Summary: Contrasting life under the rigidity of Law to life of freedom under the sweet grace of God.
What Is “The Right Relationship With Jesus”? by Grant S. Sisson
Yesterday was a long hard day for me. After the Board meeting yesterday morning, Ann and I went to White House, TX to visit my dad, who, as you know, is suffering with terminal cancer. The Hospice people had arranged all this in advance, and it had taken quite an effort to get all the family there at the same time, but we got there about three o’clock in the afternoon and spent better than two hours recording a session where we spoke of childhood memories, asked Dad about his childhood and early adult years, and just generally got an afternoon’s worth of laughing and crying in.
Have you ever felt the need to talk of the next life with someone who is dying? Someone you are very close to? I have been struggling for years really trying to figure a way to bring the subject up with Dad, but now there is no more time to figure. I know every time that I get a chance to see him that it may very well be the last. Now my father is a good man, very family oriented, has always worked hard to care for his family and been kind to strangers. But I just didn’t know what to expect when I asked him about his relationship with Jesus.
How do you know that your relationship with Jesus is right? We hear people use that term often – “right relationship with Jesus.” But what does it mean, and how do we know when we’ve got it?
Most world religions consist of a set of rules and commandments to obey. They say, “If you do theses things you will reach Nirvana, or get your seventy virgins, or go to heaven.” This leaves us in a bit of a quandary. Whose rules are right? Especially since the rules often directly contradict one another. How do we know that a good Jewish person is better off than a good Muslim, or a good Hindu – or vice versa? Especially since no one has ever obeyed all the rules – anyone’s rules – perfectly.
So the first thing we need to approach is the idea of reward. Hard to do – it makes such intuitive sense. It seems that if we do all the right good things that all will be well. And surely someone has come up with all the right rules somewhere – we come from the Judeo-Christian heritage, so the Ten Commandments would be our first bet, right?
Looks good. Exodus 20:1-17:
Basically says this:
God says “Don’t worship any other gods besides Me.”
Don’t make idols to bow down to.
And He says, “Don’t use My name in a flippant or vulgar way, especially to condemn your brothers.” Respect My Name.
Keep this one day every week holy. You are to worship me on that day, and cease from all your labors in order to focus your spiritual energies on remembering Me.
Honor your father and your mother.
You shall not murder.
You shall not commit adultery.
You shall not steal.
You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
You shall not covet…anything that belongs to your neighbor.
Well, that sounded like a good approach, but how many of us in this room right now are not guilty of violating any of these rules? (Note that your preacher is not raising his hand - nor is he asking for a show of hands! Enumerate –“How many have never used God’s name in vain? How many have ALWAYS honored their parents? How many have never committed adultery? How many have never stolen, nor coveted someone else’s possessions? If we could pick and choose, and say that not violating one of them was all that we needed, we might be OK. but that’s not what it says. Scripture tells us that if one is guilty of violating one of the rules, he is a lawbreaker.) And what is the penalty for violation of the rules? God’s punishment. And if there aren’t any people in this room that are perfect, I’ll bet that there are no other rooms this morning in which there are any perfect people. Well, strike one, nobody’s going to heaven because nobody can keep the rules.
But suppose that somebody could. Suppose that there was super-saint out there somewhere over the rainbow who had never violated any of these rules, nor any of the 613 ordinances that went with them. Who’s to say that this person even knows who God is? One could obey a set of laws without knowing who wrote them – do any of you here know who wrote the IRS regulations that you are commanded to obey each April 15th? And yet you (I suppose) obey them. It would be a distant God indeed who would be satisfied with that arrangement. Strike two.