Romans 9:30-32 What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works.
From the underlining in both the English and the Japanese in my Bible, I’m sure I’ve written on this before. However, it’s certainly worth writing on again. Sometimes the Japanese lack of pronouns can actually make things much clearer. Here, in verse 31, instead of saying “have not obtained it,” the Japanese says, “have not obtained that law.” In Romans and in Galatians, Paul makes it clear that the law is actually unobtainable, for the reason stated here. That is, true righteousness comes by faith, and not by works. We cannot do enough to be right before God, because we are too weak and we carry too much baggage. That’s why salvation is by grace through faith. (Ephesians 2:8-10) As long as we think we can get to God, to perfection, by our own efforts, we are doomed to failure. It is only when we acknowledge our own inability and believe that Jesus has already done for us everything necessary for our salvation that we can receive that salvation. It is an interesting window into human nature that our inability to earn salvation would be such a stumbling block for so many people. We aren’t comfortable with grace, because we recognize it puts us in tremendous debt, and we don’t like that. What we fail to realize is that we already owe everything to God, down to every atom of our physical being and every breath we take. As I keep being reminded, it is that debt that makes atheists so adamant in their denial that God exists; they don’t want to acknowledge their accountability before God.
I could say that my entire life and ministry revolve around this issue. The average Japanese either ignores God completely or else has a superstitious desire to go through the right ceremonies so as not to offend the mysterious, scary beings called gods. Getting through that cultural mindset is quite a challenge! Monotheism itself is a leap for many Japanese, but then progressing to the understanding that the only God, the Creator of the universe, loves them personally enough to send His Son to die for them, seems like total fiction to them. I am not to give up, though, because that’s the only route to salvation, and God loves them as much as He loves me. The desire to “do it yourself,” to have bragging rights, is certainly not unique to Japanese. I run into some of the same obstacles in ministering to people of various countries. Somehow we want to cling to the lie, planted in our minds by the devil, that we don’t really need God, when nothing could be further from the truth. I am to remember that just as I can’t save myself, I can’t save anyone else, either, and so keep myself available to God for Him to save people using me.
Father, thank You for the incredible privilege of being used by You in Your work of salvation. Help me not be impatient or demanding, but humbly listen and obey, so that Your will may be done in and through me on Your schedule for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!