For those who kept stumbling over the rules and regulations set up by the religious elite—never quite measuring up to the yardstick of the Law—the idea that God might love them apart from what they did must have been incredibly liberating.

But for the Jewish hierarchy who had mastered the Law and felt quite proud of it, Jesus's words surely posed a threat. His message pierced their religious facades, revealing the darkness of their hearts and, quite frankly, making them mad. Rather than running to the grace and forgiveness He offered, they kept defaulting to the yardstick—using it to justify themselves one minute, wielding it as a weapon against Jesus the next.

"You come from Nazareth?" they said, pointing the yardstick. "Nothing good comes from Nazareth." That's one whack for you. "You eat with tax collectors and sinners? That's even worse." Whack, whack. "You heal on the Sabbath?" they screamed, waving their rules and regulations. Off with Your head! The Sadducees and Pharisees had no room in their religion for freedom. As a result, they had no room for Christ. They were people of the yardstick. Even though Jesus kept insisting He hadn't come to "abolish the Law or the Prophets…but to fulfill them" (Matthew 5:17), they just wouldn't listen. Like little children they plugged their ears and kept singing the same old tune, though a New Song had been sent from heaven.

Which is so very sad. Especially when you consider that the very Law they were so zealous for had been intended to prepare them for the Messiah rather than keep them from acknowledging Him.

After all, God established His original covenant with Abraham long before He gave Moses the Law—430 years before, to be exact (Galatians 3:17). The love the Father extended to Abraham and to all those who came after him had no strings attached. It was based on the recipient's acceptance of grace from beginning to end.

But somehow Israel fell in love with the Law rather than in love with their God. And we are in danger of doing the same thing. Exalting rules as the pathway to heaven. Embracing formulas as our salvation. Worshiping our own willpower rather than allowing the power of God to work in us to transform our lives.

Such self-induced holiness didn't work for the Jews, and it doesn't work for us. That's why Jesus had to come.

The Law had originally been given "to show people their sins," Galatians 3:19 tells us. But it was "designed to last only until the coming of the child who was promised" (nlt). Though the yardstick of the Law helped keep us in line, it was never intended to save us. Only Christ could do that. And oh may I tell you how that comforts my soul?

I'll never forget the day I handed Jesus my yardstick. I had been saved since childhood, but I was almost thirty before the message of grace finally made the trip from my head to my heart, setting me "free from the law of sin and death" (Romans 8:2). As the light of the good news finally penetrated the darkness of my selfcondemning mind, the "perfect love" 1 John 4:18 speaks of finally drove out my
insecurity, which had always been rooted in fear of punishment.

When I finally laid down my Pharisee pride and admitted that in myself I would never be—could never be—enough, I experienced a breakthrough that has radically changed my life. For as I surrendered my yardstick—the tool of comparison that had caused so much mental torment and a sense of separation from God—Jesus took it from my hands. Then, with a look of great love, He broke it over His
knee and turned it into a cross, reminding me that He died so I wouldn't have to.

That the punishment I so fully deserve has already been paid for. That the way has been made for everyone who will believe in Jesus not only to come to Him but to come back home to the heart of God.