As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved … For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:1-10)

As like gives birth to like, people who are dead to God breed offspring who are also dead to God. This state means that we are naturally rebels against God, whether we are good or bad by our own standards. That is the problem: we measure life by our standards, not God’s. When we talk about being “good enough” for God, it indicates that we’re thinking by our standards. No person born a rebel can become a citizen of God’s kingdom by being good enough. We need a change of nature.

As an example, consider citizenship. If you are a citizen of Australia, you are granted legal rights and responsibilities. As well as this, there is a social code of behaviour Australians have, which shelters under the moniker “mateship”. It involves stoically providing for yourself but still helping those who needs help; supporting the underdog; standing by your comrades even – or especially! – against authority figures; and a laissez-faire (‘she’ll be right’) attitude to life that means Australians don’t worry too much about work but are fanatical about sport and having time to relax.

If you wanted to become an Australian citizen, you could cultivate these traits until youse was more’f an Aussie than a dingo at a barbie on Australia Day, snaffling Hoges’s kangaroo chop, lapping up Dipper’s spilled Toohey’s, going for John Williamson’s lamington for afters… and puking it all up in the bush later on. None of this would make you an Australian citizen, though.

To become an Australian citizen, you have to willingly take those legal rights and responsibilities upon yourself. It doesn’t matter if your accent thicker is than the walls of a Swiss bank vault, if your favourite food is deep-fried chicken feet and yak tripe, and you prefer to go shopping with your wife rather than drink a beer – if you’ve passed the tests and sworn the oath, you’re Australian. It doesn’t matter how you look or feel. What matters is the legal declaration of the Australian government.

It’s a similar situation with being a Christian. Going to church, reading the Bible, praying, giving money and time, believing in God, obeying the Ten Commandments… Choose your good work of choice: none of them make you Christian. What does make you a Christian is your relationship to God: do you accept His word as final, even if you don’t like it? When He says that Jesus is the only way to Heaven, do you then rest all your hope on Jesus and none on yourself? That’s what makes you Christian [1].

[1] Martin Luther said that the devil would even encourage us to do good works if they would keep us from trusting in Jesus.

copyright 2007 Troy Grisgonelle.