Saturday, January 20, 2018

“You’re With Him”

Erwin Lutzer, long-time pastor of Moody Church in Chicago, tells of the story of the time when he was ushered into the Oval Office in the White House. He was once at a conference where he met a Secret Service agent who worked at the White House. During the course of their conversation, the agent asked Lutzer if he would like to go see the Oval Office. The President at the time, George Bush the elder, was out of town for the Memorial Day Holiday and of course, Lutzer said yes. On that Memorial Day Monday he and his daughter showed up at the White House to conduct the visit.

As Lutzer and his daughter went from area to area, they came across guards who were charged with guarding the various entrances to the White House. At the guard shack immediately outside the building, the guard asked Lutzer’s daughter to open her purse, but on recognizing the agent they were with he said “if you’re with him, you can just go in.” They continued their trip and came up to the front door where they met another guard who said “oh, you’re with him; you can go in.” And the same thing was uttered by the guard who was standing right in front of the Oval Office. And so, the tour was completed and the day went along without a hitch.

That reminded the pastor of our spiritual bona fides. What I mean is this: if we’re with Christ, then we can just walk in. And where you may be wondering are we to just walk in? Well, into the presence of the Holy God of the universe, of course! (Hebrews 4:15-16) The reality is that with Christ we can go anywhere. Without Him we can only receive entrance into one and only one place: hell. You see, Martin Luther hit the nail on the head when he read Romans 1:16 and realized that the righteousness of God is not attained by anything within ourselves, or anything that we can achieve. The only way that we can take hold of that righteousness, the righteousness that alone saves and that God alone can give, is by faith in Christ.

Luther was racked by his guilt. He would confess for hours to his father confessor and then come back the next day and confess for hours more. He understood that sin is not something that we, of our own accord can simply discard and rid ourselves of. The Pelagians had made that mistake. They thought that if only we could work hard enough, then we could rid ourselves of sin once and for all. It is no different, the theory goes, than quitting smoking or any other bad habit. All you have to do is want to quit bad enough and that will get the job done.

There are still many in our day who think the same way. The world at large always wants to believe that they have it within themselves to be “good enough” to merit God’s favor. It was not long ago that I had a conversation with a co-worker who at one point in the conversation said “I’m a good person,” the obvious implication being that, on that basis, God should be willing to receive and forgive him. And so it goes with every false religion in the world, even the counterfeits of Christianity that have proliferated in the past two centuries. They all want to be “good enough” to be accepted by God.

The problem with that way of thinking—aside from the fact that we’ll never know when good enough is good enough—is that the price that God demands for His acceptance and forgiveness is not something we have the capability of giving. Regardless of how much we do or how often we do it, no amount of doing is going to get the job done. What God demands is holiness and purity; in other words, perfection (Matthew 5:48). As anyone can tell you, we are incapable of being perfect. Oh, man will try to soften the implications of that fact by saying something like “nobody’s perfect,” in an effort to make it sound a little less problematic. But in the face of a perfect, holy and blameless God, even the smallest infraction is enough to condemn us to hell (Isaiah 64:6).

But the solution is as simple as it is counterintuitive. In the face of a humanity that is always looking to do more and more in order to be acceptable to God, God provides a way that has nothing to do with our actions and everything to do with His. Only if we are in Christ can we receive the forgiveness and blessings of God. When we arrive at the “pearly gates,” the only thing that will matter is whether the Judge on the throne tells us “you’re with Him.” Nothing else will do!




  1. You are quite right. In the end, the largest difference between the Christian faith and all others is that they (all others) teach some variety of a works salvation. Christianity alone (rightly understood) is unique in teaching the helplessness of men to earn righteousness and to find it only in the grace of God.