Sometimes I encounter folks suffering from a troubled conscience. "Oh, pastor," they will say, "I am not worthy." They look back on their lives and they are overwhelmed by how far they have fallen short of what they imagine God calls them to be and do.
Of course they have fallen short. We all do. We do not earn our way into God's graces. We cannot. No matter how hard we try, we cannot. That's not what the law was for.
Earning our way may be the way things work according to human expectations, but that's not God's way. God shows the way of righteousness, not in exacting judgment and punishment, but in a surprising gift, the death of Jesus on the cross. For all of us have fallen short. Therefore, God has acted—for you, and for all. This is God's doing. You can take God's firm word on this. That's what faith is about, after all. In this we can boast and find strength and courage for living.
Lord God, Heavenly Father, thank you for acting on our behalf, even though we continue to fall so far short. Help me to remember and live into your word of promise, and to find life, true life, in it. Amen
Romans 3:19-28 (NRSV)
19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.
20 For "no human being will be justified in his sight" by deeds prescribed by the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin.
21 But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets,
22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction,
23 since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God;
24 they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,
25 whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed;
26 it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus.
27 Then what becomes of boasting? It is excluded. By what law? By that of works? No, but by the law of faith.
28 For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law.