I’ve read the portion hundreds of times. My memory has retained it for more than 20 years. So when I read the Bible in 90 days recently, I expected to breeze through it. Smile even, at reading something I knew so well.
What I didn’t expect was for my lungs to fail me. For my heart to stop me from reading any further. But I’ve grown to appreciate when it happens. Those moments where He manages to get through to me even when I’m not looking.
You know it, too. It’s one of the first verses you memorize on the Christian journey, wouldn’t you say?
Friends, this is a verse I believe in wholeheartedly. We are all sinners in need of His grace. So I was shocked when He whispered to me:
“See, my child, everyone falls short.
Stop trying to prove it wrong.
Read it again.“
You might remember I had decided to read the Bible through in a new-to-me translation. So this time, I actually read the words in front of me instead of reciting the ones in my head.
For everyone has sinned;
we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.
Romans 3:23 NLT (emphasis mine)
I read it over and over again until what He was saying sunk into my thick skull. And oh my goodness was He ever right. I had been trying to prove it wrong.
You see, for nearly 30 years I’ve tried to prove I make a great Christian. I would set standards for myself and work at meeting them. When I passed those, I would set more challenging expectations and try to reach them. And I was certain this was what the Christian journey should look like for one who was striving to be like Jesus. Always improving. Stretching. Climbing higher up the proverbial ladder. Why, just look at the title of my blog.
What I had missed was the tense of this verse. We’ve all sinned, yes. But it doesn’t say we’ve all fallen short. Like it is a one-time event. No. We all fall short. Time and time again.
My pride was ripped right then and there. Torn from my flesh in a million little pieces. One by one. The sting of ashamedness pulsed with each scale discovered.
Friends, I had missed the point entirely. All these years…years I had spent trying to prove I deserved the gift He was offering me: Grace. Striving to show Jesus didn’t die for me in vain.
When the truth is: We are all hopelessly flawed. There is not a one of us that deserves what He offers. Not one. And no matter how hard we try, none of us will succeed at deserving it: Grace.
We have nothing to offer Him. There is not one thing I have or am capable of that He needs enough to pay for. With His own Perfect Son.
That’s why the Word of God can say Jesus paid it all. (2 Cor. 5:21) Because He did. He paid for us in full. We didn’t contribute one penny. And we can never pay Him back.
We’re hopelessly flawed. That’s a guarantee.
But we’re also hopelessly forgiven. That’s a promise.
Given by the only One who deserves it.
If that isn’t love, I don’t know what is.
If that doesn’t describe grace, I don’t know what does.
My cherished readers, God’s been doing an overhaul on me. It started long before this event. But this is the one that made me realize I need a do-over. I need to be born-anew all over again.
I need to see redemption for what it truly is.
And I need to share it with you.
Do you mind, friend, if we go back to the basics here for awhile? As I sort out what God has been trying to show me? Will you share with me lessons You have learned on your own journey that might help the rest of us here in this space? Because I still believe it. We’re all striving, stretching, sometimes struggling. Why not help each other along the way?
Thanks for sharing your time with me.
Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners
and proved that we are utterly incapable
of living the glorious lives God wills for us,
God did it for us.
Out of sheer generosity He put us in right standing with Himself.
A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in
and restored us to where He always wanted us to be.
And He did it by means of Jesus Christ.
Romans 3:22-24 MSG