“As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumbling stone and rock of offense: and whosoever believes on him shall not be ashamed.”
Romans 9:33 (KJV)
Cats are odd creatures for a number of reasons. This is especially true of ‘outdoor cats’.
One of the oddities of outdoors cats is how they love to make a contribution to the daily menu. Those of you who are cat lovers know whereof I speak. It isn’t unusual to come into the kitchen and find “fresh catch” presented lovingly on the floor where you are accustomed to walk.
I used to rent the bottom floor of an older couples house and there was a nice garden area in the back. It was a tropical area and so it was full of potential for rodent activity. As it happened, there was cat named ‘Gertie’ that came with the place.
While, I am not a cat lover per se, I like cats. In fact, I had a kitten named ‘Lucky’ that I brought to Kindergarten for show and tell and he grew to be our family cat even for long family vacations out west and back. Lucky lived until I was a sophomore in college.
So, Gertie and I warmed up to each other quite easily. I knew to let her have her space, keep her fed and watered, play with her on occasion and almost every evening she allowed me the privilege of petting her. One night, as a token of our friendship, she magnanimously deposited a half eaten rat on my kitchen floor.
While I believe that she left me the rather large meaty hind quarters as a sacrificial offering for my dining pleasure, I was insensitively unimpressed as I grabbed the tail of the half eaten corpse and flung into the backyard garden area.
I never knew a cat could look so insulted as Gertie did that evening and I don’t think that our relationship ever recovered from my culinary snobbery. I hope that the next tenants were more appreciative of Gertie’s gracious offers of friendship.
It is interesting that I find myself identifying with Gertie as it relates to my efforts to please God. My childhood training was to believe that God was good and His ways are good. I was taught to believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that He died and rose again to pay for the sins of the world.
However, I was also taught that it is a sin of presumption to say that I can know for sure that God will receive me into heaven when I die. According to what I was taught, before I can get into heaven, I had to live a good life and go to church regularly, confess my sins to the priest, pay my tithes to the church, offer my life in service, pray to the saints for help and then maybe if I was good enough, God would hear me and receive me into heaven when I die.
In other words, God was good and His work was good…but not good enough to save me just as I am.
Imagine my insult and my surprise when I learned from reading the Bible that God considered all my righteous works to be as filthy rags! (Isaiah 64:6) Nor could I be saved by my works, but by faith alone in Christ alone. (Ephesians 2:8-10; Titus 3:5; Romans 4:2; Galatians 2:16)
In the world that I grew up in, promotion was based on merit and achievement. (Although it has become more and more based on who you know and if you are willing to submit to whatever the political narrative is in vogue at the time) So, it is only natural to think that God would expect us to earn our salvation by contributing our own efforts as atonement for our sins.
In fact, much like Gertie, we are highly insulted when God calls our efforts to be like a rag soiled with human excretions. Our efforts are fit only for being thrown out and burned up. This is why religious Jews – and Gentiles- stumble over the offense of the cross of Christ. Being hanged on a tree was the sign of being cursed (Galatians 3:13). Why would anyone want to follow after the cursed thing?
On the other hand if I wouldn’t accept a half eaten rat from a cat, why should God who is Holy receive anything from my sinful heart and filthy hands? My only hope is to believe God’s Word that the cross of Christ is sufficient payment for my sins.
“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.”
1 Corinthians 1:18-19 KJV
The reality is that God is always good and all of His works are perfect. I can never get into heaven by thinking that God accepts my dead works as a contribution towards my salvation. Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross is offered as payment for the sins of the world, but it is only through faith in that finished work that my soul is saved.
“Nothing more is needed, Nothing less will do”
Only a work untainted by sin is an acceptable sacrifice sufficient to pay for sin. There is only one sacrifice that qualifies. It is in this confidence of Christ’s sufficiency to save completely that the Apostle Paul writes:
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”
Romans 12:1-2 KJV
Why behave like an insulted cat, when you can be a child of God?
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