Johnny was more than a good pilot. He could fly so low over a potato field that angry farmers could thrust a pitchfork into the underside of the wing of his plane!
However, Johnny knew that student pilots don’t make it in the air force by returning to base with pitchforks sticking out their bottoms. So he dipped and rocked the plane. The pitchfork stuck fast. Desperate, he made low passes brushing the tree tops. It was still there. Finally, after several more attempts, Johnny left the evidence of his skill somewhere in a tree. He was in the clear, so he thought. But student pilots do not go back to base with tree branches wrapped around their landing struts either. Johnny’s flying expertise was his undoing.
S.R.P. is also more than good . . . at living. He looks at himself every morning in the mirror and says, “I thank God I am not like other people. I am as honest as the day is long. I am faithful to my wife. I discipline myself. I generously give to every charity that I can.”
S.R.P. has such a clean record that no one can fault him. He is good to his children, works hard, is a member of the local service club, and has a dog and two cats. He never yells at his neighbor and he smiles at the elderly. What more could anyone want? This guy is a moral ace.
If God were pleased with a nice clean life, S.R.P. would have it made. If freedom from stealing, lying, adultery and murder would do it, no problem; his ticket to heaven would be confirmed and God would meet him at the gate with open arms.
Unfortunately, S.R.P. forgot something. He assumes that the criteria by which he lives is the criteria by which God grants eternal life, but he did not check it out with God. He does not realize that God says, “All your righteousness is like filthy rags”; that a ticket to life forever with Him is not written on goodness, morality, or being Mr. Nice Guy. Just like Paul said of the Jews in Romans 10, S.R.P. is ignorant of God’s righteousness. He is writing his own ticket, not submitting himself to the kind of righteousness that comes from God.
S.R.P. (if you haven’t already guessed) stands for Self-Righteous Person. Proverbs warns that there is a way that seems right to a man, but the end of it is death. Surely, this is the way that seems right -- to do as good as possible -- and God will say, “Come on in.” Not so.
Only perfect righteousness can satisfy a perfect God. Perfect righteousness is found only in the perfect person, Jesus Christ. S.R.P. needs Him. Just like Johnny, a life flown high, low, or upside-down is not enough unless Jesus Christ is at the controls, trusted for His goodness instead of “doing it my way,” relying on our own capacity to do good.
Johnny’s air force career was put on suspension and eventually turned another direction. He didn’t make it as a pilot because he was too good. He thought, with his ability, he didn’t need to follow the rules.
Jesus said, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled.” It could happen in this lifetime . . . like it did with Johnny, or it could happen at heaven’s gate . . . when S.R.P. tries to get in with the wrong ticket.