So on my way to the Bahamas this past week I started reading “Jesus> Religion” by Jefferson Bethke. I downloaded it after reading the first chapter for free on my kindle app. I 100% recommend it. Here is the link to get it (Check it out here). If you want to see an awesome video about the book check out this youtube video that has over 30 million views. I promise it won’t disappoint you and it will make you think.
The book made me really think (Those are the best books right?), but one of the chapters I wanted to talk about was about a very typical answer I hear from time to time from people. When the conversation organically comes up and I ask someone what they believe about Jesus and Heaven I typically get the answer “I believe that I am a good person and I think that’s good enough to get me to heaven. I haven’t killed anyone. Overall, I’m a good person and I think that counts for something”. I think we’ve all heard an answer similar to that.
The author made an interesting point and compared that answer to how some professors grade their exams. They grade based on a curve. We don’t have to rely on being the best or even the worst to get a good grade. We just have to be in the middle. So long story short we don’t have to be as morally good as Martin Luther King Jr or Ghandi to go to heaven. We just can’t be as bad Hitler or a serial killer to not go to heaven right? I mean we aren’t as bad as those guys or some people we know so we are definitely in the clear.. right?
“But the truth is, God doesn’t’ grade on a curve: he grades on a cross. Trying to be good enough to earn heaven is like trying to jump to Hawaii from the coast of California. Everyone looks like an idiot. Some drown, some get three feet, some get ten feet, but no one even gets to Hawaii.” -Jefferson Bethke
If you think that way I totally understand. I mean some people can look at the past eight years of my life and say, “Dave is a good guy. He’s done very well for himself”. I mean I earn a six figure income. I volunteer. I’ve never killed anyone and I feel like I do a lot for others when called upon to help. I even put my shopping cart back. But who cares that I cheated on my taxes so I could keep more money in the past. It’s not that bad I’ve slept with countless girls telling them what they wanted to hear to do so. Or how about when I’ve had anger and control problems. I mean my dad wasn’t there for me growing up so I had a good reason right?(no) I only looked at porn a couple times a week. I only checked out a couple girls in bikinis at the resort the past four days if I’m honest. According to everyone else it’s not hurting anyone. But I don’t want to grade myself based on everyone else’s standards.
What I am saying is I was working on getting approval from others and looking great on the outside. I can still be guilty of this if I’m completely honest. I mean who cares if I am actually a good person all the time right? No one can see what’s going on eternally. I can be pretty good at hiding what I’m thinking. I just wanted others to think I had it all together and achieved “success”. A lot of my energy went into looking great in front of others at all times. It’s draining. I wonder how many others do this.
But there is no real freedom in comparing ourselves to others. It’s exhausting and do we want to grade ourselves based on a curve?
Jeff made a great point in his book by saying,
“From a logical standpoint, do we really want to base eternity on how we look compared to someone else? That doesn’t seem to be a reliable standard on which to base my entire life and eternity. Besides, isn’t it tiring always comparing ourselves to others? We do it not only morally but socially, economically, and in a ton of other ways as well. It’s exhausting. One of my favorite things about following Jesus is I get to drop the act, admit I’m not good enough, walk in freedom and that’s good news.”
Did you just breathe a sigh of relief in that last sentence like I did? Admitting we aren’t good enough is probably one of the most freeing things we can tell ourselves. I can be honest and completely transparent with my sins and downfalls because I’m not the one fighting anymore. Jesus fought for us. This is good news because we are free to be messed up. That’s why I can admit my downfalls. I’m not identified by my shame/past. I am working from victory, not for victory.
Admitting I’m not good enough gives me freedom and peace. I don’t have to be the super hero that is perfect and neither do you. The bible calls us out and lets us know that we are way more sinful than we lead ourselves to be but also way more loved than we think we are. We can boast in our weakness because we aren’t defined by them. Our fears and downfalls are drowned in perfect love. It never depended on us, it depended on Jesus.
I’ll leave you with this from Jefferson Bethke. Seriously. Grab the book.
“And so let’s be done with the comparison game. Let’s be done with constantly fighting for the higher moral ground to stand on and look down on everyone else. Let’s be done with thinking we can actually earn something that is impossible to earn. Let’s stop trying to be perfect and righteous because those are not the people God is looking for. God is looking for people who can admit their needs and surrender to a savior, because if the Bible is any indication, it doesn’t matter how messed up you are. If you love him, he can and will use you.”