But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
— Galatians 6:14
Forty years ago, John Denver, George Burns and Teri Garr teamed up in a delightful movie called Oh, God! The story captures a down-to-earth supermarket manager named Jerry (Denver), who is chosen by God (Burns) to spread his message, despite the skepticism of the media, the religious authorities and his less-than-supportive wife (Garr). Along with the barrel of laughs you might expect from an old man claiming to be God, there are many thought-provoking lines in the script. For example, when a puzzled Jerry asks God, “Why me?” God replies, “Why not you?”
And one of my favorites:
GOD (BURNS): If you find it hard to believe in me, maybe it would help you to know that I believe in you.
But the one line that caused a theater full of people to burst out in side-splitting laughter is when Jerry takes his claim of having seen the Almighty personally and being God’s messenger to court. Just when he thinks his effort to vindicate himself is going to fail, leaving him to look a fool, God (Burns) appears in the courtroom suddenly, without opening the doors, and asks to be sworn in. The judge allows him to proceed.
COURT CLERK: Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?
GOD (BURNS): So help me, me.
Cute, from a Hollywood perspective, but for a man to make such a claim? Preposterous. Who would dare? However, should we think that our having been born again is the result of personal effort, something we have done and continue doing to have and maintain a right relationship with God, then such is the claim we make. “So help me, me.”
If, indeed, God’s granting you a place in heaven is the result of human effort, then praise be to you. Go ahead, pat yourself on the back and give yourself a high-five. You didn’t need Jesus. You did it. The cross was unnecessary, and grace is nothing more than the returning of thanks, a prayer we offer at mealtime.
Sound ridiculous? It should, because it is.
Salvation is contingent upon your acceptance of God’s gracious gift alone. Not even your faith is a contributing effort. That, too, is a gift from God (see 2 Peter 1:1).
In the Ephesians volume of MacArthur’s New Testament Commentary, John MacArthur writes:
“The story is told of a man who came eagerly but very late to a revival meeting and found the workmen tearing down the tent in which the meetings had been held. Frantic at missing the evangelist, he decided to ask one of the workers what he could do to be saved. The workman, who was a Christian, replied, “You can’t do anything. It’s too late.” Horrified, the man said, “What do you mean? How can it be too late?” “The work has already been accomplished,” he was told. “There is nothing you need to do but believe it.”