What is Your Claim?
“LORD, I have come for a pardon.”
“And who are you?”
"Me! Why, don’t you know, Lord? I’m the best man in all my home town. I’ve been as honest and upright with my neighbors as it is possible for a man to be.”
“And your name?”
“My name, Lord, is Mr. Morality.”
“Mr. Morality, let me see. Most of these pardons read: ‘I am not come to call the righteous, but sinner’ Matthew 9:13. I don’t see any made out for Mr. Morality. But are you a sinner?”
“A sinner! I should say not! There isn’t a person who knows me who can charge me with a single wrong. Why, I’m the most respected citizen in my town!” “Well now, Mr. Morality, perhaps this pardon will do. It reads ‘Christ died for the ungodly’ Romans 5:6. Are you ungodly, my friend?”
“By no means, Lord. Never have I been looked upon as an ungodly man.”
“Possibly then, this one is for you, Mr. Morality. It reads: ‘There is none righteous, no, not one!’ Are you unrighteous?”
“I unrighteous, Lord! How could I be when my name is Mr. Morality?”
“Well, Mr. Morality, I’m sorry, very sorry, but I’m afraid that there isn’t a single pardon for you.”
Another steps forward and asks for a pardon.
“Who are you, friend?”
“Mr. Religionist, Lord.”
“And what claim have you to present for a pardon, Mr. Religionist?”
“Have I not been the most faithful worker of all in my home church? Was I not a deacon and then an elder, and did I not labour for the uplift of the people of my community? Yes, and more than that, did I not give thousands of dollars to the church? Surely for all this I deserve a pardon, Lord!”
“But are you a sinner. friend?”
“A sinner! Indeed I am not! I have been religious all my life. I never strayed from the fold. In fact I was brought up in the church.”
“Well, Mr. Religionist, your claim of being religious I do not for a moment dispute. You are certainly well named. But I am compelled to tell you that all these pardons are made out to sinners. I have none for you.”
“None for me! Me, the most faithful churchman in the whole community! None for me! Don’t I deserve one?”
“Not on the grounds of being religious, my friend. But hold on, wait a minute. Here is one that reads: ‘The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.’ Do you realize, Mr. Religionist, that you are lost?”
“Lost, Lord! Why what do you mean? I have never been lost, never in my life. In fact, I’ve always been a Christian, Lord.”
“Perhaps so, friend, perhaps so, but I cannot recognize such claims as you present. My pardons are not for you.”
“Not for me, Lord! Not for me! But wait, I see one that might be for me. Please read what it says.”
“This one? Oh, yes, I see it. Well, here it is, listen: ‘All are guilty before God!’ Do you plead ‘guilty’? If so, this pardon is for you.”
“Not for a moment do I plead guilty, Lord. Mr. Religionist is proud to say that he has never been guilty, never!”
“Obviously, then, my friend, it is not for you.”
There comes another. He bows low as he approaches and humbly requests a pardon.
“And who are you, my friend?”
“Me? Oh, I’m nobody at all, Lord. I’m just a poor, sinful man.”
“Well, upon what grounds do you expect to get a pardon?”
“Only on the ground of the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ. I have never done anything to merit or deserve it. I’m just a sinner. Lord. Is there a pardon for a sinner like me?”
“Indeed there is, friend, and an abundant one, too. Here, take this one. It reads, ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.’ I have plenty for sinners! You are pardoned.”
Paul, what about you? Upon what ground did you receive your pardon? What was your claim?”
“Me? Oh, I had no claim. I’m the chief of sinners, you know.”
“You, Paul, the chief of sinners! Why I thought you were the great apostle to the Gentiles, especially chosen of God, to preach the Gospell”
“Oh, I don’t talk about that. I make no such claim. That is not the ground upon which I received my pardon. It’s just this: Im a sinner. and ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’.”
“Well, Paul, tell me, how did it happen? What made the great change?”
“How did it happen? Why like this: I was a Pharisee, a member of the Sanhedrin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews. Proud was I of my ancestry, and boastful of my righteousness. But one day I saw God, the God of Israel. His hands were full of pardons. Eagerly I reached toward Him, but He never even looked my way.
“Oh, the heart anguish of that moment! Can I ever describe it? Why did He pass me by? Had I not been faithful to the religion of my fathers? And was I not blameless so far as the law was concerned? Why then, did He pass me by?
“But, wonder of wonders, I looked, and Lo, before Him knelt the strangest group I had ever seen. Some were outcasts, the off-scouring of society; but others I noted were among the best in the land: many I personally knew had been most devout in their religious observances. I was amazed and stood gazing in speechless wonder.
“Suddenly I noted two things: First, His hands and feet were bleeding. Second, over the group in large black letters was written the word: ‘Sinners’. In a moment it dawned upon me that they were to receive His pardons. Without a second thought I sprang forward, dropped my cloak, threw myself into the circle of kneeling sinners, and lo, can you believe it? - He gave me a pardon, too.”
“Oh, Paul, what a marvellous story. And so here you are in Heaven, and all because -”
“Hush, there He is now.”
“Where? Where, Paul?”
“There! Do you not see Him? The one with the marks of the thorns.”
“Yes! Yes! I see Him, Paul!”
“Well, it was He who gave me my pardon. Over nineteen hundred years ago He took my place, died in my stead, and because of what He did, I am in Heaven today.”
“But Paul, you’re mistaken. You mean that you were the chief of sinners, not that you are.”
“No, I made no mistake; I am a chief. That is my eternal character-sinner, but, thank God, saved by Grace.”
Friend, what is your claim? What plea will you make when you stand at God’s Judgment Bar? Are you like Mr. Morality, trusting in your own virtues? Or are you, like Mr. Religionist, resting in your church affiliation? If so, let me warn you that it will be of no avail. God pardons none except sinners, but if this is your claim: if, like Paul, you take the name “sinner”, then, hallelujah! there is a pardon for you.