In college I had three term papers due the same week. The first one was for a food research class and counted for 100% of my grade. The second was a psychology research paper and counted 25% of my grade. The last one was for microbiology and counted 20%.
I worked the whole semester researching and performing experiments on gelatin for paper # 1. I got my A, and my teacher submitted my work to a research group where it won an award. That felt good.
I gave the second paper some time, not near the work of the first, but my research was rewarded with another A—but no award.
The third paper, I threw together and got it to my teacher without a minute to spare. It was not my best work, and this was not my favorite teacher. She was a stickler for spelling, and I’m a poor speller. On one test she marked a whole list of bacteria wrong because I had put an “i” instead of an “e” in words 13 letters or longer. One letter wrong and zero credit for the 12 letters right—with her way of grading I was doomed. An A in two classes would not make up for failing a third.
My microbiology teacher exemplifies the law: “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it,” (James 2:10, NIV). God’s standard of righteousness is perfection.
We must have perfect thoughts, perfect attitudes, and perfect actions 100% of the time to graduate to heaven. The problem is, no one does. Isaiah 64:6 calls our righteous deeds filthy rags. That is why God sent Jesus to make the grade for us. Only Jesus could make a perfect score. God gives His score to us through faith. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God,” (2 Corinthians 5:21, NIV). What a deal!
Ironically, of the three term papers I was the happiest with the last one’s score. My teacher began reading them and said they were so bad she threw out the whole class’ papers. I would pass!
God threw out our bad work too. “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God … forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross,” (Col. 2:13-14, NIV). “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast,” (Ephes. 2:8-9).
What failure haunts you? Whose score are you relying on? Do you want the fairness of the law or the grace of God? God offers grace to everyone who comes to Jesus in faith.