“For no one can ever be made right in God's sight by doing what his law commands. For the more we know God's law, the clearer it becomes that we aren't obeying it. But now God has shown us a different way of being right in his sight—not by obeying the law but by the way promised in the Scriptures long ago.” (Romans 3:20-21 NLT)
Brett Favre, the lion-hearted quarterback for the Green Bay Packers, is one of my favorite players in the National Football League. He’s courageous and tough-minded, showing a rare grace under pressure, yet his boyish enthusiasm for the game is infectious as he celebrates each Packer success.
A couple of Sundays ago (Sept. 30), Brett threw a pass that set a new record: the most touchdown passes by an NFL quarterback – 421.
Although the Pack was playing in Minnesota, the officials temporarily stopped the game in order to honor Brett’s achievement. And Brett, in his customary humility, later said he was more interested in a team win than an individual record.
In surprising contrast, the very next week (Oct. 8) Brett tied another record: the most interceptions thrown by an NFL quarterback – 277. This game also was stopped after this record was achieved, but only because the interception ended the Packer’s last-second attempt to win the game.
The most touchdown passes and the most interceptions! It reminds me that there was a time when Babe Ruth, the baseball player who was one of the greatest hitters in the game, owned two records simultaneously: the most home runs hit in a career as well as the most strike-outs in a career.
Here’s the thing: We tend to think of life as a balance sheet that we’ll eventually present to God. As long as the number of our touchdown passes exceed the number of our interceptions, then we’re cool with God, right? To echo the Apostle Paul, God forbid this to be true!
“For no one can ever be made right in God's sight by doing what his law commands. For the more we know God's law, the clearer it becomes that we aren't obeying it.” (Romans 3:20 NLT)
In other words, we can never be made right by throwing touchdown passes – because the more we learn about the Law, the more obvious it is we can never throw enough touchdown passes to make things right with God.
“But now God has shown us a different way of being right in his sight—not by obeying the law but by the way promised in the Scriptures long ago.” (Romans 3:21 NLT)
In his own geek-Greek way, Paul is saying we should forget the balance sheet – ignore the scoreboard, give up on tracking good and bad statistics. Listen, there is good news! There’s another way to get right in God’s sight, and it has nothing to do with your own achievements. It’s based on a promise made by God long ago – a promise is fulfilled through Jesus Christ.
Can I get an amen?
We are saved by grace and not through faith. It is a gift from God, not by our own works, so that none of us can boast of the ability to tip the balance sheet in our own favor. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
No doubt you’ve heard this over and over again, including many times in these devotionals. Yet many of us still live as if we get right in God’s sight by what we do – by our works, our achievements, the records we set.
We do this because it is, as Paul says, an offense to think of the Gospel as so simple and, therefore, it becomes a stumbling block to our pride. Getting right in God’s sight by what we do appeals to our human pride, or as the poet-king James would say, it appeals to our “flesh.”
It makes us feel good, as if we’re doing something to earn our way into heaven. If we cling to the idea that we can, even in some small way, contribute toward our salvation, then we also can cling to the idea that maybe we’re not that bad – maybe we aren’t included in the “all” of “all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory.”
Put that behind you and get on with the truth: You, my friend, can never be made right in God's sight by doing what is right – because the closer you get to God, the more you’ll realize you’re not even close to getting it right (see Isaiah 6 and Romans 3:20).
The one thing you can do is to move in loving obedience to your gracious heavenly Father, doing and saying whatever he tells you to do and say; allowing your life to be energized by God’s Spirit within you.
· “Balance sheet” fear – Good news! You are free to follow the Father instead of living in “balance sheet” fear. You can be who you were meant to be and you can live how you were meant to live. You don’t have to be good enough – you just have to trust in the redemptive power of Christ’s resurrection from the dead. And you don’t have to fear if you hold both the record for most touchdown passes and the record for most interceptions – love God and live accordingly!
· Record of faith – A record of your faith in Jesus is more important than any record of your wrongs or resume of your achievements. If you haven’t already done this, set a spiritual marker as a reminder that you have received Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Write it down – or establish some other kind of tangible memorial for this event – and every time the devil tells you you’ll never be good enough for God, or that you’re so good you can remain independent of God, take him to that marker and remind him that you are right in God’s sight because of Jesus.
· Big play – Next time you’re watching a sporting event and one of the players makes the big play, turn to the person next to you and say, “That was a great play, but it won’t make him right in God’s sight.”
· Huge error – Likewise, next time you’re watching a sporting event and one of the players makes a huge error, turn to the person next to you and say, “That was a huge error, but the good news is it won’t keep him from getting right in God’s sight.”
· Pray for others – Ask God to show you who to pray for, related to getting right in God’s sight. It may be a non-believer or someone who believes but struggles in this area. Pray that this person will know God’s “different way of being right in his sight—not by obeying the law but by the way promised in the Scriptures long ago (Romans 3:21 NLT) And pray that Brett Favre and his family will come to know this truth, so that when he retires from football he can spend the rest of his life preaching how to be right in God’s sight.