At the heart of all our weariness, all our frustration and angst over our inability to “get it together” is a deeply spiritual problem. It’s this: We don’t have the power to transform ourselves, to be good enough by adherence to rules, goals or seeking to live a certain way. Here’s Paul’s self-assessment, “I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.” We can’t change ourselves, no matter how hard we try. Because of our ongoing failure to live as we should, we’re never able to rest, never satisfied with a “good” day’s work…at least not for long. Completing every item on your bullet list won’t ultimately bring you deep rest of soul. Why? Because God has written his law on your heart and it’s a law you’re unable to fulfill because it’s far more difficult than anything on your list. What does that law look like? It’s more than remembering to take the shirts out of the dryer whenever it buzzes. Here’s how Jesus put it:
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…You shall love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37, 39).
God’s list for us today is really quite simple: Love Him and your neighbor perfectly. That’s it, that’s all, just that one tiny bullet point. But in that one little point on your list you and I are both failing miserably. His demand of love, devotion, and worship plus service of neighbor is simply more than we can do. If His command is love and if His standard is perfection (Matt 5:48), then let’s stop fooling ourselves into thinking that a couple of “how-to’s” from a blogger will change anything. We need more help than that. We need a Rescuer and, gladly, that’s just what we’ve been given.
The second Person of the Trinity, God the Son, came to earth and took upon Himself human flesh so that He could rescue us from the tyranny of the Law, our slavery to death and lifelong fear, our inability to ever really get it together and God’s judgment. This is what He said to John at the beginning of His public ministry, “…it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Later on, on the Sermon on the Mount He said,
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished (Matt 5:17-18).
Jesus spent His entire life, especially those first 30 ignominious years in Nazareth loving His Father and His neighbor in your place. He worshipped perfectly, delighted in serving His family as a single head of a household and loved the women in the village even though they schemed about Him. What on earth is He doing in that filthy carpenter’s apron with splinters in his hands? He’s fulfilling the Law for you so you don’t have to live your life in bondage to lists. He’s making you righteous so that you will never have to wonder about your own goodness or the Father’s disposition toward you. He’s freeing you from that incessant inner slave driver who never lets you rest and alternately tells you to just give up. He’s come to set you free from sin…not just the sin of failing to complete your list (if that even is a sin!) but also the sin of trying to approve of yourself, save yourself and live for your own glory. He’s come to free you from bondage and the only way that can happen is for you to finally and fully come to the end of your own righteousness and rest in His righteousness for you alone. Here’s Paul again,
…we know that a person is not justified [both forgiven and righteous] by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified (Gal 2:16).
Jesus had a list. He called it the “work” His Father had given Him to do. He was so intent upon completing the list His Father had given Him, He called it His food, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work” (John 4:34; See also John 5:17, 36, 10:37-38). His list keeping was His food, the very thing that sustained Him…that’s how intent He was on fulfilling all the work that needed to be done to bring you to Himself. And He did it.
So, let me ask you, Why are you living under the tyranny of your list?
Read Part 1: The Sin Cursed World Syndrom
Read Part 2: The Answer to Your Chaos is Not a List It’s a Person