Sunday, October 30, 2011

Mirror? Mirror!

Thoughts on the Sabbath School Lesson dated  11.5.11

Have you ever seen someone and found yourself thinking, “Did he (she) look in the mirror before he left the house?”  Ok, I know it’s wrong to judge people by the way they look, but sometimes I have to wonder…

 Anyway, the reason I thought of that was that I’ve heard/read some folks describe “the Law” as a kind of mirror.  A mirror can show us what we look like; it can show us if we have a piece of broccoli in our teeth or smudged mascara, but it can’t do anything about it.  The Law can’t save us, but it can show us our need for Jesus.

I’ve also seen the law compared to a microscope and to a light on a windshield.
“On a warm, summer night, my wife and I were traveling in our car with Micah, our 3-year-old son, who sat in the back seat. After many miles of driving in the darkness, we came to a stop in a remote area. The brightness of the traffic light revealed all of the dirt, dead bugs, and insects on our windshield. Micah said, ‘Look, how dirty!’
“My wife and I didn't think much of his comment until a moment later when we drove on—away from the light and back into the darkness. Upon reentering the darkness, we could no longer see the mess on our windshield, and Micah quickly piped up and said, ‘Now the glass is clean!’
“Before the law came, the dirt within us hid under the darkness. But when God gave the law, its light shined on the windshield of our hearts and revealed the filth of sin we'd collected on our journey. The law, then, is a light that shows us how sinful we really are. It cannot cleanse us or make us whole. But it does starkly highlight the true situation of our souls—and thus can lead us to Christ.”[1]
I love the way D.L. Moody said it: 
“Law tells me how crooked I am; grace comes along and straightens me out.”[2]  
Isn’t that great?  I really like that.

As simple as that is to say, the relationship between law and grace can really give us fits sometimes.  I’m surprised at just how much I take “justification by faith” for granted.  But then I’ll hear somebody say something like Mohammad Ali said in a Reader’s Digest article.  
"One day we're all going to die, and God is going to judge us—[our] good deeds and bad deeds. If the bad outweighs the good, you go to hell. If the good outweighs the bad, you go to heaven."[3]
The idea that we can earn our way to heaven is shockingly prevalent in Christianity, the one place where it has absolutely no business!
“In What's So Amazing about Grace, Philip Yancey recounts this story about C.S. Lewis:
“During a British conference on comparative religions, experts from around the world debated what, if any, belief was unique to the Christian faith.
“They began eliminating possibilities. Incarnation? Other religions had different versions of gods appearing in human form. Resurrection? Again, other religions had accounts of return from death.
“The debate went on for some time until C.S. Lewis wandered into the room. ‘What's the rumpus about?’ he asked, and heard in reply that his colleagues were discussing Christianity's unique contribution among world religions. Lewis responded, ‘Oh, that's easy. It's grace.’ “After some discussion, the conferees had to agree.
“The notion of God's love coming to us free of charge, no strings attached, seems to go against every instinct of humanity. The Buddhist eight-fold path, the Hindu doctrine of Karma, … , and Muslim code of law—each of these offers a way to earn approval. Only Christianity dares to make God's love unconditional.”[4]
So, how does it happen that we wander off into legalism so often when, if you think about it, living under grace is so much easier?  I mean, most of the time, we choose the path of least resistance, but when it comes to Salvation, we try to slog through the hard way…what’s up with that?

Talk about doing it the hard way, check this out: 
“It's amazing what some people will do to be spiritual. On September 18, 2003, Genshin Fujinami, 44, a Buddhist priest nicknamed the ‘Marathon Monk,’ finished a seven-year, 24,800-mile journey in the Hiei Mountains of Japan. It was intended to be a trek to enlightenment.
“Once a monk starts this journey he must finish or kill himself. According to an Associated Press article, for the first three years the pilgrim must rise at midnight for 100 consecutive days to pray and run 18 miles per day, stopping 250 times to pray along the way. During the next two years, he must up his schedule to 200 days. In the fifth year the pilgrim must sit and chant mantras for nine days without food, water, or sleep in a trial called doiri, or ‘entering the temple.’ In the sixth year, he must walk 37.5 miles every day for 100 days. In the seventh year, he must run 52.5 miles for 100 days, 18 miles for another 100 days, and then complete a 234-mile trek back to his home base.”[5]
It’s really easy for us to read that and shake our heads because we know that even a ritual that extreme will not earn anybody a spot in Heaven.
“Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: ‘All nations will be blessed through you.’  So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.  For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.’ Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because ‘the righteous will live by faith.’  The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, ‘The person who does these things will live by them.’  Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.’  He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.”  Galatians 3:8-14
Have you looked in “The Mirror” lately?  What do you see?  Are you covered with sin?  What will you do about it?

We all have a choice to make, the moment the Law shows us our sin.  We can either bash ourselves repeatedly with the Law, or we can turn our sins over to Jesus.  Which choice is less painful?  easier?   the only choice that leads to Salvation? 
“So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”  Galatians 3:26-29

[1] William Wimmer, pastor of Grace Chapel Church of God, Benton, Arkansas
[2] D.L. Moody, Christian History, no. 25.
[3] "Ali," Reader's Digest (December 2001), p. 93
[4] Philip Yancey, What’s So Amazing about Grace? (Zondervan, 1997), p.11
[5] 'Marathon Monk' Ends Seven Years on the Run, Chicago Tribune (9-20-03)

1 comment:

  1. It has always amazed me how often the Islamic view of salvation (as expressed by Mohammad Ali) shows up in so many "Christian" religions.