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The Great Joke

‘Oh, of course. I’m wrong. Everything I say or do is wrong, according to you.’
‘But of course!’ said the Spirit, shining with love and mirth so that my eyes were dazzled. ‘That’s what we all find when we reach this country. We’ve all been wrong! That’s the great joke. There’s no need to go on pretending one was right! After that we begin living.’

Lewis, C. S. The Great Divorce: A Dream. New York: HarperOne, 2001. p. 102. Print.

This passage from C. S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce: A Dream made me laugh out loud when I read it because of how true it is. I’ve written on this many times before, so I won’t spend too much time in this article. Simply admire the wisdom behind these words.

As I said in a recent podcast, I’m not sure how much faith I had in God growing up. I had more faith in myself, and it seemed like the hope and faith in God was that He would hold up His end of the deal. If I would just say the right things, do the right steps, and worship in the right way then Heaven would be mine. If I slipped up, it was up to me to repent, confess, and be a good little boy. It seemed to be an “all of self; none of thee” relationship. It reminds me of a passage from Romans:

Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due.

Romans 4:4

I relied so much on my knowledge, my abilities, and my actions, that there was little-to-know real trust in God. Like the man from chapter four in The Great Divorce, if God would have asked me why I ought to go to Heaven I would have said, “I’m just telling you the sort of chap I was, see? I’m asking for nothing but my rights… I’m a decent man and if I had my rights I’d have been here long ago and you can tell them I said so.”

A friend of mine at church camp proposed the same scenario as above, and the answer he offered was, “The only way I could ever get through those gates is by your mercy alone.” I wonder how many people who heard that understood the significance of what he said. I know that I didn’t, but the thought stuck with me.

Here are a collection of verses from Romans to close this short article. I won’t add any commentary. Please read them slowly and take in every syllable for me.

What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; as it is written, “THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE; THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS, THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD; ALL HAVE TURNED ASIDE, TOGETHER THEY HAVE BECOME USELESS; THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD, THERE IS NOT EVEN ONE.”

Romans 3:9–12

For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.

Romans 5:6–10

But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification. For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.

Romans 5:15–19

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 6:23

But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace.

Romans 11:6

From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. For just as you once were disobedient to God, but now have been shown mercy because of their disobedience, so these also now have been disobedient, that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy. For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all. Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, OR WHO BECAME HIS COUNSELOR? Or WHO HAS FIRST GIVEN TO HIM THAT IT MIGHT BE PAID BACK TO HIM AGAIN? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.

Romans 11:28–36

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