Not for Free

The rain drizzles down as I make my way there. I pray, “Lord, you love me, and I don’t deserve it. Let me love him the way you love him.”

I’ve visited this man nearly monthly since I met him this summer. He has not endeared himself to me. He rambles. His political ideas are all he seems to have, and they seem rather askew to me. He keeps pushing me to see 90 Minutes in Heaven, which I have zero interest in viewing. He smokes. A lot.

This is a man that Jesus died for.

And so I go, yet again, to invite him to our Christmas Eve service. I have a little postcard with the time of our service, as well as an invitation to join us for cookies before the service. An easy invite. It’s Christmas!

He talks a little bit about The Passion of the Christ. He can’t believe how much Jesus suffered. Oh, a softball. Now I get to talk about why Jesus suffered! And I share Law: This is what Jesus suffered, because this is what you deserve. I share the Gospel: This is what Jesus suffered, because he loves you.

By the time I got home, I seethed with anger. I don’t remember the exact flow of the conversation. I remember snippets, though.

I say, “The wages of sin is death.”

Him: “I don’t believe that. People die because they stop breathing.”

Me: “The bible says that the wages of sin is death.”

Him: “Well, the Bible is wrong. You ever see that movie…”

He says he believes in the Supreme Being – “I want you to know, I mean the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit when I say that.” But he refuses to even look at a Bible. “I don’t trust words that are written down.” Apparently he trusts movies, though.

I say, “Look, the wages of sin is death. But! The gift of God is eternal life – in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

“I don’t take free gifts. I don’t care if heaven is free. I’m going to work my way there.”

Dude, you can’t. There is no way for you to do it. You’re not good enough. God demands perfection.

“I’ve never killed anyone! I raised my kids right!”

I answer, “You know what Jesus said? He said that if you’re angry at someone, in God’s eyes, that’s the same as murder.”

He doesn’t care what Jesus said, even though that’s from the famed Sermon on the Mount.

I ask him, “How do you know you’re going to heaven?”

“My heart tells me.”

“You cheated on your wife. Your heart lies to you all the time. You told me so.”

“Well, my feelings tell me.”

“Those lie to you.”

“Well, my soul tells me.”

“Your soul lies to you. The Bible says, ‘The thoughts of the heart are only evil all the time.'”

“Well, maybe that’s the way it used to be. But I’m better now, and I’m getting better every day.”

This man… he is dead in his sins. And he doesn’t know it. He admits it freely: “A man has his pride! I won’t take anything free!”

And this man… at least right now, based on his confession, is rocketing to hell. He is not good enough for heaven. No one is righteous, no not one. All have sinned and fall short the glory of God. The wages of sin is death. He can’t avoid it. God demands, “Be holy, because I the Lord your God am holy.”

And because he refuses to accept his need… he will never, ever be able to grip what Jesus has actually done for him. Until he sees the wrath of God, he will never understand God’s incredible love.

You can never work for what God gives freely.

And when I got home, walking in the rain, I seethed. Very little has riled me up like this in a long time.

I prayed that God would make me love him like God loves him. I guess God answered. Because God is angry that he has done so much for this man… and he refuses it. God paid a dear price so this man could be with him in heaven… and that’s not good enough for this man. This man? He wants to pay it himself.

God has told him exactly what it takes to get into heaven, and that he can never pay it. God has told him that Jesus has paid it all. I remember telling him, “I can’t get into heaven. There’s no way. I can’t make it. God will always be angry at me. Except… except Jesus paid what I owed. All of it. Pressure’s off. My way is certain.” God told him all that in the Bible… but this man would rather hold to his movies and his gut, which all lead him astray.

Yes. I am more than a little discouraged.

And then, just a few hours later, we had our weekly Bible Information Class. We have a class of six this go-around.

One woman showed up.

More discouragement. Exactly what I needed.

And we have class anyway. And I share the Gospel anyway. And she rejoices.

Yes. This is exactly what I needed.

Today God showed me his love, his raging love, his perfect righteousness. He reaches out to two… one resists, and to the other God gives faith. One says he will work his way; the other rejoices that she can’t.

And God used me both times to declare his Word.

This is who I am: Just someone who points to Jesus. The first man rejected my words… but he thought he was just rejecting some pastor. He doesn’t know he’s rejecting God himself. This woman, she heard in my voice God’s own Word declaring her a child of God.

And sometimes that raging love sweeps me away. And it is good. And it is frustrating. And it brings tears of anger. And tears of joy.

And somehow, God chooses to bless me with this role.

This is who I am: A child of God.

And it’s totally his doing and not mine, thank God.

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