When Nathanael and I first married, we bought a small house with the help of my parents. A few years later, we began remodeling it. It seemed like a good idea on paper. In reality, it was tough. Really tough. Especially when we cut off the kitchen water supply right around the time we brought our first child home from the hospital. For the next year and a half, I hauled water from the bathtub and dumped it in the kitchen sink for dishes and cleaning.
At first it felt kind of fun and adventurous, not to mention it was a great excuse to bring home a pizza or go to McDonalds. But by the time we were expecting our second child, my water-hauling-dutch oven had bowed to a sad, lopsided shape and the thrill of eating out had long faded. And still, no running water in the kitchen.
I’ll never forget the day that changed. The day I went into our new kitchen, lifted the faucet handle, and ran my hand under a steady stream of hot water. Few things in my life have been happier than that moment, and I’m not even kidding. I don’t care how pathetic that sounds, because it’s true. I. Was. Elated. Thrilled. Over-the- Moon. I had come to understand how great a need this water would fill in my daily life. To this day, I often smile at the kitchen sink as a feeling of gratitude washes over me.
Sometimes, I’m sad to say, my attitude toward Jesus is a little like this. From the time I was a baby, my parents raised me to know and trust Him as my Savior. He has always been in my life. I have no bright, shiny memory of the moment of my conversion. Consequently, I take Him for granted far more often than I should. Even worse, I fail to grasp the seriousness of what it means to live a life without Him. I fail to remember that life without Jesus is death.
This is where God’s law comes in and opens my eyes to how great my need is for a Savior. It shows me how sinful I really am, and how impossible it is to get into heaven on my own. “By the law,” says Romans 3:20, “is the knowledge of sin.” The law gives us a list of things God expects each of His children to do, it shows us the line we’re supposed to walk, and reveals the ugliness of our sin.
Think this all sounds pretty depressing? I know someone who would agree with you – someone who once told me that she felt no need to hear God’s law preached in church. She felt hearing the message of God’s love and forgiveness was all she – or anyone, for that matter — needed. She’s not the only one who feels this way. Lots of churches today have turned away from preaching God’s law because it makes us feel bad about ourselves. It ruins our self-esteem when we are reminded over and over that we have failed. Who wants that?
But here’s the thing: Gratitude is in direct proportion to need. The longer I went without running water in my kitchen, the more desperate my need grew. When at last that need was met, my gratitude was larger and more complete than it otherwise would have been. When I study God’s Word, and see that even my most righteous behavior is as filthy rags before God (Isaiah 64:6), my eyes are opened to my great need for Someone who can fulfill the law for me, and give me a holiness that is pleasing in God’s eyes.
What an amazing gift! God give us each the knowledge that only Jesus can fill our most desperate need, so that we are filled with joy and gratitude for His amazing grace.
“I know that, though in doing good
I spend my life, I never could
Atone for all I’ve done;
But though my sins are black as night,
I dare to come before Thy sight
Because I trust Thy Son.”
(The Lutheran Hymnal 379:4)