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You Can’t Climb That Hill.

October 25, 2011

Just a couple of days ago, on the way home from the grocery store, our three year old asked the question that we know is coming for us, at least once a day.  Sometimes he asks it as he is climbing out of the bed in the morning, sometimes he asks it at lunch…but he asks it every single day at some point or another.  And listen, it’s very important to him.  It’s something he needs to know, or he just won’t be able to function.  So there we are…in the car…and he just throws it out there, “Do I have to take a nap today?”

 Take a moment and read through Psalm 24…then follow that by turning to Matthew 5:8.

 We come into this thing trying to earn favor.  It’s just woven into the fabric of our being.  So even for our three year old, when he receives the dreaded, “Yes, you have to take a nap” answer from us…he immediately begins to lay out the case for why he shouldn’t have to.  The response is always based around what he has done…how good he has been.  He tried hard in his soccer game, he took a nap the day before, and he didn’t hit, shove, or bite anyone…obviously, he has earned the right to skip his nap.  Surely, if we are rational, unbiased, and fair, we will understand that his goodness has earned him the right to decide his napping requirements.

 Now, this is a completely ridiculous proposition…even if he does make a decent argument. But, and this is the sad truth, this is exactly what many of us try to do with God.  We are constantly trying to earn the favor of God in order to receive the benefits of God.  In Psalm 24 we see a question being asked, “Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?  And who shall stand in his holy place?”  The response, for any honest person, is just about the worst news we could ever get.  It’s far worse than a nap situation.  Because verse 4 tells us that the one who can stand in God’s holy place is, “He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully.”  As uncomfortable as it is to say, there is nobody who can honestly make a claim to be that person.  None of us have clean hands.  None of us comes with a pure heart.  Part of our standard equipment is a sinful heart…a sinful nature.  And just to be honest, I don’t even need the Scriptures to tell me that…it’s obvious…just look around.

 So then Jesus, in His famous sermon on the mount, says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”  That sounds nice until you realize the depth of it…until you realize that isn’t you at all.  Now, back in Ezekiel 36, God made a promise to His people.  He said, “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your unrighteousness, and from all your idols I will cleanse you.  And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you.  And I will remove your heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”  Read that again…just in case you missed it.  This is God, promising His people, that what they are…isn’t what they will be.

 And that’s the difference between the Gospel and religion.  In religion, it’s about what I do.  It’s like my child with nap time…it’s about earning our place at the table…doing good stuff in order to get good stuff.  But the Gospel isn’t about what you did at all.  What you brought to the table was a heart of stone…a dead heart.  The Gospel of Jesus Christ is that He took that heart of stone on the cross and in His grace gave you a heart of flesh…a heart that’s alive.  The Gospel is that “in Christ Jesus you who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”  The pure in heart know that it’s not about their doing…but only the work of Christ…and they’re saved…they see God.

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