Richard Carlson

Richard Carlson

We are living in America once again in a world of probes, investigations and now, the Mueller testimonies are going on as I pen these words. What is at stake politically is not nearly as important ultimately, as what is true, before God.

Truth is something that exists above and beyond political parties. Before the governor Pilate washed his hands and said he was not guilty of the blood of crucifying Jesus, he asked the Lord Jesus, “What is truth?”

Pilate’s own wife sent a message to Pilate while he was seated on his judgment seat, saying, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of Him in a dream.”

Pilate knew Jesus was innocent. Three times he tried to set Jesus free. Yet, truth was not the bottom line for Pilate.

The Jewish leaders cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend.”

Something was more important to Pilate than truth. Is that true for you?

Pilate’s reputation was at stake and those lies prevailed. A dear man I shared the Gospel story with some years ago, came from a tradition that teaches we are saved by good works. I invited him to receive the free-gift of God’s grace, but he told me it would ostracize him from his relatives and his religious community. Those voices, not truth, prevailed.

Oh, that all of us would want one thing only, and that is truth. We actually live in the most interesting world where many people, pastors, churches, and religious organizations teach and tell one another a foolish lie that is misleading, and that lie could be blinding you. That lie is that if our good works outweigh our sins, we are heaven bound.

It sounds logical, plausible, and practical, but that foolish lie is a fabrication with eternal ramifications. If that lie is what you have been brought up thinking; if it is what you have heard preached or taught, please be aware the Bible teaches it is not true.

The apostle Paul wrote over half of the New Testament, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. He once was confident in his flesh, calling himself a Hebrew of the Hebrews, circumcised on the eighth day, a Benjamite, a Pharisee, as to zeal, the most aggressive persecutor of Christ’s church, until he met Jesus on the Damascus Road. After that, all his fleshly confidence was rubbish and dung because he met the One who is the only Way, the Truth, and the Life. This man once thought works could save him. Now he taught, “For by grace you have been saved by faith, and this is not your own doing or works, it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

A student from Hannibal LaGrange University in Missouri told the story in 2010 about what happened in her final exam in a course taught by the vice president of collegiate affairs, the assistant to the president. The young lady was Denise Banderman. The story appeared back then in the web-based subscription of Christianity Today. This is her story:

“In the spring of 2002, I left work early so I could have study time before my final exam in the Youth Ministry class at Hannibal-LaGrange College in Missouri. The teacher came in and said he would review with us before the test. Most of his review came right from the study guide, but there were some things he was reviewing that I had never heard. He said those things were in the book and we were responsible for everything in the book. We couldn’t argue with that. Finally, it was time to take the test.

“‘Leave them face down on the desk until everyone has one, and I’ll tell you to start,” our professor, Dr. Tom Hufty, instructed.

“When we turned them over, to my astonishment every answer on the test was filled in. My name was even written on the exam in red ink. The bottom of the last page said: ‘This is the end of the exam. All the answers on your test are correct. You will receive an A on the final exam. The reason you passed the test is because the creator of the test took it for you. All the work you did in preparation for this test did not help you get the A. You have just experienced grace.’”

We are all sinners. Jesus died on the cross in our place. Only those trusting in Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection will receive grace. Those counting on good works will be told by Jesus, “I never knew you.” The ultimate grace experience is receiving salvation by the price Jesus paid, that we can never pay or earn. Accept the truth of His grace.

Richard Carlson is the pastor of the Rock Springs Evangelical Free Church. Of his 51-plus years in ministry, he has pastored locally for the last 42 years.

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