Sometimes we need to hear the truth in an upfront obvious way. We can be thick. We can be dense. We deceive ourselves into believing some things. Where is our standard? What is our guide? How do we discern the Truth?
The Word of God.
Romans 3:19-20 is a smacking reminder we cannot earn our way to heaven. “Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
We cannot be good enough in our own power to please God. When we focus on the rules, we don’t become better, we only see how bad we are. We see how desperate we are for a Savior.
Even if you’ve never read John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, the (not-so-subtle) names of the characters tell you quite a bit. Christian, Evangelist, Mr. Worldly-Wiseman, and Mr. Legality are exactly what you would expect; nevertheless, Bunyan’s point cuts to the heart.
In his journey from the City of Destruction to Mt. Zion, Christian takes some bad advice from Mr. Worldly-Wiseman. In this snippet, Bunyan powerfully illustrates the truths of Romans 3:19-20 and Galatians 4:21-27:
“Christian left his path to go to Mr. Legality’s house for help. As Christian neared the hill, he was struck by how high and foreboding the hill appeared. One side of the hill hung precariously over the path that wound its way around it, and Christian feared that the overhanging hill would fall on him.
Filled with fear, Christian stopped his journey and stood still, wondering what he should do. His burden now seemed heavier to him than it was just moments before he had taken this detour off the path that Evangelist had instructed him to follow.
Flashes of lightning came out of the hill, and Christian was afraid that he would be burned. Christian began to sweat and quake with fear. He was sorry that he had taken Mr. Worldly-Wiseman’s counsel.”
After meeting back up with Evangelist, Christian’s error is explained to him:
“The person to whom you were sent for relief, whose name is Legality, is the son of the slave woman who, with all her children, is still in bondage. The mountain that you feared would fall on your head is Mount Sinai. Now if the slave woman and all her children are in bondage, how can you expect them to set you free from your burden?”