Links Daily Devotional

Jesus, the Shotmaker

For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. (Romans 7:18, NIV)

Standing on the tee of a sharp dogleg, it is easy to picture the beautiful fading curve of my drive. When you are taking practice swings in the fairway, it is easy to visualize a towering 3-iron shot over water. And when we are waiting on the green to finish out from three feet, it is easy to see that putt bump against the back of the cup and dive in. But when we step into action, golf starts getting messy. I might double cross my purposed fade shot, you might top your 3-iron, and we might yip that 3-footer to face another one! It gets worse for us relationally, when our vision of grace and love for others get sabotaged by sprouting envy and impatience. We yip with our tongues a lot more than with our putts!

We desire a good many right things, but clearly there is a problem in carrying this out. This is what Paul is saying today about the Christian life, which we find puzzlingly written in the present tense about his own experience.

Ben Crenshaw has said: “Golf is the hardest game in the world. There is no way you can ever get it. Just when you think you do, the game jumps up and puts you in your place.” I have found Scripture can jump up at us too! There is an awful place in the Gospel of Matthew where Jesus says: “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (5:48). Really? Jesus had just finished saying that our angry thoughts are like murder and our lustful imaginations like adultery.

Jesus is a very frank teacher; his words do not flatter us at all. They definitely put me in my place! He calls the bluff no one else sees.

But if Jesus is the truth and speaking the truth, we can respond in one of two ways. We can think this is doable, and start a program on a moral treadmill to get to that end. We’ll ask to start over when we realize we have messed up, or start lowering the end goal. God can then become to us an accommodating distributor of second chances for us to prove ourselves.

Another way to respond would be to say “I can’t”—a culturally outrageous expression—recognizing a standard we truly can’t reach. We can let this most holy and perfect Law drive us to our need for a Savior, to accomplish for us every letter of the Law, something we could not do, cannot do, and could never do. We can honor this Law by saying there is only one who is worthy of its merits. God can then become to us a holy and gracious giver of a new life for us to love and praise Jesus. This is where Paul ends up later in Romans 7: “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

There is no escaping sin. But in Christ, there is no escaping Jesus. He is more than a very frank teacher; he is the only one who fulfilled the very perfection God demands of us, and he gives it to us by sheer grace. Jesus is the shotmaker: he has hit the required, dreaded shot you never could! He was the perfect friend with a sinless heart, sinless thoughts, and a sinless tongue! This is Good News! When we see holy perfection as the true standard, we can finally start forgetting about ourselves and fix our eyes on Jesus, as we are overwhelmed with love, gratitude, and praise for such a Savior.

Isabelle Beisiegel
July 28, 2014
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