Sweating Religion

The height of irony showed up on the front page of the Grand Rapids Press yesterday. An article highlighting the visit of porn “star” Ron Jeremy to a local church raised eyebrows among the faithful in this northern city version of the Bible belt. But it wasn’t the paradox of a man who has appeared in over 2000 pornographic movies, speaking in a church, that got my attention, as much as something he said. Explaining his views on salvation, Jeremy echoed a belief common among many today, “I believe if you are a good person, you go to Heaven”.

The presence of a porn industry icon in a local evangelical church was provocative to say the least. The huge dichotomy between a man steeped in immorality and his idea that human “goodness” is the ticket to Heaven is on the scale of the chasm between one rim of the Grand Canyon to the other. But I’m not writing this to beat up on Ron Jeremy…that’s too easy.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8,9 NKJV)

If I’m honest with myself, I have to admit that I often think like Ron Jeremy. Oh not in terms of his sexual morality (or lack thereof), but in terms of his perspective on entrance into Heaven…I think I’m good enough. I’m a pretty good person…most of the time…when people are looking……except maybe when I did get really angry at the driver who gave me the finger the other day…and I guess I did cut him off, so I probably shouldn’t have turned around and glared at him and mouthed some pointed words…or, um, the the time I….oh never mind.

The truth of the matter is, according to God, His standard of goodness is a sobering one compared to our perspective. No one is good enough for God. Don’t believe me? Look at His words describing His perspective on human “goodness” apart from God…

 “There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one.” “Their throat is an open tomb; with their tongues they have practiced deceit”; “The poison of asps is under their lips”; “Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; Destruction and misery are in their ways; and the way of peace they have not known. ”There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Romans 3:10-18 NKJV)

Gulp…surely this can’t be me…gulp. If this is God’s view of man’s “goodness”, then compared to Him we are in trouble…which is why the rest of the story is so sweet…

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8 NKJV)

 God did what we could never accomplish, He sent His own Son to pay the price for our lack of goodness, for our sins. He filled the gap that justice demanded, between rebellious humanity and an infinitely good Creator God. So if you are sweating out your religion, trying to attain an impossible standard of goodness, invite God to forgive you of your failures and let His perfect goodness and grace fill your life. Then you will be able to reflect the nature of the One Good God who lives inside of you.