james ray johnson

It took my 4-point GPA to show me how dumb I really was! 

I grew up with the idea that getting to heaven depended on what I could do.  I assumed there was a cosmic scale betwixt heaven and hell, with my sin on one tray and my merit on the other.  If my merit should exceed my sin at the end of my life, then – boom –the doors to paradise would open to me.  Simple – I just had to obey the rules. 

Even as a kid I worked hard to tip the scale in my favor.  I listened to and obeyed my spiritual teachers, I prayed my rote prayers faithfully (though at the speed of light.) I also attended church service six days a week.  I really did. (So, don’t even look to me for sympathy when you feel like you need to sleep in on Sunday morning.)  I was an A1 rule keeper. 

But I eventually bumped my head on the words of Jesus.  He let me know that a rule keeper must keep the rules perfectly.  He said, “So then, be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  (Matthew. 5:48) -NET Bible®   

Did He really mean perfect? – as in keeping the rules flawlessly? – as in complete conformity to the intrinsic holy character of God Himself? 

I learned about perfect as a student at Tri-State Bible College.  After 4 semesters, my GPA was a flawless 4-point.  Straight A’s all the way – in every single class.  Cool.

But alas, I eventually blew it – just a little, and was given a final grade of B in a church history class.  My 4-point slipped to a 3.96.  Now I must admit that I am perceptive when it comes to theology, but as dense as a brick when it comes to math. 

Which is why I got out a calculator. I wanted to know how long it would take me to reclaim that 4-point average.  (please stifle that laugh)  

So, I multiplied future course hours by 4, and then added the sum to my current average. It came to 3.999999!  Not yet up to 4, but I ran out of numbers, so I found a bigger calculator.  This time it came out to 3.999999999.  An even bigger machine was obviously needed – an industrial strength adding machine.  This time it came out to 3.999999999999. 

Only then, I realized that I could go to school for the rest of eternity and get perpetually perfect scores, but the best average I could ever attain would be 3 with an infinite number of 9’s behind it.  Perfect does not allow for even one imperfection. 

So why then did Jesus say, “be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”   Doesn’t the Scripture say, “All have sinned?” (Romans 3:23).  All of us have missed the mark with God, so it is impossible for any of us to ever achieve the Fatherly 4-point. 

Which was His point!  Jesus wanted us to know that the bar is so high with the Father that no one could ever qualify for heaven – without Him. 

Paul put it this way in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “God made the one (Jesus) who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we would become the righteousness of God.”  -NET Bible®

Jesus became sin!  God, out of His mercy and grace, transferred the guilt of our sin to Jesus which left us guiltless before God.  God now views the Christian through the lens of Christ– and what He sees is His perfection.  The Father’s 4-point is met in Jesus. 

If eternal life is important to you – then maybe you should speak to the Father today and tell Him, “Father, I am helpless to save myself.  I cannot keep the rules perfectly.  Save me by the virtue of Jesus.  Wash me of my sin and give me the stamp of his perfection.”  

If you would like help in understanding this commitment, go to the contact page and send me your question.  If you need help balancing your bank account – I am probably not your man!