Making it Straight
Getting it Straight
Before he followed his brothers and migrated to Australia my Cornish Grandfather did an apprenticeship, or, as he put it, 'served his time,' at the Plymouth Dockyards as a cabinet maker. He loved to read and when the 1881 census was taken he was living back at home in Par. A favourite book, published in 1876, was The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, so, as his name was Tom, with typical Cornish humour he told the census-takers that his occupation was Sawyer.
Grandpa arrived in Queenscliff, Victoria, on 26th February, 1884, reached Melbourne on 27th and had found work by the 29th. He worked at night to improve himself, studying mathematics in the evenings at the Working Man's Institute and then architecture at the North Melbourne School of Art, gaining second prize in 1888. In 1889, at the age of twenty-seven, he married.
As a small child I learned to love the smell of different woods in Grandpa's workshop and to handle some of his tools. He also learned so much of the Bible by heart and would recite to me whole chapters. He was very concerned about my getting straight just what life was all about.
St. Paul and the Right Angle
By the time I was four, Grandpa had taught me to recite the Ten Commandments (Deut. 5.7-21). They are the basis of much of the law of many countries, but Paul saw them from a different angle. He pointed out to the Galatians (3.10) that we cannot be saved by the law, but only condemned by it. In Deuteronomy (27-28) We read many more laws and of the curses that come upon us if we do not keep them, and yet that is impossible.
Jesus quoted Deuteronomy more than any other book of the Old Testament Scriptures. He warned that we break the law, not only by our actions, but also by our thoughts.
- Do we worship God alone? What about our favourite film-star or football player?
- We may not commit adultery in action, but what about in our thoughts?
- Do we see a neighbour with the latest ipad or technology gadget and wish so much that it were ours? That is coveting.
How then, can we align our living to the right angle? Habakkuk (2.4) wrote that righteousness cannot be achieved through the law, it can only be by living our faith.
Righteousness and Justification
Righteousness and justification are long, very 'churchy' sort of words, but they are important steps in the process of achieving our salvation. I read recently of a church claiming to be Bible-centred, but I wondered: should they really be aiming to be Christ centred?
- Justification: When I learned typing - the old way, with a typewriter - we were taught how to justify our work so that the line of print made a straight edge on both sides. If we are to be justified with our Almighty God, we need to be absolutely straight. Doing this by ourselves is impossible. In Biblical terms, this means that we need to be in a perfect relationship with God.
- Righteousness: In Psalm 143.2, David wrote that 'no one living is righteous before you.' God is perfect, and we certainly are not. Can we achieve righteousness by being morally good, by doing good works, helping other people, attending church and supporting charities? NO! Salvation just doesn't work that way. Righteousness is being morally right and without sin.
Paul wrote (Gal. 2.16) that the only way we can be justified and made righteous, straight with God, is through faith in Jesus Christ. God justifies those who trust in Him through Jesus. It is only through God's grace, his unmerited favour, that we can accept His free gift of salvation through our faith in Jesus. It is a gift, not something that we can earn.
When we accept this gift we can receive God's forgiveness, find release from our crookedness and guilt and be made righteous and justified. Then we can establish a true relationship with our God who is so straight, pure and holy. As Grandpa would have said, "That's what real life is all about."