Have you ever felt that you are so esteemed with piety because religiosity flow naturally from your being? You like going to church. You are devoted to church causes. You are devoted to missionary work. The way you could speak and stand for what was religiously right was just astounding.
Sadly, I was just describing myself to you. Yes, that was me. I was a top religious achiever. Yet, one day, I was puzzled when I heard from my teacher that even your best efforts for Jesus amount to zero! What? That was painful. I thought I was doing what is just right while others are left behind with my religious zeal. While I was topping in my religious life, others were failing miserably. I always come out a victor, I thought, but sadly my teacher explained all those things amounted to zero.
Because in the kingdom of Grace our best efforts do not count the way we count it. In the kingdom of Christ, it is about His presence and His works and not ours.
And yes, I came to realize that my teacher was right because, despite my best efforts, my works never changed a single portion of my character. I remained self-centered, self-confident, self-reliant, proud, unsympathetic, hypocritical, empty, and broken. I championed religion but never spirituality and love. I remained a sinful man like what Peter uttered in verse 8 of Luke 5, “Go away from me, Lord I am a sinful man,” and the answer of Jesus shocked me. “Don’t be afraid because from now on you will catch men.” The moment I saw the glory of Christ, like the miracle of the fishnet with Peter. I realized there is more to my efforts. There is more to my hard work. There is more to all my religion because what I have become amounted to nothing.
There is more, and that is JESUS. There is Jesus who does not help me perform but changes what is inside me so good fruits come out from a good heart. There is Jesus who is more than overcoming every bad behavior because He grants me the fruit of the Holy Spirit that fuels my faith in the ONE who already overcomes.
Just like Peter, after that encounter by the sea. It is like Jesus talking to me, “it’s okay, from now on, you will work hard to save others. To bring others the Good News and to love them. You will not work hard for your own salvation but the salvation of others. You are fine, now get up and tell others the wonderful works of God.” Wow!!! I didn’t want to stand up; I want to remain at His feet and cry and cry.
Christianity is not about my religion and my religiosity; it is about our encounter with Jesus and the change that He offers to bring in our sinful hearts. It is not my religion that changed me but my encounter with Jesus in my religion that did! WE CAN HAVE A RELIGION YET REMAIN AN UNBELIEVER IN OUR ACTIONS AND WORKS. When I knew that He already did all the works I needed to do to be saved, I was relieved from a very heavy burden. Salvation is God’s gift; you don’t need to earn a gift; the gift is given. Now, My religion becomes refreshing water that reminds me of the ability of Christ and not mine. My religiosity broke into pieces, and like a Lego block that is just starting to add one piece after the other, that is the work happening inside me with the gift of spirituality.
Now, I don’t see that I top it all. Now I see how a poor sinner I am. Now, I come to see that I am disqualified without Jesus. Without His presence, I am but a clanging cymbal and a hopeless sinner. But since He came into my life, He qualifies me every day. This story can be your story today, too!