I KNOW… BUT
“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe” (Roman 3:21-22).
It is an art to listen to people speak. I mean to listen to them not just hearing what they are saying. How many times have you heard someone say, “I know…BUT?” Perhaps you yourself have said it: “I know…BUT!”
This “BUT” is the biggest little word in the Scriptures, in my opinion. Why you might ask? Because it is the way the devil attempts to confuse us and makes us think—that you have to do something to earn God’s favor and grace.
We say things like this: “I know I am forgiven…BUT. I know God loves me…BUT. I know that Jesus died for me on the cross…BUT. I know that I am redeemed…BUT. I know the gift of God’s grace is free…BUT”.
This little “BUT” gets in the way of God’s love and blocks it. Anytime we are adding to the grace of God or the gift of God it is no longer grace or gift—it is simply work—man’s word to climb the ladder of salvation. The devil makes us think we have to do something to make God love us more. His death on the cross is not enough. I should do this or that. Every time we do, we are saying, “I know…BUT!!!
An old Lutheran pastor bemoaned years ago how many of his members were talking like this:
John Schmidt is a good person, but....
Clara Inglish is a nice lady, but...
Joe Smalzt is a fine carpenter, but...
“You know,” added the Pastor, “If people are not careful, a lot of folks are going to slide on their “buts” to hell.
While the Pastor was warning against gossip, against breaking the eighth commandment, against people prone not to put the best construction on everything, he also was speaking closely akin to another topic. So many people today say, “Jesus did everything for us, BUT...” Any time we add any modifier to the pure, perfect work of Jesus on the cross, we subtract from His perfect work for us. Lent is a time when we celebrate the perfect work the perfect Son of God did on our behalf. “IT IS FINISHED” His Words from the cross equals perfection.
I know I am forgiven…BUT! BUT what must I do... to feel better.... to make people like me... to make God love me more? When I feel down about myself I remember my brother, Saul of Tarsus. He oversaw the stoning of Stephen (Acts 7:58) and could say of himself that he could will what was right BUT could not do it, indeed, that he did the very thing he hated doing (Romans 7). This man, Saul of Tarsus, was forgiven by God and we know him as Paul, the Apostle. He knew how weak he was... and he knew how loving and gracious the Lord is.
Feeling better about myself, with others, and with God is something I cannot do, for I always put my foot in my mouth, yes, I can will what is right BUT cannot do it (Romans 7:15). What do I need? The cross of Jesus! I need for forgiveness to be more than words, BUT the reality that the God who is love became love for me by dying on the cross. St Paul, the former Saul of Tarsus, declares: There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Rom 8:1 ESV) He goes on to say in this chapter, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the One who died—more than that, who was raised--who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. (Rom 8:31-34 ESV)
Oh, there is something more I can do - I can say “THANK YOU!!!” - My life can reflect His love simply by seeing that He loves me... and you... and everyone. Want to feel better? Give thanks to God for His love that loves, even when I am not lovely or doing the right things. In His gift of Jesus on the cross you will see what true loveliness is.
The Words of the Apostle Paul from Roman 3 are words that give meaning and purpose in life because it points us away from ourselves to the cross of our Savior Jesus Christ. It assures and guarantees us that our past is ALL forgiven, our present is being carefully guided and our future secure in heaven.
YOU who are redeemed by the blood of the Lamb—Jesus Christ; be careful of the use of the sentence of “I know…BUT.” BUT, is not a vocabulary that ought to be used by Christians to make God love them more or forgive them more. However, we can use it as Paul does in our text. But we are saved apart from the works of the Law. It is ALL GRACE UPON GRACE. There is no but. But the saving work of Christ on the cross of Calvary that makes us what we are.