Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Who's to Blame

This week marks the last section in chapter 4, "Goodness." So far we have explored the idea that the value of a human is not first and foremost in what he does, but in who he is. Learning from Jesus that God alone is good, we began to reassess what we mean by the word "goodness" in order to learn that there are two kinds of "goodness." What we do is one kind, and, while good, it cannot conquer death. We need the kind of goodness only God does.

In the section "Of Earth and Heaven" we further explored the differences between these kinds of goodness, especially seeing how it is by pursuing our own "doing" goodness in place of God's "given" goodness that Adam and Eve first fell in the first place. We also saw how perfect our own "doing" goodness ought to be and faced the sad fact that our attempts at it are not "good" enough. On top of that, the goodness we need most, outside of Jesus, is terribly missing.

In "Cows and Arithmetic," we explore the purpose of the Ten Commandments as a blueprint for "doing goodness," and tackle the tough reality that what the commands demand they do not help us achieve. We also learned that humans respond two different ways to this realization about our limitations. One is to repent. The other is to reject even "doing" goodness altogether.

In "Beggars and Life-Guards," we contemplate how continuing to try to please God in the face of our predicament is not only the continuation of our original sin, but the greatest hindrance to our receiving the one thing we need most.

Last week, in "Good People Go to Hell," we look at the doctrine of how all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a free gift in Christ our Lord.

This week, we finish the chapter by pointing fingers in "Who's to Blame"


The world always teaches the same false religion. It says, “Do this,” and “Do that,” and “ you will become good.” But the work is never done.1 There is always farther to go. The religion of the God who has revealed himself in Jesus says something altogether different. He says, “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. I will die and I will rise.” And then everything is done already.

The world will always try to pull you back: lead a moral life, meditate, transcend and discipline, buy this book, use this prayer, love yourself, make a difference, dream big – then you will find the goodness you're looking for.2 But God has declared that in Christ you have the goodness already. You don't need to overcome the world. In Jesus, you have overcome the world already.3 You don't need to run from death. In Jesus, you are alive forever already.4

And you don't need to try to be more good in order to find peace of conscience. In Jesus, you have the right kind of goodness – completely and fully and forever – already.5 It's not about what you do. It is completely separated from everything that you have ever done, and for that very reason it is more certain and founded than anything else in your life has ever been.6 It does not need to be turned, applied, practiced or effected. It is finished. God has said that your value does not lie in what you do, but in who you are now because of what Jesus has done for you.7

Please, feel free to believe it: Christ has pleased God, and that means that, in him, you please God. Period. It is not a matter of your work. It is because you are being worked on by Jesus. God does not smile on anyone because of their operating in all the “right” ways. God smiles on everyone whom his Son is performing an operation on.

This is absolutely a matter of semantics. This is all about Words – God's Words – God's promises – and we still have much to explore and learn from the Bible in this regard. But for now, understand that where you and I seek out things and people to love because we think they are worth loving, this is not the way of God. His goodness is different. When God wants to love something, he doesn't go out to discover something to love. He creates it. When he wants to be pleased, he pleases himself by creating pleasure. And it is his pleasure to make you to object of his pleasure. Unearned. Underserved. Not done by you. A different kind of goodness. Given.8

Jesus is the only Way of salvation because Jesus is the only goodness that doesn't depend on what you do. Jesus saves without your payment.9 Jesus saves without reservations. Jesus was born, lived, died and rose from the grave because you (and all the world with you) were worthless, but by his goodness he is making you (and all the world with you) worthy again with his worthiness. Even this is not about what we will do now, but about who we are now in him. You were a traitor in the enemy's camp, but now you are an heir to the throne of the King.10 You were a beggar dressed in rags, but now you are a wedding guest dressed in a white robe.11 You were a seed of the devil's lies, but now you are a Son of the Living God.

You had a cramp, went under the water, had your lungs filled, and were as good as dead. But Jesus dived in (he didn't even take his shoes off!) and pulled you out. He did the CPR, shoved on your belly till you coughed up the water and breathed air into your lungs. He even left you on a boat that will never sin, no matter what kind of floods and rage this world may still have left in it.

You were (and often still are) a worker of evil. But Jesus has made you also a work of grace. There are two kinds of goodness, and in Christ there is no condemnation because he is the source of the better one. In God's sight, even though you might never have done one good thing in your whole life, you are a far better person than you ever dreamed. And for once, the only righteous thing you can do about it is blame it on Somebody Else.


1. James 2:10 “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.”
2. Colossians 2:21-22 ““Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.”
3. John 16:33 “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
4. John 11:25 “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.[1] Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.”
5. 1 Timothy 1:3,5 “Charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine.... The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”
6. Titus 3:5 “He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy.”
7. 1 John 5:4 “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.”
8. Hosea 2:23 “I will have mercy on No Mercy, and I will say to Not My People, ‘You are my people’; and he shall say, ‘You are my God.’ ”
9. 1 Peter 1:18-19 “You were ransomed...not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ.”
10. Galatians 4:7 “So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.”
11. Revelation 7:9 “I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands.”

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