Imagine this situation: because of an ongoing illness, a stay-at-home mom is not able to keep up with the housekeeping. The carpets go un-vacuumed, the clothes hampers overflow, and the sink fills with dirty dishes. Try as she might, she just can’t get it all done. In such a case, there’s no shame in asking for some help around the house. But even after a friend offers to clean up for free and to help keep the house spic and span afterward, the mom puts off the help. She’s a bit embarrassed about the state of things and insists that before she lets anyone in to help clean up the mess, she has to first … clean up the mess.
We can laugh at that situation, but if we look a bit deeper, how many of us are guilty of the same sort of thinking when it comes to our spiritual lives? We know that our “house” is a bit messy and that we’re having trouble keeping it clean, but we’re embarrassed to accept the help that Jesus freely offers. We say, “Yes, Lord, I need Your help, but just let me get this place straightened up a bit before I invite You in. Wouldn’t want You to see the mess.” It is, in a way, denying the grace He freely offers, insisting that we can work it out on our own.
This is similar to the situation faced by the churches of Galatia in the first century. Some false teachers were telling these non-Jewish Christians, recent converts, that they could not be truly saved unless they first became Jews and followed the Old Testament Law. The gospel of grace preached by the apostle Paul was being subverted by these Judaizers with a gospel of works. In essence, they were saying that before you allow Jesus to cleanse you of your sins, you had better cleanse yourself by fulfilling the law.
In his letter to the Galatians, Paul stressed that keeping the law does not save us. “We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified” (Galatians 2:15-16 NIV).
The law serves to reveal our inadequacy to obey. The only thing that will save us is faith in Jesus Christ. His salvation is a gift from God. It cannot be earned through works or good behavior. To stick with our analogy, you don’t have to clean up the house before you invite the Cleaner in. Indeed, you can never get it as clean as He can. Whether you’re a long-time believer who has let his life get a bit messy or a person seeking the Lord for the first time, know that you can put down that broom and allow Jesus to come in now, just as you are.
Dr. Stanley explains how we can have spiritual liberation through God’s grace in his series, Liberated By Faith: A Study of Galatians, available for purchase in our online store.