Dear church,

I officiated a funeral once where the family insisted we play Frank Sinatra’s famous song, “My Way.” It was fitting they said. The song matched the life of the deceased man. He lived life “his way.”

And so the song played over the sound system. Frank Sinatra crooned: “Regrets – I’ve had a few. But then again, too few to mention. I did what I had to do, saw it through without exemption. I planned each charted course, each careful step along the byway. And more, much more than this, I did it my way.”

It’s an unapologetic song. It’s an American song. It sums up the mentality of those who insist upon their own individuality and their own way of doing things. Even if their “way” of doing things creates a mess, which Sinatra seemed to concede, it still was OK because they at least were making a mess in a way that was unique to them – and not to anyone else.

But this line of thinking is awfully arrogant, and it can lead to disaster.

I recently had to remove part of the propane line at our house. I had a choice to make at the very beginning of the project. Before I grabbed a tool or picked up the phone, I had to make a decision: Was I going to do this “my way,” or was I doing to call in an expert? It was an important decision because if I did it my way, there was a possibility of blowing up my house. I didn’t know what I was doing. I thought I could probably figure it out, but I’d never tinkered with gas lines before. And I don’t think I would have been satisfied, standing at a distance and looking over the burnt-out rubble of my home saying, well, “At least I did it my way!”

The apostle Paul, in Romans 3, writes about sin. We’d rather skip to the second half of the chapter when he begins discussing grace through faith. But Paul leans in on sin early in the chapter, and we ought not to skip over it. If we don’t get this, we don’t get the gospel and we won’t get Christianity.

People who sin – that’s all of us – have a problem. Actually, they have many problems. But one of their problems is, “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” To fear God means to recognize his presence and respect his power. It means to recognize and respect him to the point that we obey him. To fear God means it matters to us what he says – and we do what he says.

To have no fear of God means we don’t give God a second thought. We just do what we want to do. We do things “our way.”

The problem with this is that God is our Creator. He made us. You might say he owns us. Our lives are in his hands. He brought us into the world, and he can take us out. We owe something to God. We owe him recognition, respect, and obedience.

But to live “our way” means we have decided to take God off his throne and put ourselves there instead. Remember, we don’t fear God, so we don’t hesitate to shove him around – even though he created us and has ultimate authority in our lives. Sinners live as if God isn’t there. They deny him – his authority and even his very existence.

Needless to say, it’s a problem. It’s a problem for all of us. “For all have sinned,” Paul wrote. We are doing things “our way.”

And sin brings judgment. What is God supposed to do? After all, justice is one of his main attributes – it’s one of the chief things God cares about. We all care about justice. (We’re made in the image of God, after all.) Think of all the social justice causes that are flying through our culture right now. Regardless of what we think about the methods of some of the people who are pushing these agendas, we all can agree no one should be treated poorly because of the color of that person’s skin. That is unjust, and it bothers us when we see it happening. We want justice to be done to those who mistreat others.

It would be unjust for God to let us off the hook when it comes to our own sins. Our sins ultimately are against God – removing him from his throne, robbing him of his glory, telling him he’s not in control. And so we’ve got a problem.

The rest of Romans 3 is there for us to read. Please read it. But think also about sin – what it is and where it is in your life? How are you doing life “your way” – instead of God’s?

Chris

 

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