Life without grace: pic.twitter.com/ejqAoawJ (@JoeDVillanueva)
— Tullian Tchividjian (@PastorTullian) March 9, 2014
I saw this picture on Twitter last week and thought it was the perfect way to end my sermon on Luke 18:9-14 yesterday. Classic, isn't it? The title? “Life without grace.” This is really life without Jesus. It’s what religion is like too without a right understanding of who Jesus is and what he’s done. It’s just a moral pep talk. A bunch of, “Try harder. Do better. Grow stronger. Change that behavior. Come on, more effort! Carry those responsibilities. Lift those burdens. Let’s see some results. Let's go, you can do it!”
And the thing is, maybe you sort of can…for a time. Or you think you can anyway. You’re determined. You're gonna lift that bar. But eventually you’ll wear out. Or you'll realize you can't. You will fail. Miserably. Repeatedly. And when you do here’s what happens. You'll be temped to take weight off the bar, to ease up a little on God’s righteous requirements, to make it easier for you so you can feel better about yourself. "See, look at me. I can lift this." Or else you will try and compare yourself to someone else who seems to be lifting less than you so that you can feel better about yourself. That's what the Pharisee did. But remember, that doesn’t work with God.
Amazingly though Jesus helps us see that there’s another way. God doesn’t take the weight off the bar. He lifts the bar for you. Not with you. For you. That’s what Jesus did for the tax collector. That’s what he did for you when he went to the cross. He bore in his body the full weight of all your sins until he cried out, “It is finished.”
If you understand this - how amazing God’s grace is and what Jesus Christ has done for you - then doesn’t it also change how you look at others? When you see others struggling to lift the bar in life, a bar that’s impossible for them to lift on their own, the last thing you’ll want to do is add more weight on for them like the Pharisees. And you don’t have to help them find someone who seems to be lifting less than them to make them feel better about themselves. You can simply tell them about Jesus—the sinner’s friend. You can point them to the one who lifted the weight of all our sins. He gives us grace because he lifted the bar in our place.