Does God Grade on a Curve?

If you don’t know, I am currently in my second semester at Talbot seminary. It’s been really interesting being back in school again. I finished medical school about four years ago so it has been awhile since I’ve had to do classroom-type work.

It has been an adjustment getting back into school mode again. And seminary definitely is a different kind of training. There’s a lot more reading, writing papers and my least favorite, class participation (Actually my least least favorite is role playing. Thankfully we haven’t had much of that yet). But I really, really dislike class participation. I rather memorize tons of obscure facts.

And the grading is different too. Throughout medical school we actually didn’t have grades. Some traditional med schools still give out letter grades, but most have adopted a pass/fail system where if you get above a certain percentage, then you pass. If you don’t, you fail and you have to retake the test, or sometimes retake the class.

Some schools have a grading-on-a-curve type system and award the top 10-15% an honors grade. But basically, once you get into medical school, almost everyone eventually finishes. There’s a joke, “What do you call a medical student who graduates at the bottom of their class? A doctor.” That’s comforting, right?

It’s interesting that in Talbot, they not only have letter grades, but the grading scale is much higher than I’ve seen anywhere else. In one of my classes, an A is a 94, and that’s an A minus. I’m glad that I’m doing this more for my own growth and for the benefit of the church, or else the Asian part of me would be giving me stomach ulcers.

We are going through Romans at my church, and the passage I just preached on yesterday (Romans 2:1-16) reminded me that God has an even more demanding grading system. It is pass or fail, except it’s more like you pass only if you get everything right. There will be a day of judgment where God judges our works,and I think many hold on to the hope that if I do more good than bad, then I’ll make it to heaven.

But Paul reminds us that God’s standard is not “good enough,” or “better than most.” God doesn’t grade on a curve. On the day of judgment, everyone will fall short of God’s perfect standard, no matter how much good we have done. Before a perfect and holy God, even one sin is enough to condemn us to eternal punishment in hell.

But the good news of the Gospel, and why Paul is eager to preach this message to all, is that while there is nothing we can do to earn salvation, God has revealed a righteousness, a way to be made right with God in Christ that is through faith. In God’s love, mercy, and grace, He sent His son Jesus to live a perfect life in our place, satisfying the requirements of God’s law, and died on the cross in our place, taking on the punishment for our sins.

Through faith in Christ, we have perfect obedience and forgiveness of sins, restoring our relationship with God. Judgment will be by our works, and all will be condemned. But salvation is by faith, praise be to God!

How good is good enough to get into heaven if we can be saved by our works?

“This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” Romans 3:22-24

If you missed the sermon this past Sunday, feel free to download the podcast here! If you have any questions or thoughts regarding the sermon, please leave a comment or send me an email.

Super Resistent Bacteria!

The CDC put out this advisory warning against a rise in carbapenem-resistant enterobacter, or CRE. This is basically a bacteria that has developed a resistance to carbapenem, one of the “big-guns” antibiotics that we reserve for when all the other antibiotics fail. And apparently, there are bacteria that are becoming resistant to these too.

In the 1920s Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin, which would later win him a Nobel Prize because it changed the medical and pharmaceutical world. This discovery made possible the development of antibiotics to treat bacterial diseases. Innumerable lives have been saved because of these medications.

There are now many classes of antibiotics to treat the different bacterial strains that exist, with varying degrees of effectiveness. Researchers are working hard developing new antibiotics because, unfortunately, the bacteria has found a way to survive. Each antibiotic class targets a specific mechanism that the bacteria uses, i.e., to reproduce, infect, etc, and one fortunate mutation (from the view of the bacteria) can render an entire class of antibiotics useless for that organism. This is called developing resistance.

As a result of widespread use of antibiotics, often inappropriately to treat common viral illnesses, there are now many strains of highly resistant bacteria. In addition to MRSA, ESBL, and VRE (other resistant bacterial strains), I can now add CRE to the list of scary things I never want to get (except I’m pretty sure I am colonized with the 1st three from working in the hospital). According to the article, “one report cites they can contribute to death in up to 50% of patients who become infected.” Uh yeah…be careful my hospital-dwelling friends.

This is probably how the zombie apocalypse is going to start with eventually a super mutant bacteria emerging that is so powerful that it not only kills, but reanimates the body afterwards. It’s crazy that despite how smart we are and the fancy technology we develop, the effects of sin will continue to decay the natural order. The Bible tells us that our initial rebellion against God not only affected our relationship with Him, but corrupted the very fabric of creation.

Whereas we were created to be in intimate fellowship with God and others, charged to rule over creation, because of sin now we live alienated from God, in conflict with one another, and at the mercy of the elements. Jesus came to usher in God’s kingdom, to bring us back to how creation was intended before the Fall. We, as believers, are charged to carry on God’s work of restoration through whatever gift God has given us as we live on this earth, awaiting for the process to be completed when Christ returns. What part has God called you to play in His redeeming work?

18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. Romans 8:18-21

Pain

I think the worse pain I ever felt was when I somehow opened my car door right into my eye one night after church. I was rolling around on the driveway for a good couple of minutes. When the pain finally subsided some, I was seeing double. Like a good future doctor,  I decided to sleep it off to see if it would be better in the morning. My vision actually got worse so  I got it checked out. Fortunately, I came away with just a corneal abrasion and a gnarly terminator-looking eye for some months. The ophthalmologist said she never heard a story like that before.

Pain is such a funny thing. It’s so unpleasant, but it’s so important to our well-being. Growing up in church we are taught how lepers end up losing their limbs because they couldn’t feel a burn or a prick. The equivalent now would be the diabetics who have to have their toes, and sometimes entire limbs, amputated because the superficial infection eventually got into the bones. And all because they couldn’t feel the initial injury.

God created our bodies to feel pain to alert us that something is wrong. Yet, many have devoted so much time and resources trying to blunt that response. There’s such a hoopla now about adequately treating pain and it’s reflected by the kind of medicine we practice. In 2010, vicodin was the most prescribed medication, and I suspect it’s still up there now.

I’m not sure we’re doing all that much good dishing out all these narcotics. A good chunk of the time, we don’t even know why there’s pain, at least based on the things that we can measure and check.  I think often times, physical symptoms like pain are the manifestations of emotional and spiritual turmoil that’s within.

Life isn’t about avoiding pain and suffering. Comfort is not God’s ultimate priority for our lives. Suffering wasn’t part of the plan, but is the result of our disobedience. But God, in His grace, redeems it in the lives of His children, using it to correct us and draw us back to Him. And God came into this world of suffering and bore the ultimate pain on our behalf, the punishment for our sins. So when pain and suffering come, I hope it can remind you of the consequences of our sins against God, but more importantly, of the sweetness of heaven, where there will be no more suffering. God be praised.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Revelations 21:3-5