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Friday, March 22 , 2019, 10:18 am | A Few Clouds 57º


D.C. Collier: Was Frank Sinatra Right to Do It ‘My Way’?

“And now, the end is near
And so I face the final curtain
My friend, I’ll say it clear
I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain

“I’ve lived a life that’s full
I’ve traveled each and every highway
But more, much more than this
I did it my way.”

Millions celebrate Frank Sinatra’s version of the iconic song, “My Way,” because it strikes a chord within all of us to “do our own thing” in life and not be bound by anything that we don’t agree with.

This compulsion goes way back — to the Garden of Eden — when Adam and Eve decided to strike out on their own and leave God in their rear-view mirror. It didn’t end well for that pair of miscreants, nor for their son, Cain, who ended up murdering his brother, Abel.

The Bible is largely a litany of the carnage caused by human beings doing it “their way” ever since. And when it comes to getting into heaven, the stakes could not be higher.

The Door to Heaven

Scripture often describes getting into heaven as going through a door: “And someone said to Him, ‘Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?’ And He said to them, ‘Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.’”1

“So, Jesus said to them again, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.’”2

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.”3

You’ve probably heard that all religions lead to the same place, implying any old door will do. Not so. There is one door, and only one way to go through it.

But by far, the most popular scheme the “My Way” crowd has devised to reach heaven on their own is through one variation or another of the erroneous method that the Bible calls “works.” The greatest deception of all — that you can “work” your way to heaven through your own efforts.

Bert and Ernie

Sesame Street’s beloved Muppet characters, Bert and Ernie, performed skits that entertained millions of children on TV. As Wikipedia explains, “An ordinary Bert and Ernie skit involves Ernie coming up with a harebrained idea, and Bert trying to talk him out of it, ending with Bert losing his temper and Ernie remaining unaware of the results of his own bad idea.”

One hilarious episode has Ernie involved in a construction scheme and he’s trying to get through a narrow door with an armload of lumber. Ernie is carrying the lumber horizontally across his arms and, of course, he bangs into the sides of the doorway because the boards are too long. So, Ernie backs up and tries again and again, getting madder each time. All the while, Bert is yelling, “Just turn the boards around and you can walk right through.” But noooo ...

Ernie insists on doing things his way, so he puts the boards down and comes back with a big saw. Then he proceeds to hack big horizontal slots into each side of the doorway. By this time, all 5 million youngsters in the TV audience are yelling, “Just turn the boards around, Silly!”

Ernie’s totally tweaked work ethic of, “if at first you don’t succeed, keep trying the same thing over and over,” drives him onward despite a cacophony of voices advising him otherwise.

Finally, having ruined the doorway and sweating profusely, Ernie collapses in a heap with the young audience shaking its head in disbelief. Getting through a door shouldn’t be that hard.

Ernie is the ultimate “My Way” kind of guy. This is not just a silly story ...

Attitude Is Everything

Ernie has an “attitude issue.” Big time. He insists on doing things his way.

Billions of people are doing the same thing when it comes to the way they approach eternal life. Many will agree that getting to heaven is to be preferred over the alternative, but that’s where the agreement ends.

Then come the many “My Way” variations: One person will say, “I’ve lived a pretty good life,” another will claim they’ve “joined a church,” an alcoholic might say, “I’ve been sober 256 days.” Some might say, “I’ve never harmed anyone, or stolen anything,” etc.

The common denominator in all of these is “me,” I did it. They are all following Ernie by trying to change the proverbial heavenly door to fit their harebrained scheme of getting through and expecting God to look the other way. Silly.

The Apostle Paul ran into this attitude in the young church at Galatia:

“You crazy Galatians! Did someone put a hex on you? Have you taken leave of your senses? Something crazy has happened, for it’s obvious that you no longer have the crucified Jesus in clear focus in your lives. His sacrifice on the cross was certainly set before you clearly enough.

“Let me put this question to you: How did your new life begin? Was it by working your heads off to please God? Or was it by responding to God’s Message to you?

“Are you going to continue this craziness? For only crazy people would think they could complete by their own efforts what was begun by God. If you weren’t smart enough or strong enough to begin it, how do you suppose you could perfect it? Did you go through this whole painful learning process for nothing?“It is not yet a total loss, but it certainly will be if you keep this up!”4

Two Ways, Worlds Apart

Someone has said that “works” are man’s way of reaching for God, and that grace is God’s way of reaching man. Bible commentator William Newell boiled it down to this:

“But the works method and the grace method are mutually exclusive. Each shuts out the other. Men must cease even seeking; they must cease all works — weeping, confessing, repenting, even earnest praying, and simply believe God laid their sins, their very own sins, all of them (past, present and future) on Christ at the cross.

“There comes a moment when a man ceases from his own works, hearing that Christ finished the work, paid the ransom at the cross. Then he rests! Such a soul believes, knowing himself to be a sinner and ungodly, but he believes on God, just as he is, and knows he is welcome!”5

Countless earnest seekers get thrown off by wondering if they have the “right kind of faith” or whether they have “done enough” or have been “deserving enough” to be saved. The resultant doubts rob them of the peace that God promises.

The problem boils down to a single question: What am I depending upon for my assurance? Am I looking to myself, my faith, my worthiness, my earnestness, my devotion? If so, the result will be gnawing uncertainty, endlessly repeated acts of rededication and a lifetime of stunted spiritual growth.

If it’s about me, how can I ever know that I’ve done enough, confessed enough or devoted enough? I’m acting as my own savior — and not a very good one at that.

So please ... give up scrubbing yourself with spiritual lye and come as you are. Cease from your own works and believe that Christ finished the work, paid the ransom at the cross. Then rest!

D.C. Collier is a Bible teacher, discipleship mentor and writer focused on Christian apologetics. A mechanical engineer and Internet entrepreneur, he is the author of My Origin, My Destiny, a book focused on Christianity’s basic “value proposition.” Click here for more information. Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

1. Luke 13:23-24 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

2. John 10:7-9 (NASB)

3. Revelation 3:20-21 (NASB)

4. Galatians 3:1-4 MSG

5. Newell, William R. Romans: Verse by Verse. Chicago: Grace Publications, 1938. Print.

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