by Benjamin Hammond
In our lives, we strive for the best. We all have different definitions of ‘best’, of course, but whatever it is – we want it and we strive for it. Often, we don’t meet our own standards of best, or our cultural standards of best (as they usually are cultural). We always make mistakes, no matter what it is we have set out to do, or no matter what has been set out for us to do. It is in our nature as human beings to make mistakes and be imperfect – it’s what we do. It’s our ‘speciality’, you could say. And I am sure you can relate to that. If not, I applaud you. You must be God. In which case, yes, I applaud you, because I love you.
In Christianity, we have goals, and we have a certain standard. They have been set out for us by God, and can be found in the Bible. Now, if I think about this I am inclined to say: “How ridiculous. Utterly, utterly ridiculous.” How on earth are we supposed to meet standards laid down for us by God, when we cannot even meet our own standards?! Seriously – it is impossible for us to meet such standards. And that is indeed the right notion. We cannot meet the standards God has set down for us. So why are they there? Why did God give them to us?
Although it does seem ridiculous that God should set down such standards, a reason for them can be found. We, by nature, are failures. Paul writes:
Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin. – Romans 3:20 (NIV)
This verse shows us that the law (the standard set down for us) cannot make us right with God. We cannot follow it. All it can do is show us our sin. So why does God want to show us our sin? Why does He want to show us that we are failures by our own nature?
There is a very good reason for this. You see, the law – which shows us our sin – has another part. The law is only half of something bigger. The other half of the law (God’s standard) is called Grace. Grace is simply this: Unconditional acceptance. When we find out that we are failures by nature, we are humbled. What is the point to life if we cannot truly succeed? This is where God’s grace comes in. God’s grace accepts us no matter what. Grace is God saying: “I don’t care that you messed up. I love you madly – I am going to forget every mistake you’ve ever made, and I will bless you.” The law humbles every man, and God’s grace humbles us some more.
We can choose in life which we will be judged by when time ends, and God judges every single one of us. We can choose to be judged by how we will did on earth, or God’s grace. If we live life thinking that we are defined by how well we followed the standards of God (in other words – if you believe you can be as good as God) – then God will judge us accordingly. But because, as a human, I am a natural failure, my judgement will not end well, and I will be sentenced, because these things do not stand before God. But we can also choose to be judged by God’s grace. If you choose to be judged by God’s grace, you will understand that in life – if you define yourself by how well you do what you do, you are set up for failure, because no man can succeed in pleasing God by what he does. Someone who chooses to be judged by grace will know that they are failures, but they will also know that despite this – God has accepted them. Therefore, they will accordingly be judged, and accepted.
If you try to be the best by God’s standards – by the law – do not expect to succeed. We are failures, and you cannot be the best. But if you understand this, and simply believe that God has accepted you, even though you cannot be the best – God will accept you, and you will end up being the best.
For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. – Matthew 23:12
If you ever feel as if you’ve let God down, or you aren’t good enough – don’t worry. None of us are. We’re all failures by God’s standards. But that’s okay, because it’s meant to be that way. We were meant to fail God’s standards so we could look to his grace. It incorporates a sense of trust within us, it humbles us, and it takes the weight of having to follow rules and regulations off our shoulders. God loves you regardless. Remember that. It doesn’t mean we should stop trying to live by God’s standards – because that would defeat the point – but it does mean that we can stop judging ourselves by it. We are saved by grace, and grace alone.