and 2.7 kids hooked on Ritalin. The American dream, duhh!
But as I sought to do my best academically and keep my eyes on the better life, there was still something eating away at me, something I’m sure that most people experience at one time or another. Part of it was dread, wondering if I was making a mistake. Then there were those occasional Scriptures that haunted me, you know, the ones about eternal damnation. Not a fan of suffering. What if…I’m not good enough? What if God really hates me? Why do I always feel so guilty and dirty?
The Problem “For the wages of sin is death…”
Many struggle with this passage claiming that they’re not perfect but far from being sinful. I on the other hand had no problem accepting that fact. It was all too obvious to me: I wasn’t perfect and was an evil, selfish, wicked, detestable person. My motivation to be good was off base though. It was all about fear—fear of being dangled over an unquenchable flame forever. Never was it that I feared grieving God and breaking His heart. Bottom line is: we’re ALL sinners. Everyone who has ever lived and will ever live…SINNERS! Totally unworthy of God’s kindness and love. End of story. Close out this tab and surf somewhere else because you’re already condemned. It’s all over. When you die, it’s crispy critters for you. See ya later. Wait. Is it possible that God really does have BETTER plans for us? One that we could never conceive in our feeble human minds? Hmmm.
The Solution “…but…”
There it is! God’s BUT! And a great BUT at that! It says that God isn’t ready to say goodbye to us just yet. It says that while there was a major problem, and we were all set for punishment, God said “I’m not going to let this happen. There’s got to be a way to change things. Oh yes, Terry is quite the self-centered, egotistical, arrogant scoundrel. But for some reason, I love him AND I WILL NOT LET HIM GO THAT EASILY!! He is my child and creation and I’m going to help him get back to where he belongs. ”
The Second Chance “…the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Crazy huh? After all I’ve done to hurt Him, after all the disobedience, and foolishness, God decided to block my journey to hell and say “You’re going to heaven over my dead body.” Literally. In order to repair the damage I had done, God’s own Son, Jesus, decided to accept my punishment for me. Way beyond my comprehension why a King would die for me. But He did. And because of that, not only am I aspiring to someday go to heaven, I can experience His favor now. It doesn’t come through riches and earthly pursuits. I’m not saying it’s bad to have stuff and enjoy it. But now I find greater joy and fulfillment in helping others through servicing their needs or helping them to follow Christ as well. Yea, it sounds messed up but in my life, it’s true. This second change (let’s be honest, 1000s of chances) is available for EVERYONE.
“Christ’s life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” BUT it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).