food stampsBack in March, Mr. Nicholas Jackson made the news for all the wrong reasons. On Sunday March 20, he tried to use his food stamp card (which looked a lot like a credit card) to buy a brand new BMW. Quite naturally, the dealership rejected his offer. But Jackson was not to be denied. Later that night, he broke back into the dealership grabbed the car keys and took off with his new ride. He would have had a clean get away but he forgot one little thing, gas money. It turns out he didn’t have enough money to fill up his new ride. And so, sheriffs’ deputies quickly caught up with the car thief and tossed into jail.

Mr. Jackson’s attempt to get a BMW failed because he did not have the funds to buy and operate the car. Food stamps can buy a few bags of groceries. They are worthless when it comes to buying luxury cars. And its not that shocking because food stamps were never designed to deliver big ticket items.

In much the same way, the law was not designed to save people from their sins. The law can show us our sin (it is our tutor). But, is was never designed to buy us eternal life. And if we are trusting in our own righteous works to earn our way heaven, we will miss the kingdom of God. We will wind up being tossed into hell.

Jesus makes this point in Mark 2:18-22. Fasting does not save. Avoiding certain movies, wearing the right length skirt, listening to the right music does not make us right with God. And if we trust in our works to get us to heaven, if we trust in our systems to impress God, if we trust in our traditions to make ourselves righteous we will miss heaven. Just like a food stamp card can’t by a BMW, our works can’t by salvation. Sure, they may run for a time. People may be impressed. But eventually, we will run out of gas. We will get caught.

If we are going to be like Jesus, if we are going to teach the gospel faithfully, we must never return to the law for salvation. We must never give kids the impression that obeying a bunch of commands will save them. We must never teach that salvation consists of the cross and memorizing verses, or donating to mission, or whatever else may be swirling around. Salvation exists outside of manmade systems. Fresh wineskins have arrived. Jesus prohibits us from sticking works back into the gospel.  Righteousness comes through the blood of Christ.

When little Sussie leaves our Sunday school room, we need to make sure we clearly offer Jesus and only Jesus. Yes, those who love Jesus will obey his commands. But obedience apart from love does not honor God. It’s like trying to buy a BMW with food stamps. It doesn’t work. Every time we teach our kids, we need to make sure that they know that salvation consists of only two things, repentance and belief. We just ask, and God gives us eternal life. He buys the BMW and gives us the gas money that we could never get on our own. If we add anything to the gospel, we malign God’s free gift by adding a price to it. We attempt to by a BMW with food stamps.

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