God’s Boltcutter

Jan Antonsson

The Glory Road Blog, A Kingdom Highway

August 25, 2018

Neosho, MO

“You cannot be lost if your traveling companion is your destination” (Win Parker).

Usually, I begin these blog essays with a scripture, but the quote from my good friend Win Parker eloquently summarizes the Gospel of Jesus Christ in exquisitely few words, a talent I have yet to master.  My inspiration for this writing came from another friend who sent me a Meditation from “The Word Among Us,” based on Matthew’s accounting of the Estate Manager who went out to hire day laborers to work in his vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16).

You remember the story, I’m sure.  The manager went out 5 times to hire men to work in his vineyard.  At the end of the day, he told his foreman to pay them their wages, starting with the last hired.  These received the agreed amount, a dollar for their work.  The ones hired earlier thought they’d be paid more because they had worked longer hours.  They also were paid a dollar, which got some of them mighty steamed.  They whined to the manager,These last workers put in only one easy hour, and you just made them equal to us, who slaved all day under a scorching sun” (Matthew 20:12, The Message).

The manager reminded the angry workers that they had agreed on the hourly wage when they were hired, and they received it, adding, “So take it and go. I decided to give to the one who came last the same as you. Can’t I do what I want with my own money? Are you going to get stingy because I am generous?” (Vs. 14-15).

Matthew doesn’t wait for us to figure out what the parable means.  He tells us in shocking terms:   “So the last will be first, and the first last’’  (Vs. 16, ESV).  Ouch! That had to smart, a slap in the face to those who thought so then, and those today who still think that their efforts should get them a bigger mansion in glory.  The writer of the Meditation cited above observed,

“We know that the landowner in this parable represents God. And we know that God cannot be outmatched in generosity. He even gave us his only Son, and that is a gift we could never earn. No matter what any of us do for the Lord, whether we follow him perfectly, make huge charitable donations, or sacrifice our lives as martyrs, it still wouldn’t be enough to merit such a priceless gift. The love behind such generosity can be hard to grasp, but that only makes it all the more appealing. Some of us may think that this “impossible” love is too good to be true. We know that God loves us in theory. But in the back of our minds, we’re thinking about how much work we still have to do to clean up our bad habits and sins.“ End Quote.

Because of Adam’s sin, we all inherited a feeling of inadequacy, low self esteem, and the need to prove we’re not as bad as all that.  He and Eve were summarily kicked out of the Garden, and some still look longingly back there hoping to return.  What Father God has in mind for us is so much more than a lush green place with a know-it-all serpent in it.  That brings me at last to the bolt cutter imagery mentioned in the title.

This visual aid came from a website called  

“The Naked Pastor.”

Did Jesus really come to save the world? Or just give us the tools to save ourselves?

It seems to me that many religious leaders are bolt cutter salesmen, urging us to avail ourselves of their tools by which we can sheer the chains from our souls and free ourselves from perdition.  If we buy and use their product, we can get free of our sins, become “good Christians,” and then hopefully, get to glory when we “shuffle off this mortal coil,” as Shakespeare put it.

Sadly, most Christians simply cannot believe that the Gospel Good News is really that good, or that it is the Power of God unto salvation.  Here’s Jonathan Mitchell’s translation of Romans 1:16:

For you see, I am not in the habit of being ashamed of (= I am proud of and thrilled about) the Good News (message of goodness and well-being), for it continues being (or: is) God’s power (ability; capacity) [leading] into deliverance (being rescued; salvation; health and wholeness; restoration to the original state and condition), in everyone (for everyone; to everyone) continuously having faith and trusting (or: believing and relying upon [it]): for (to; in) Jew first, also for (to; in) Greek (or: Hellenist).” 

Many read this verse and go down in flaming defeat, because they don’t think they have either the faith or trust that God can save them.  I put “God’s Power” in red letters because it is His efforts, not ours which cuts the bolts and breaks the chains that bind us.  Here’s Paul’s explanation,  “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9, ESV).  Note that Paul is very careful to say that this grace and this faith is the GIFT of God, not our own doing, for if it were, the Apostle, who fully understood the perfidy of the human heart, knew we would take credit for it. He explained the difference between grace and works:  “Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due”  (Romans 4:4, ESV).  Our salvation is not our just desserts, our wages earned for performance given, it is a FREE GIFT from God’s unconditional love.

“But I don’t deserve it,” someone is sure to feel if not declare.  Of course not.  No one does.  That’s quite the point written in bold, capital letters! I really like The Message rendering of Romans 5:8:  “But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him.

It may hurt your feelings to think you were of no use to God, but many Christians still feel that way.  If you feel like this, you are in excellent company.  Here’s Mark’s assurance about that:   “Later Jesus and his disciples were at home having supper with a collection of disreputable guests. Unlikely as it seems, more than a few of them had become followers. The religion scholars and Pharisees saw him keeping this kind of company and lit into his disciples: “What kind of example is this, acting cozy with the riff-raff?” Jesus, overhearing, shot back, “Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? I’m here inviting the sin-sick, not the spiritually-fit” (Mark 2:15-17, The Message).

It occurs to me that the reason we are only saved by grace through faith is because the Good News is so good, that we need God’s grace to believe it.  In fact, there’s a saying, “If it’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t.”  With that as our reference, no wonder we are astonished.  Peter said that our faith is “of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire” (I Peter 1:7, NIV).  Of course, it is not our faith, but the faith of Christ working in us which allows us to believe. (See Galatians 2:20, KJV).  Peter went on to say that the prophets “searched intently and with the greatest care,” trying to find out about the Christ, His suffering, and the glories which would follow.  Speaking to those to whom the gospel was preached, which includes all of us, he made this amazing comment,  “Even angels long to look in these things” (I Peter 1:10-12, NIV). To that, I say, Wow!   If you are having difficulty believing the Good News is really this good, perhaps you might try looking to Christ and His efforts, rather than to your own.

Father, thank You for giving us the faith to believe that You really do love us, and want only the best for us, that You walk beside us through fires and floods, storms and disasters.  Knowing You do all things well, we rest in Your love, and rejoice with Isaiah that, “Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain. And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.’’  Amen.  Jan Antonsson

Jan Austin Antonsson

17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850

All our writings from 1997-2010 are on

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