There’s simply nothing you can do to gain God’s favor.
You have to accept this and remember it: you will never be righteous enough for long enough to satisfy God’s holy requirements.
Your thoughts will never be pure enough. Your desires will never be holy enough. Your words will never be clean enough. Your choices and actions will never be honoring enough. The bar is simply set too high for us to ever reach.
We all live under the same weight of the law, crippled by the inability of sin. We’re better at rebelling than submitting, more inclined to arrogance than humility, more skilled at making war with our neighbors than loving them. We leave a trail of evidence every hour that we’ve fallen short of the glory of God one more time.
So what’s the point of obedience in the Christian life? Well, this hard-to-swallow pill of bad news is actually the doorway to eternal hope and joy, not depressive self-loathing. How? It’s only when you accept who you are and what you’re unable to do that you begin to understand and celebrate the necessity of God’s gift of grace.
Let’s put the bad news and the good news together. The Apostle Paul writes, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” but that’s only half of the story. He continues, “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 3:23-25, ESV)
A propitiation is an atoning sacrifice. The sacrifice of Jesus appeased the wrath of God and created a reconciliation between God and all who place their faith in him. In more simple words: you don’t need to obey to gain God’s favor.
Don’t misunderstand me: grace doesn’t make obedience optional. Obedience is the life-long calling for followers of Christ. But, your obedience is never a fearful payment. It’s a hymn of gratitude to the God who met you where you were and did for you what you could not have done for yourself.
Your obedience doesn’t purchase God’s love for you; Christ’s blood is the only purchase that could do that. Rather, your obedience is a thankful expression that you understand the significance of God’s love being placed on you.
So today, humbly admit that you’re more messed up than you think you are. And commit once more to a lifestyle of obedience, not because Jesus needs you to, but because you understand how much you need Jesus.