Some of us can do pull-ups, or at least at one time we could. Some of us cannot do pull-ups, nor could we ever. But for all of us, the health and fitness industry has come up with a wonderful solution. You may know of this piece of equipment. I don’t really know what to call it, so I will just call it the pull-up assistant. Basically, the way it works is this: you stand on a bar that has a certain amount of lift, which you can adjust to your need. Then you pull yourself up...only you are not completely doing the pull-up yourself. It is a pull-up aided by the lift of the bar you are standing on. Regardless, there is a certain amount of satisfaction you can get, especially with the bystanders looking on, when you can reel off a quick set of 10 (aided) lifts.
I think for many of us though, this exercise helps illustrate our view of GRACE. We probably know we aren’t perfect. We know we are not righteous all by ourselves. But then again, we’re not that far off. If we could just get a little help. Then, maybe, we could really be considered good Christians. I think for many of us, we see Jesus as that bar, helping us (a little) as we pull ourselves up with our works...all in an effort receive His approval. Be honest. Is that, at least in some way, how you view grace? You see grace as a good thing. You may even see it as a gift, but at its core, you see it as a help.
If that is you, let me share with you a short gospel presentation that I learned from Randy Pope, a fellow PCA pastor in Atlanta. It goes like this:
We lost it all.
He did it all.
We get it all.
Now yes, this could be expanded, and is if we were to sit down together and discuss it (which I’d love to do, by the way). But Randy does capture the essence of grace...an essence that is missing in the pull-up bar illustration. You see, there is a little word at the end of each of these sentences. ALL.
We lost it all. We don’t have some ability to pull ourselves up out of our sin but just need a little help to get up over the hump. No. We lost it all. Apart from Christ, there is nothing good within us. Romans 3:10-11 tells us, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.” Ephesians 2:1 even says, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked.” It is pretty straightforward don’t you think? Dead men don’t do pull-ups. We need more than a little help. We need someone to do the pull-up for us.
He did it all. He didn’t help us up. He did it. Who is he and what did he do, you might ask? Well, to quickly summarize, He is Jesus. He lived a perfect live, perfectly fulfilling the righteous requirement of the law of God. AND, He died a perfect death, paying atonement for sins He didn’t commit, taking upon Himself the sins of His chosen people. We find a great summary of this in 2 Corinthians 5:21. “For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” And the last part of that verse points to what comes next.
We get it all. We don’t get help to pull ourselves up out of our sin. We get the full benefit of Christ’s work on our behalf. ALL. We lost it. He did it. We get it. Until we can understand the word ALL, we will never understand the word GRACE. And we get it, the righteousness of Christ, not as a result of works, so that no one may boast (Eph 2:9), but by grace through faith (Eph 2:8).
Friends, pull up bars are good for your body, but they won’t do a thing for your eternal soul. You don’t need help. You need a Savior. You need Jesus. Even though you (and I) have committed adultery by turning from Him and running after our own worthless idols, He has come to buy us back. In Hosea, we see such a clear picture of this in the relationship between Hosea and Gomer, and in the relationship between God and Israel. There we see that even though we have entered into an adulterous relationship with sin, Jesus comes to win us back. In doing so, He lays this claim on His bride:
“And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord.” (Hosea 2:19-20)
This is the grace and love of Jesus Christ. Do you know what it is to be loved like this?