One of the almost universally painful memories of childhood seems to be the fear associated with “choosing up teams” to play some game. Even if we ourselves were never actually chosen last there is still the pain associated with the memory. Often that last one to be chosen was really pushed instead of picked, as in, “We’ll take Joey and you take Jake.” He or she instantly became the last one to bat or the last one to kick or whatever. The message was brutal - “you’re not really good enough to play with us but we had to take you anyway.”
As adults, that competition never really goes away but just moves to new areas of life including dating, jobs, clubs and organizations. Sometimes the message becomes evident even in religious life when some people are included in selective gatherings and others are not.
I once spoke with a young woman while off preaching in a meeting. She was raised going to church but never became a Christian. It wasn’t until she was married and had a child of her own that she was baptized. When I asked her, “why did you wait?” her response surprised me. She wasn’t a wild youth, didn’t resent her parents pushing her to church or have the bad influence of friends. She said, “I didn’t feel I was good enough to be a Christian and I needed to fix myself first.”
Several concepts warrant some discussion. First, none of us are “good enough” on our own to have fellowship with God. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Rom. 3:23). Her recognition of a necessary change in life was appropriate but misguided. “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?” (Rom 2:4)
Second, even after we are Christians we are not “good enough” on our own to merit life with God. Paul said God created us in Christ for good works (Eph. 2:10) but those good works did not and do not earn or merit our salvation (v. 9). Without continuing forgiveness of sin we would be lost (1 Jn. 1:7).
Which brings up a third consideration that causes some to go to the other extreme from the young lady. They may think, “Well, if I’m not good enough and God is going to save me by grace anyway then I might as well just enjoy a life of sin.” Paul answers this wrong thinking directly in Romans 6:1, “Shall we continue in sin and let grace abound?” He said, “No!” Because anyone who would live like that does not understand the divine sacrifice that was made nor the meaning of the baptism that joined them to the death of Christ.
- Tim Orbison