Devotions

A Bitter Pill to Swallow

During the weeks when I am working from home, my wife will often bring breakfast to my workspace (an old kitchen table).  That meal usually a bowl of dry cereal and a glass of milk.  (I’m not a sophisticated breakfast eater.)  In addition, I take a maintenance prescription twice a day, so she will usually bring over the bowl with the spoon lying on top of the cereal, with the tablet in the spoon.

Most days, this works well.  However, one day, I started to eat my cereal absentmindedly, when I had a super-bitter taste in my mouth.  I thought that maybe something had gotten into the cereal box, but eventually I realized that I had taken a bite that included the medicine, and chewed it up along with a bite of cereal.  This is not something I am eager to repeat…ever.  It tasted really bad (although perhaps that was intentional, to discourage little kids from eating them).

When it comes to adult medications, it’s usually good if we don’t take our time chewing on them.  Instead, we should take them all at once, so that they can work as intended.

There is another cure – this one for the sickness of sin and death – that those who follow Jesus look forward to.  I encourage you to read about it in 1 Corinthians 15:50-57, including the following verse:

Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.

1 Corinthians 15:54 NLT
https://bible.com/bible/116/1co.15.54.NLT

(See also 2 Corinthians 5:4.)

For all of the belief systems in the world that require adherents to follow a bunch of rules to earn favor with their god, or to somehow climb their way up the spiritual “ladder”, I feel like this is taking medicine the hard way.  Like chewing up a nasty-tasting pill, it’s a rough way to try and earn spiritual status.  There’s never confident assurance of success, and when we appreciate the holiness of God, along with the dire consequences of our sins, it becomes more and more clear that good deeds can’t get tainted souls back to perfection.  Maybe we could get to the point where we are “51% good” (averaged across our entire life), but a god who welcomes 49% evil in His presence wouldn’t be very holy.  And, in light of what Jesus taught, this will never work.

Instead, when Jesus (God the Son) chose to offer His perfect life as the payment for our sins, we didn’t just grind our way back into God’s favor, bitterly fighting to be more righteous.  Instead, the medicine for our ailment was delivered all at once: death was swallowed up in victory!  In addition, when we accept Jesus’ salvation, our adoption into God’s family can happen just as quickly.  There’s no waiting period, probation, or trial period in order for God to see if we are good enough to bring back to Himself.  (After all, none of us would qualify on our own!)  Instead, God recognizes Jesus’ atonement as the ultimate cure for our sin (as well as the payment for the death that our sin required), and we are welcomed into a new life with Him.

Just to drive this point home, as the passage from 1 Corinthians above reminds us, when our mortal lives are wrapped up and it’s time to enter into an eternity with God (thanks to Jesus), the transformation will be just as dramatic.  These mortal bodies will be replaced with far better vessels for our souls, rendering the earthly principles of death powerless in Heaven, just as Jesus rendered death ineffective when He overcame it.

So, don’t keeping gnawing away at the belief that you need to get back into God’s good favor in order to turn your life around.  Take the gift that Jesus offers all at once, and start living a new life with Him today.

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

2 thoughts on “A Bitter Pill to Swallow”

  1. “Maybe we could get to the point where we are ‘51% good’ (averaged across our entire life), but a god who welcomes 49% evil in His presence wouldn’t be very holy.”
    I’ve probably mentioned it here before, but Hebrews 11:6 comes to mind when I think of how much “good actions” benefit us toward being united with Christ: “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

    Liked by 1 person

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