Throughout our lives, God brings different ‘pearls’ of revelation to us. Some of these pearls are small; they help us to work out temporary situations. Other times, they are a lot bigger, brighter and longer lasting; they change the way we think about ourselves and those around us. Not long ago God dropped one of these very precious pearls into my hands.
We watched a typical gospel video on Sunday. It was about this criminal, Barabbas, whom the crowds opted to be set free so that Jesus might be crucified. The video explained how we are all like this criminal, Barabbas, deserving of death but set free so that Jesus might take our place.
Much like everyone else, I was moved close to tears by the passion of the preacher, the well timed music and the very real presence of God that came from it all.
Now, every time I’ve heard gospel teaching on this, I was never told that I was like Barabbas but that I was part of the crowd who were baying for the blood of Jesus. As I thought about this, I felt God opening my eyes to my own shortcomings and in this, I started to realise and feel the true power of the gospel.
I know I’m part of the crowd, I know that I’m calling for the death of Jesus just like everyone else but surely, me and Barabbas? Well… we’re worlds apart.
In John 14:6 Jesus says: “No one comes to the Father except through me.”
As Christians we believe in God, we help the poor and marginalised, we might have a passion to help refugees and charities – we try to live sacrificial lives.
But I felt God say to me:
“Jake, cast that aside for a second and ask yourself… has there been any time when you justified your actions by judging those around you?”
“… But what about…”
“No, leave that for a minute. Is the power of the gospel alive in you or do you still hold yourself above people? People like Barabbas.”
As God started to break through my pride, the scripture 1 John 4:20 came to me: “If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.”
If we’re to help people, we need the love of God to shine through us. For the love of God to shine through us, we need be like Jesus who didn’t justify himself even when the unrepentant prisoner Barabbas was set free.
We need to stop justifying ourselves and the things we do, like the Pharisees did. Love your brothers and sisters around you, get rid of the strange vibes you feel when certain people walk in a room. Work it out, don’t give in to your pride and justify your sin by comparing it to theirs. Let’s not have an attitude similar to the Pharisee in Luke 18, who thanked God he wasn’t like a certain sinner.
We need to go through Jesus first.
Before we help the poor and marginalised.
Before we go on mission trips.
Before we try to live a sacrificial life.
We need to go to the cross with all our justifications and pride. We can’t atone for our wrongdoings, our broken past, our relationship issues, our frustrations with the church, simply by doing what ‘good Christians’ do.
We can’t just wash away our guilt by helping other people. It’s only through Jesus and the power of the gospel in our own lives that we can be truly effective.
The power of the gospel alive in us changes people’s lives.
I want to turn around after being released from death row, without any self-justification in my heart and say to Jesus:
Here’s the video we watched on Sunday evening: