"All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever." - 1 Peter 1:24-25
And this word is the good news that was preached to you.
Picture a scene. You are standing before the Lord and book upon book is being read telling the story of your life. But this isn’t a sitting around the fireplace and hearing grandpa’s old stories occasion. This is a trial. Your life and your words are testifying as to whether or not you’re to be considered a good person.
Now this isn’t the type of trial you get on the day of your funeral. That’s the day when mostly your friends and family show up and everybody works to remember all the good times and to minimize the bad. This trial isn’t like that. You’ve got critics and sycophants present. You’ve got words against you and words for you. Evidence of words you’ve spoken, written, and even things that you’ve thought. A display of the impact of your life. It’s social media run wild and you’re the topic. It’s your fifteen minutes of fame. And you’re getting torched with only a few positives throw in here and there.
“He was a hypocrite. His words didn’t match his lifestyle.”
“He was one of the best counselors I ever had. He helped me more than anyone else.”
“He was a terribly sloppy pastor. His hair was often wilder than it should have been, his beard wasn’t neatly trimmed, he seldom wore a suit. He was a bad representation of what a minister of the gospel ought to be.”
“He was the one who shared Jesus with me.”
“His theology was sloppy and inconsistent. He didn’t believe some of the things that I’ve believed for years. I’m not even sure if he was a believer”
“He was incredibly selfish. He viewed everything through the lens of himself.”
“He was a gossip. He slandered others and then was mortally wounded when he was slandered himself.”
“He hurt me.”
“He failed me.”
“He was lazy and passive. He never became the person that he could have been. He buried quite a few talents”.
Some of those opinions are grounded in truth. They match the replay of your life. You really were more selfish than you should have been. You really did cause hurt. But you also were used by God to help people see the glory of Jesus. It’s a mixed bag. Connected with all of these opinions is a mountain of evidence against you. And the Accuser is quick to point out every one of these flaws.
He’s correct. He’s not fabricating a bit. He’s right. You are cursed and gone astray. You fall short of the glory of God. You did hurt people. You did sin against the God of the Universe. You aren’t holy. You do not have any righteousness of your own. You did bury a few talents. You’re not clean. You’ve mucked up your life at times.
Then Jesus stands up.
The gospel gets the last word. That is what 1 Peter 1:25 means. All of the critics, all of the defenders, they don’t get the last word. Neither do we. “I did many great things in your name…” The gospel speaks last. And it’s word is definitive.
That’s either really great news. Or it’s terrible.
I picture this scene in my mind and it brings me to tears. It brings me to tears because I know what Jesus will say. I don’t know the specific words that he’ll use. But I know that he has my back. Not because of my own righteousness but because of His. I know that He has truly changed my heart and my life. I know that he sees every ounce of my toil and labor and every bit of my sloppy obedience. I know that he sees my every failure. He knows my every sin against him. And yet he stands in my defense.
Maybe that’s what he’ll say. And when he belts out those words…nothing else matters. All the critics. All the applause. All the mountains. All the valleys. All the days in the darkness of depression. The mountain of my sin against him and others. Every drop of sweat in ministry for others. It all crumbles. And only his Word remains.
It’s not that sin doesn’t matter. It’s not that good doesn’t matter. It’s just that it isn’t definitive. It doesn’t get the last word.