Psalm 90:7-9 :
7For we are brought to an end by your anger;
by your wrath we are dismayed.
8You have set our iniquities before you,
our secret sins in the light of your presence.
9For all our days pass away under your wrath;
we bring our years to and end like a sigh.
Psalm 19:12 :
Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults.
Secret sins. Hidden faults, hidden even from ourselves.
If we are responsible for saving ourselves from eternal damnation, or even partially responsible, be it through a decision, an indulgence, a commitment, an act of penance, or reaching a certain age of accountability, we are done for. We can confess all our sins, and still there is even more.
As angry as someone can get at me if and when I mess up, that’s just a breeze compared to the deserved wrath from the eternal God who is just and holy. Whether you’ve angered your friends, your parents, your employer, your children, or your spouse — righteous anger that may be when you’ve harmed them — it is infinitely worse from the Creator. Your and my heavenly Father, who created us for good works, and we have let Him down aplenty.
We have no clue how much we have let him down and how damaged we are, until He tells us with His law. Some look at the law, don’t like what they see, and refuse to acknowledge it. Others look at the law and delude themselves into thinking either that they can keep it, or that they can sufficiently keep a part of it. We should look at the law and despair, knowing that the sum of it is meant to be kept and something we would actually be able to do without being told, were it not for the Fall.
We can’t even pray.
Thus in all honesty we have no hope of contributing even the least little bit to our salvation. No indulgence, no decision, no act of penance, no act of will on our part brings us closer to being justified by God. Peyton Manning has more ability to win the rest of the season for the Colts than we do contributing to our salvation.
Our salvation must be given.
This gift is not given to us because though we are sinners, “God loves us anyway.” No, God loves us one way. God loves us in this way, that he gave His Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.
This way. Only this way. Not this way and something else. Not 99% Jesus and 1% you. This is something to be thankful for. Your temporal deeds have plenty of good use serving your neighbor. The deeds that you need for salvation are performed by Jesus and counted to you. Thank God that you believe, however weakly, that the Christ was made man, suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, died, and was buried; descended into Hell, rose again from the dead and ascended to heaven for your and my justification. All of it. There is no stink of sin in His work.
You can’t wash off dirt with dirty water. You wash off sin with water and the Word. He that believes and is baptized will be saved. There are no qualifiers: no “sincerely,” no “mostly,” no “as soon as a coin in the coffer rings,” and no “enough.” Jesus is our enough. It is finished.