Taking Matters Into Your Own Hands

    September 21, 2017 | Articles by Rev. David Bodanza

    One of Elvis Presley's most beloved songs in his concert repertoire was "I Did It My Way." He performed the song with such passion that it appeared as if the song was thematic of his life. Here was a poor boy from Tupelo, Mississippi, who sang his way to riches and global fame. He went from being a pauper to becoming the "King of Rock 'n' Roll." But the American dream quickly turned into a nightmare. Elvis, trying to dull the pain and pressure, became hooked on prescription drugs and eventually died at age 42 of an overdose. Tragically, Elvis did it his way. And his way ended in death and destruction.

    His musicians tell us that Elvis would often seek escape late at night by singing Christian hymns with his bandmates. He may have learned these hymns growing up in an Assemblies of God church. Whether Elvis sincerely sought rescue from Jesus Christ is for God to judge.

    Many receive the promise of salvation by placing their faith in Jesus Christ, but then take matters into their own hands. They try to earn salvation their way. The Apostle Paul corrected the Galatians, challenging them "Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?" (Galatians 3:3). Are you trying to do it your way? If one could be right with God by his own efforts, what efforts would be sufficient in God's eyes? Some would protest, "I am a good person!" The first problem with this common protest is the standard by which a "good person" is determined. It is human nature to select someone else and point out, "See! I have never done what he did! I never did what she did!"

    The real standard, however, is not some other poor soul of our own selection. The standard is the Word of God. One day, a lawyer asked Jesus this question to test him: “'Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?' And he said to him, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two

    commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.'” (Matthew 22:35-40) No one can honestly say that they have perfectly loved the Lord God with all their heart and with all their soul and with all their mind. Neither can they maintain that they have perfectly loved their neighbor as themselves.

    The second problem with the good person argument is that it assumes that one may be right with God by his own efforts. In truth, no one may be right with God by his own efforts. Only those who put their faith in Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ alone may be right with God. "[F]or all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith." (Romans 3:23-25a) We enter the Christian life through faith and continue in the Christian life through faith.

    Legalism sanctifies no one. Nor does it justify. Self-salvation is no salvation at all. The central message of the Bible is that, on the cross, Jesus Christ has done something for us which we cannot do for ourselves. Only by Jesus' death on the cross are the believer's sins atoned for and forgiven. We are rescued by the grace of God. It is the gift of God. (Ephesians 2:8). Justification is an act of God's free grace. Sanctification is the work of God's free grace. "I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules." (Ezekiel 36:25-27)

    The Galatians had known of the love of God displayed by the death of Jesus on the cross. They had realized the deliverance, joy and freedom that comes through hearing with faith this

    message of redemption. But they were deceived again, on the precipice of returning to the do-it-yourself way of seeking to be right with God by their own efforts of keeping the law.

    God the Father so loved the world that He sent His only Son Jesus to rescue us from eternal punishment. Jesus came to this earth on a rescue mission some 2,000 years ago. God the Son left the glory of heaven to become a "God-Man." Jesus is totally unique. He was born without being infected by sin. He is fully God and fully man. He has two natures in one person. He came to live. He lived His life here on earth and obeyed God perfectly. He came to die. He laid down His life for His people as a sacrifice. He came to die in our place. The Bible says that "Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:5-11)

    At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Will you bow your knees now to the lordship of Jesus Christ? Will you confess now that Jesus Christ is Lord? Those who refuse to kneel and bow in this life will certainly do so in the next life, but then it will be too late. While the rugged individualism of the American spirit may be celebrated in a song like "I Did It My Way," doing it your way rather than God's way will destine you for destruction in the next life. You won't get that from the song, though. Check out the message tucked into the last stanza:

    For what is a man, what has he got? If not himself, then he has not

    To say the things he truly feels And not the words of one who kneels The record shows I took the blows And did it my way

    Warren Wiersbe tells the story of a man who had been a severe drinker. The man did it his way, and nearly destroyed himself. By the grace of God, he became a Christian and was changed from his former way of life. A skeptic, hearing that the notorious drunk was miraculously changed, quizzed the new Christian, “Do you really believe those miracles in the Bible?” The new Christian replied, “Of course I do!” The skeptic just laughed. “Do you mean to tell me that you really believe that Jesus can turn water into wine?” he asked. The Christian replied, "I sure do! In my house, He turned beer into food and clothing and furniture!”

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