Last week I was out strolling with dog friend Hannah and thinking about the lesson I would be teaching on Sunday. Recently I have been devouring the TrueFaced Grace series based on the book of Romans. This series of messages continues to challenge, clarify and mature me in my journey with Jesus. Teachers John Lynch and Bill Thrall are teaching truth that is a couple of thousand years old but they have a gift of connecting the dots in a way that rocks me to my core.

So I decided to relate what God was teaching me from Romans and steal…uhhh…resource some of the material from the TrueFaced CD. I am always upfront about giving proper credit to the Leadership Catalyst boys. I figure if I make anyone mad I can simply blame them.

So I am walking along, thinking about Paul’s argument concerning the law. At that moment this song comes up randomly on my iPod.

Breakin' rocks in the ... hot sun
I Fought the Law and the ... law won
I Fought the Law and the ... law won
I needed money, 'cause I ... had none
I Fought the Law and the ... law won
I Fought the Law and the ... law won

And I smiled and realized that was so true. Many years ago I examined God’s Word and I realized that I could not keep the law and live a sinless life that would allow me to be declared innocent in front of a Holy God. For a while I fought the law and the law won in a contest that was as lopsided as the Globetrotters playing the Washington Generals. I realized I could never reconcile with a Holy God on my own merit. James pretty much let all of the air out of my self-effort balloon with this little gem.

For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws. (James 2, NLT)

I had broken large chunks of the law and obviously there would be no grading on the curve. If I had to depend on keeping the law I was doomed. Then, and I promise I am not making this up, this song by Johnny Cash came up next. 

There was a time on Earth when in the books of Heaven
That an Old Account was standin' for sins yet unforgiven
My name was at the top there was many things below
But I went unto the keeper and I settled it long ago

Long ago,yes long ago I said the Old Account was settled long ago
And my record's clear today 'cause he washed my sins away
And the Old Account was settled long ago

And that, in simple iPod theology, is justification. I cannot keep the law. God justified me and declared me righteous because of Jesus and His substitutionary death. Just as Paul argued to the Romans centuries ago that Abraham was declared righteous by believing and not for behaving. So it is with me.

From  the moment I trusted Jesus God credited to my account His righteousness. When I screw up He refuses to put that against my account. Do I believe that? That is the amazing grace of the gospel. I am as righteous as Abraham. I don't have to work or beg or strive for it. That is crazy. But that is what God's word is saying.

So what happens if I believe this? Won't I take advantage? I know me. I am lazy and undependable and easily distracted. Won’t I just become a sluggard for Jesus? I will tell you what happens if you really get this.

You will worship. It actually becomes not about me but about Him. And you will behave better. This is borrowed from the TrueFaced CD because I could not write it any better. I did change the name in the quote to my bride’s name. I mention that because I did not want you to think Joni left me for a better speaker.

I have learned with Joni that I don't do right stuff to earn her love. That is what I used to do. I do right stuff because I have found her love.
That changes how I love her and that changes how she responds. That is what this truth does. I don't do right stuff to earn the love of Jesus. I do right stuff because I have found His love.

That is grace. Grace gives and we simply need to believe to receive it.

Dave Burchett is an Emmy Award winning television sports director, author, and Christian speaker. He is the author of When Bad Christians Happen to Good People and Bring'em Back Alive: A Healing Plan for those Wounded by the Church. You can reply by linking through daveburchett.com.