Innovation? Dedication? Courage? What does it take to turn ones back on the standard and traditional and start a revolution? In the world of track and field, that is exactly what Dick Fosbury did. Literally. Up until 1968, the high jump had always been executed by attacking the bar face down, chest down toward the bar. You kind of 'rolled over' the bar as you soared to your highest height. But in the 1968 Summer Olympics, a Junior from Oregon State won the gold medal for the USA by turning his back to the bar. His approach was 180 degrees different from the status quo. He innovated, committed to his new method, practiced and refined it, and dared to bring it out on the world stage. Fosbury revolutionized the event!
Jesus was a revolutionary, too. In His sermon on the mount, He took the standard approach to right relationship with God and stood it on its head. The standard approach then (and pretty much still prevails in all 'religious' systems around the world) was "right" behavior. "Don't murder; don't commit adultery; balance justice; love your neighbor and hate your enemy." That's where the bar was set in Jesus' day. Clear the bar, and you and God are on good terms. Fall short, and God will punish you. And while many were falling short, Jesus raised the bar!
"True, you shall not murder, but there is a way of treating people that disregards their life; this too is a form of murder." "True, you shall not commit adultery, but there is a way of being unfaithful in the lust of your heart; this too is adultery." "An eye for an eye? No, press on past mere justice to mercy." "Love your neighbor? Yes, AND your enemy."
Jesus has raised the bar too high for Dick Fosbury or anybody. How can anyone be right with God if we are called to be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect? This is unattainable. But Jesus has not revolutionized the idea of holiness; He simply has clarified the full implications of it. It's like being a little pregnant. There is no holy ENOUGH. Either you is or you ain't. And, if that's the case, who can achieve right standing with God? Here's what Jesus revolutionized. He revolutionized the approach. We don't approach God with our spiritual Gold Medals in hand. We don't recite to Him our Olympian feats of righteousness. And He just smiles and shakes His head when we try to justify our "good-enoughness."
Go back to Jesus' prelude in the sermon, the Beatitudes, to put this revolutionary approach into perspective.
"Blessed are the poor in spirit ..." Aah! I fall short of the spiritual high bar and I ADMIT it! I have no gold medals. I am impoverished. To acknowledge it and admit it is the beginning of right relationship with God.
"Blessed are they that mourn ..." I can't clear the bar and it brings sorrow, not excuses. Tears, not justifications. The Lord sees me mourn my spiritual bankruptcy and He comes and comforts me.
"Blessed are the meek ... [and] ... the merciful ..." So, we humble ourselves before the perfect One.
"You are holy and I am not; have mercy on me."
Let's say it plainly now. Good deeds don't get you to heaven. Being in right relationship to God isn't about being 'spiritual' or 'holy' enough. What is enough? Jesus says enough is perfection. And you and I can't jump that high. So it's not about 'good enough.' It's about humbly seeking forgiveness; our meekness and His mercy. It's only the love and grace of God through Christ that will carry us over the bar.
Pray: Father in heaven, have mercy on me, a sinner.