Summary: Using the "Justin" story to illustrate simple Christianity. Christians forget where they came from. Evidence? I give three (there are more).
Last week I read a story to you in an attempt to clearly illustrate our position before God. In the next few weeks I will continue to use that story to illustrate in more detail how our relationship with God should work. This process is important because the gospel can become mundane to us over time and then we get off course, our eyes drift away from Jesus and on to something else.
Now, when I wrote that story one of the things that occurred to me straight away is how remote Justin seems to most of us. I described him as, “growing up on the streets”; as one who “had seen and done it all” and one who “had committed crimes that should have landed him in prison for a very long time.” “Everything he had was stolen. His manners were atrocious, he smelled bad, he was always dirty and he either ignored or laughed at evil.” I knew even as wrote about his condition that most Christians would see this boy as someone else...not themselves. I debated with myself about how to make Justin more relevant to the average churchgoer and decided that I would be doing the gospel a disservice by doing so. The more I thought about it, the more concerned I became that I would even consider changing Justin’s condition rather than our belief. Let me explain by first reading to you this passage:
1 Co 1:26-31 - 26Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29so that no one may boast before him. 30It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.” (NIV)
II. Three evidences of our boasting
I believe that one of the number one problems in the western Church is that most Christians forget where they came from. I believe that most Christians, especially those that have been so for a number of years, have come to believe that they SHOULD go to heaven. Oh they might not admit to that belief out loud, and they might give lip service to the theology of “saved by grace”, but their lives tell another story. In the deep parts of their mind they believe that they are going to heaven because they are a good person or because they have done good things. Even in those rare moments when they doubt their salvation, in the back of their minds they are still saying, “but I’m a good person.” And when I describe this boy as one so obviously guilty and without hope of escaping justice, I believe that most who hear that description picture someone other than themselves.
Let me give to you three pieces of evidence:
A. Do you think that Justin, after escaping a life sentence because of the sacrifice of Joshua, would ever look down on anyone?
And yet, I am amazing at how a person who was pulled off the highway to hell by one who was willing to die for them can look down on others who are on that same highway. Who can speak of certain kinds of sinners with a touch of disgust in their voice. It’s as if these people are somehow worse. Somehow more deserving of hell. Oh, but they are homosexual! Oh, but they do drugs! Oh, but they neglect their children. Oh, but they are Jehovah’s Witnesses! Yes, they...they are the real “Justins” in the world...the real sinners. Those without the truth.
Jesus had much to say on this subject but I will share with you only one of his comments which he made in the telling of this parable (found in Lk 18:9-14):
9To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: 10“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ 13“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ 14“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God.