by Rick Pidcock
School had ended. And it was time for me, my dad, and my three brothers to all pile in the small Suzuki sidekick with our bookbags, instruments, and football pads to head home. And being a new driver, it was my chance to take the wheel.
As I drove down a two lane road, I kept glancing down at the speedometer every few seconds. The speed limit was only 35. And I had to make sure that I was staying under it. You see, speeding, no matter how little or how much, was a sin. And if I sinned too much, or died without confessing my sin, I thought I would end up in hell. So I kept focusing down at the speed limit to make sure that I was not sinning.
All of the sudden, everybody yelled. I looked up. And I realized that I was going through a red light, which was also a sin. And I didn’t know how much more I could take.
Once again, I found myself alone, afraid that I had lost my salvation that day. Even if I confessed, how did I know for sure that my confession was genuine enough? I knew that I had to figure out a way to not speed, but still drive well in order to make sure that I would be pure enough to make it into heaven.
1. The Law must be kept perfectly to have fellowship with God.
“For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.” James 2:10
I was correct in thinking that perfect obedience was necessary to have fellowship with God. Because God is infinitely holy, we cannot even hope to come close to being worthy of Him. Even if we could come 99% of the way, it would not be enough.
Though I claimed to be concerned with God’s holiness, I actually had a very low view of Him and a very high view of myself. I actually thought that I could keep myself pure enough to be acceptable to Him. That thinking lowered the infinite holiness of God to something attainable, and it raised my infinite depravity to something manageable.
2. The Law drives us to Christ.
“So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.”–Galatians 3:24
As I kept staring at my speedometer that afternoon, the law was driving me crazy. I was so frustrated because no matter how obedient I had been on one road, I had to maintain that purity on the next road. And if I didn’t, I had to make sure that my confession was genuine. Then I had to make sure that I had a genuine confession of all that I didn’t even know that I had done wrong.
However, the law was not written to teach us how to live in order to please God. It was meant to show us that we could never come close to pleasing God. It was meant to drive us to the only One Who can be righteous–Christ.
I viewed the law as something that would drive me to more determination and more obedience in hopes to keep myself pure enough to make it to heaven. But that is the very definition of self-righteousness.
The law was never meant to lead me to myself. It was meant to lead me to Christ.
3. Christ is our righteousness.
“Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. 20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”–Romans 5:18-21
We have been declared righteous by the obedience of Christ. He lived the perfect life that we could never live. He not only died for our sins, He lived for our righteousness. So when we find ourselves burdened under the weight of the law, we must simply fall on the righteousness of Christ that has been imputed in full to our account by grace.
I’m not a huge fan of the NLT, but I do like the way that it paraphrases verse 20, “God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant.”
For years, the law frusterated me. But for years, while it was meant to drive me to trust the righteousness of Christ, I was instead running to my own self-righteous determination, effort, and purity.
It was not until a few years later that grace began to grip my soul and open my eyes. But even in these frusterating car rides, grace was revealing to me the futility of self-righteousness, and drawing me in.