As of Saturday I’m now the proud owner of a Stranraer FC shirt with ‘Malcom 9’ on the back – the name and number of the second top scorer in the club’s history. The first game of the season was an opportunity to pick up the shirt of the player that I’d sponsored last season, which turned out to be Craig Malcolm’s last with the club.
Sadly however putting on his shirt won’t improve my football ability. If it was that easy I would go straight out and buy one that said ‘Ronaldo’ on the back! It will still be the old me inside it. Putting on a shirt with someone else’s name on it doesn’t give you their skills, identity, achievements or medals.
But amazingly, what isn’t true of a football shirt, is true of a Christian’s relationship with God. The Bible talks about ‘putting on Christ’. That means trusting in him to make us acceptable in God’s sight. The astounding truth of the Bible is that when we ‘put on Christ’ then immediately, in God’s sight, all Jesus’ achievements become ours.
As a minister I’ve found that the biggest misconception about Heaven is that people think they can earn the right to go there – by church attendance, living a good life, giving to charity etc. That leaves ‘good’ people feeling proud because they think they’ve done enough, and ‘bad’ people feeling hopeless because they know they haven’t. But the Bible makes it clear that earning a place in Heaven is way beyond out ability – it’s impossible. The only person who has ever deserved Heaven is Jesus Christ. And so when we stand before God, the question won’t be, ‘did your good deeds outweigh your bad ones?’ but ‘who’s shirt are you wearing?’. There is nothing to earn. Jesus has done it all. He has met God’s standards. All we have to ‘do’ is accept his free gift.
I was handed Malky’s shirt on Saturday because a year ago I’d paid a fee. But for us to be handed the achievements of Jesus, there is nothing to pay. The Bible describes Heaven as a wedding feast. Jesus warns that those who turn up without the right ‘clothes’ on will be thrown out. If we are hoping for our own efforts to cover us before God, they’ll let us down. We will only get in if we are clothed with the achievements of Jesus.
Published in Stranraer and Wigtownshire Free Press, 29th June 2017