You’ve been planning for this day for years. You knew it was coming. So hard you have worked to do the right thing; to clean things up; to cover all of your past mistakes. You have notebooks full of church attendance records, volunteer hours logged, recommendations from prominent friends, mission trip pictures, service awards, and of course that adorable picture of your sponsored child from Uganda. You could barely lug all of the evidence into the courtroom. In your head, you rehearse the litany of good deeds you wracked your brain to remember while preparing for this day. Sure, you slipped up here and there, but overall, you think the good outweighs the bad. So many people are in much worse shape, you remind yourself.
“What is the basis for your not guilty plea?” You are startled back into reality upon hearing the judge’s voice.
You fumble through the piles of evidence you brought in and slowly, methodically begin making your case. A good, solid case. What feels like hours go by as you submit into evidence everything you could think of. This is your life story.
“I’m sorry,” the judge says. “It’s just not enough. You have done a lot of good in your life, but you are still guilty of much. Condemned!” he announces.
You are escorted to an adjacent seat as the next person in your group shuffles to the bench. You stare at him in amazement. He has nothing with hem. Not one shred of evidence to share with the judge. He is a mess. It doesn’t look like he even brushed his hair for this big day.
“What is the basis for your not guilty plea?” The same question is asked of this man.
“Him,” the man points to the corner of the room. His eyes shift downward as he continues, “I am guilty of so much. But in the name of this holy and righteous man who has already paid my penalty, I plead for mercy.”
You squint to see who he is pointing to. Slowly the man walks forward and into focus. You recognize Him. Jesus.
Jesus walks over to the disheveled man; His hands scared from the penalty He has paid for this man. He wraps His arms around the man’s shoulder. His eyes are glowing. His smile lights of the room. Pure joy.
“Not guilty!” the judge shouts as he bangs his gavel on the desk.
A celebration erupts. You even hear the sound of what sounds like multitudes singing, though you can’t tell where it is coming from. Jesus and the man embrace.
If we approach God with anything other than the righteousness of Jesus, we are condemned as guilty. No amount of righteousness through our own works – even that obtained through prayer, devotion, service, or God’s power working in us – will save us. It is only through Jesus. We stand before God with Jesus alone as the basis for our righteousness.
And because of this amazing grace, we do good while we are here in the earthy kingdom of God awaiting our judgment day. It is an output of our salvation, not an input to earn it.
God, let us never forget that it is Christ alone we want to look to as the justification for our salvation. And thank You for this; for the gift of Jesus, because You knew we could never do it on our own. May we live our lives full of good works as a result of what you have done and will do for us, but never as an attempt to earn righteousness on our own.
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