|Image courtesy of Jim Rohan|
Something you should know about me: I’m really mean. For example, if there’s an established standard that people know about and have had adequate time to prepare for, I think they should be held to it! 😉
The standards are there for a reason.
A while back, at the gym, I watched a lady take her Physical Training test (PT test). She didn’t look like she was overweight or injured or anything like that. She just looked like she wasn’t very good at running. In fact, at one point she stopped running and had to walk; she couldn’t even finish the run portion of her PT test. I didn’t think things were going to end well for her, and sure enough, as I was leaving the gym I saw her sitting down on a bench near the exit with her head in her hands, looking very upset.
I don’t bring this up to make fun of her, instead I bring it up to make a point. When we are faced with a standard, all of our excuses will be revealed as inadequate. It’s easy two months before a test to slack off and to take it easy: “I’ve got plenty of time until my test!” But then it suddenly sneaks up on you. It didn’t matter how great her excuses were for her PT test, she failed. The standards are there for a reason; they matter.
The standard is non-negotiable; and it’s perfection.
The same thing applies to us and the Law. God made a clearly established standard. It’s been clearly and specifically communicated to us through His Law. It’s been intuitively communicated to all humanity for all time through the conscience. The standard is non-negotiable; and it’s perfection.
God makes this clear when He gives the Law in the Old Testament. Thrice He tells His people to consecrate themselves and be holy (Lev. 11:44–45; 19:2; 20:26). According to my good ol’ Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, consecration means: “Separation of persons, utensils, buildings, or places from everyday secular uses for exclusive dedication to holy or sacred use (511).” And, just to make sure we perfectly understand what God is asking of us—and to make matters far worse—holiness is described as such: “In the OT, holiness as applied to God signifies his transcendence over the creation and the moral perfection of his character (984).”
Sweet! So now we understand what’s required of us: absolute, unwavering, lifelong devotion to God and God alone in the form of moral perfection. Jesus always had a way with words; in Matthew 5:48 He summarized it like this: “Be perfect.”
The exception to the rule!
“Wait, what?! Isn’t that a little high?” Yeah, it is. It’s real high. You better get to work.
“Are there any exceptions to this rule? I’m pretty sure I’m the exception.” Ha-ha, you’re funny; there are no exceptions. And by the way, everyone thinks they’re the exception almost without exception! We all say that standards are good to have…for other people; but they shouldn’t apply to us!
“Why is the standard so why? I’ll never make it.” That’s a good question; the standard is so high to show you that you’ll never make it on your own. We all would likely claim that we’re not perfect, but that we’re still a good person. The problem is, being a good person (or trying your best) is not the standard. I just showed you the standard: perfection. Is that something you can live up to? Me neither…
The Good News.
The truth is, there is one exception to the rule. The truth is, because of the finished work of Christ I get to be the exception of the rule; and so do you! The “Good News” is that we can have someone stand in our place when we’re judged against the standard of perfection; we can be the exception to the rule because someone has met all the requirements of the Law on our behalf.
How is this not good news? It sorrows me to see so many people trying to earn their way into Heaven. It won’t work! At The Resurgence, I recently read a great article entitled Moralism’s Cruel Stick and Carrot by Matt Johnson. While we can train for and meet the standards of our PT test, the standards of the Law are impossible for us to meet.
God, in His grace, has given us a chance to be the exception to the rule; will you take it?