If there were ever a verse in the Bible that sounded like an overstatement, this would be it: “There is no one who does what is good, not even one” (Romans 3:12b CSB). No one who does good? Really? As in, literally none? In light of our biggest sin—replacing God’s authority in our lives with our own—even the good things we do apart from faith don’t seem that good.
People in the American church today tend to think of their lives in “buckets.” There is the “eternal salvation” bucket—that’s where Jesus lives—and then there is the “other stuff” bucket—security, prosperity, happiness, etc. We don’t altogether forget Jesus in Bucket #1; he just didn’t seem as relevant when we’re trying to get the contents of Bucket #2.
The concept of God’s righteousness scares us because it feels like a standard we’ll be judged by or one that causes us to feel excluded or condemned. But when we come to see that it is a righteousness God gives by faith, everything changes. It’s what theologians call the Great Exchange.
Have you ever seen someone trying to get out of a boat … slowly? They’ve got one foot on the dock and one foot in the boat, and they just don’t want to commit. When you see that person on the dock, all you can think is, “Make a decision. And quick, buddy.” Because as the boat starts to drift away, it’s going to get really uncomfortable really fast. You’re either in or you’re out!
Believe it or not, Bill Maher, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and the Apostle Paul agree on one thing: Religion can turn you into a really bad person. Religion caters to the worst parts of us—pride, self-centeredness, condescension, self-righteousness, and bigotry—which is why religious people can be (in the words of our generation) the worst.
Christians will typically end their prayers by saying, “In Jesus’ name, Amen.” Yet most Christians don’t know what they mean when they say it. They think it is just a signal to God that they are about done. But that’s not the point. When you say, “In Jesus’ name,” you are saying, “I am asking for these things according to Jesus’ will, for his glory, and in his power.”