Put the Pliers Down!

I live on the plains of the Midwest…in hard-working territory. I’m surrounded by determined men and women who can fix just about anything with just a few beads of sweat and a pair of pliers.

During my junior year in college, I went to a friend’s house for Christmas break to hunt geese. Jack’s dad, Bob, was a rancher in western Nebraska. Bob was tougher than any bull on his land. When I shook his hand, his fingers were chapped, swollen, and leathery from forty years of tightening bolts on tractors in negative wind-chill weather. He wore a pair of Wrangler jeans, steel-toed work boots, and a flannel shirt that smelled like hydraulic fluid. He looked like the Marlboro Man minus the smoke.

Later, as Jack and I were scanning the skies for incoming geese, I told him that I admired his dad’s ranch. I said, “Obviously your dad’s a hard worker.”

Jack chuckled and said, “Yeah, as long as his pliers are hanging from his hip, there’s nothing he can’t fix.”

Many men and women have Bob’s dogged determination to tackle whatever life throws at them. In almost every context in life, it serves them well. But a stubborn resolve to fix what is broken can stand in the way of setting things right with God. A set of pliers and a few beads of sweat cannot fix what sin has messed up between God and us.

This is the rock in the road that many get-’er-done men and women stub their toes on. Yet, to receive the acceptance of God, we must lay down our tools and simply put our faith in Jesus. We must trust in the idea that Jesus did the work for us. All of it!

This is precisely what the Apostle Paul described when he wrote: “And to the one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness. (Romans 4:5, Italics mine)”

Faith, not our best efforts, sets us right with God. In hard-working America, this is often the greatest barrier to faith.

I’m curious: Do you struggle with this put-your-pliers-down approach to salvation? Is it hard for you to receive something you didn’t earn, work for, or fix for yourself?

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  • George Kaplan

    “Faith, not our best efforts, sets us right with God. In hard-working America, this is often the greatest barrier to faith.”

    I’ve heard this particular line (or some variation thereof) for as long as I can remember and it has always sat poorly with me – not because I think I have a “better” or a “right” answer regarding what “sets us right with God,” but because the idea of Faith alone being enough to “set us right” seems, for lack of better words, like a handy excuse not to do our utmost to address the issues that confront us in this world, at this time.

    Put crudely: Sure, it’s wonderful for you to find God; to have “Jesus in your heart.” But that’s all about YOU (not you, the author, “you” in the broad sense). The Bible contains countless passages urging humane compassion and action w/r/t our fellow man. How are we to put these advisories, warnings, teachings and parables into action unless we’re willing to strap on our proverbial pliers?

    • http://www.zekepipher.com Zeke Pipher

      Thanks for the comment, George. I appreciate it, and I thought you worded it very well.

      I think a simple way to state what I’m trying to say is this: I believe we need to lock it in that we are perfect, holy, and absolutely righteous by faith in the grace of God given to us through the life and death of Jesus. THEN, with the Spirit in us, we will be rightly motivated to work with ALL OUR MIGHT…picking up the pliers in order to love, serve, and help others as much as we can. BUT…motivated by faith…not by any sense that those works, deeds, and actions make us more righteous, or worthy, or acceptable to God or others.

      I think we mix that up a bit and we tend to feel a little more spiritual or righteous or moral by our works, even religious works. Does that make sense?

  • http://www.NancyFrench.com Nancy

    Not after trying to do that for so many years. :) Great article!