Some of humanity’s problems exist in every culture for all time. These universals include being hungry and thirsty, fear, and being lonely. Another one is in this question asked by one of Job’s ‘friends’ in what is perhaps the oldest book of the Bible. It is the same question that many are still asking:
“How then can man be in the right before God? How can he who is born of woman be pure? Behold, even the moon is not bright, and the stars are not pure in his eyes; how much less man, who is a maggot, and the son of man, who is a worm!” (Job 25:4–6)
The sad part is that instead of looking to God for the answer, most people conclude that their only hope is to try harder. My hubby visited a man in the hospital who was dying of cancer. They talked about eternal matters and the sick man said he was going to “take his chances” with God, hoping for the best. Bob explained the gospel to this man, much like these verses explain it:
“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. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:19–26)
At the end, the sick man said ‘no’ to God’s offer. Instead, he still wanted to try harder, rely on his own efforts, and “hope for the best.”
He hoped to justify himself. On the other hand, Job said, “If I justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me” and the New Testament repeats, “By the work of the law shall no flesh be justified.” Once God’s Law is broken, nothing can ‘unbreak’ it.
It is God who justifies. This is accomplished through the shed blood of Christ who represented sinners as our substitute. The law requires perfect obedience and Christ alone perfectly obeyed. The law requires full payment for sin and Christ alone paid that debt. Because He fulfilled the law’s demand and its penalty, all who believe are freely justified by God’s grace.
This justification is received by faith yet faith alone does not do it; Christ alone justifies. Faith is trusting Him, not trusting me or anything that I can do or have done. Faith is not ‘taking my chances’ but resting in the sure promises of God based on what Jesus Christ has done.
Jesus, what a sorrow that any person would try to rely on their own merits when justification is freely offered to all. Yet I know that unless Your Spirit opens spiritually blind eyes, this false hope is what everyone hangs on to for their eternal destiny. Sinful pride puts people in the dark and in the hopeless effort of trying to do what only You can do. The answer to the question is not to try harder, but to trust You, to believe Your promises and rest in them, rejoicing in what You have done for us.