Much of the Bible is dedicated to expressing the awesome beauty of God, and then calling upon people to live and reflect Him in their life. When we read these parts of the Bible, it can feel impossibly heavy: ‘How can I possibly live like this? I’m nowhere near the beauties and excellencies of God!’
Becoming Like God
Think of all the high and lofty teachings of Jesus in his sermon on the mountain in Matthew 5-7. Think of the practical writings of Paul in Romans 12, or the ones in Colossians 3. Think of the entire book of James! What about the whole book of Proverbs and all the wonderful Bible characters in the Old Testament?
The Bible presents an unbelievably high calling when it comes to the kind of people God desires us to be. In Luke 14:27-28, Jesus describes discipleship as someone who is building a tower! It’s a massive task – one that needs deep consideration before being accepted. How burdensome. No! There is no need to feel burdened in the face of any of this, because surrounding all of these writings is very good news.
Jesus says to the world and to you:
“Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30
This means, if you’re not experiencing Jesus and the Gospel as restful for your soul and a light burden on your back, then perhaps you don’t know Jesus and the Gospel properly. If you’re feeling a heavy burden in the face of what God seeks for you to be, perhaps you don’t properly know Jesus and the Gospel.
But how can we experience a restful soul and a light burden when we are so far short of so much of what God seeks for us to be? The answer is very simple and yet endlessly profound: Jesus did it all and I’m able to become related to him and share what he did.
That is the good news in all the Bible! Not that I must live up to the teaching of Jesus, but that Jesus lived up to his teachings! Jesus lived his teachings in Matthew 5-7; Jesus lived the writings of Paul in Romans 12 and Colossians 3; Jesus lived the book of James; Jesus lived the book of Proverbs and Jesus lived all the faithful qualities of all the Old Testament Bible characters perfectly. Jesus built the tower!
The good news in all the Bible is that Jesus lived the life God delighted in. I can become part of Jesus and share his life and then joyfully pursue him in the freedom of knowing that my short comings will not cast me away. The good news is that God sent Jesus to live the life God loves and, for those who embrace Jesus, God sees us as him.
Of course, I’m called upon to pursue all those lofty teachings of God. But not whilst thinking my failings are casting me away. I am to pursue them with the joyful and peaceful vigour of knowing I’m related to the man who lived them all perfectly and that God sees me as him! The yoke is easy and the burden is light because I’m joined to the man who has done it.
Whenever we read parts of the Bible about how God wants us to live, we must be sure we read them with the knowledge of the Gospel to avoid feeling heavily burdened, because this feeling doesn’t belong to Jesus’ people – he, in fact, relieves us from it!
The Gospel that needs to be understood while teaching people to strive for greater holiness is, that my burdensome failures to live like God have been lifted by the victory of Jesus through my faith in him and will not keep me from the salvation of God.
To read or teach others about how God wants us to live, without teaching the Gospel of the accomplished work of God in Jesus, risks robbing people of powerful good news and instilling them with the fear of ‘I’m not living good enough to be saved’. Though we truly don’t live good enough and never will, fear is removed by the joyful good news that Jesus has done it and God sees me as him!
The Bible is about what God has done for me in Jesus and how the joyful peace of acceptance in him is the power for my change and growth.
Saved By Grace: Belief Not Works
The bottom line is, when sin entered the world nobody could ever become worthy of eternal life by their own life. Like the religious rulers in Jesus’ time, it’s easy for us to think and teach that mankind’s best efforts at God’s commandments will save us – but this is very wrong. Best efforts are not good enough. Only God’s own glory is worthy of God’s own immortality.
When sin entered the world, the thing we needed for life was a relative of ours – a human being – to come and live God’s own glory perfectly and enter into eternal life, so that we, as fellow humans, could share in his accomplishments by our faith in him. That’s what Jesus did and we are invited to share his victory. So when Jesus came into the world to preach the Gospel of salvation, he preached ‘Believe in me!’ (John 1:12; 3:15-18,36; 5:24,38; 6:29,47).
It is by believing in the one who lived God’s glory that we have life, not by our own best efforts at keeping God’s commands. We are not saved by our works, but by our believing in Jesus, through which we are changed and inspired to a life for good works (Ephesians 2:8-10).
Once sin entered the world, what we needed above everything else was a man to win! Therefore, everything in the Bible was firstly written to equip the man of salvation – Jesus the Son of God – with everything he needed to win, by the power of God! Allegiance with this special man, by loving and believing him and his saving work, is how all other men and women are saved. This having been accomplished, Jesus’ people are free to love him and pursue him, he who embodied the Word of God completely (John 1:14), without fearing the ultimate consequences of sin or their own salvation.
This is the good news in all the Bible!
“I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.” – Galatians 2:21, NLT