The Test: Pass or Fail

[Ed’s note: I wrote this two years ago. At the time I had no idea that this picture would become part of a compilation called “brilliant answers by smart kids” that would wind up on viralnova, buzzfeed, etc. Now I see the picture everywhere and, occasionally, it links back to here. Thanks to those links, two years later and this post is still getting 5-10 hits a day. Let the gospel go out…]


Read: Ezekiel 37:1-38:23, James 1:19-2:17, Psalm 117:1-2, Proverbs 28:1

For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws. (James 2:10)

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Relate: In college, unless I was the curve wrecker, I hated them. You know who I’m talking about. Lets say you have twenty students in the class and everybody is about average… except for that one girl who has no life. All she does is study every day from the moment she gets home until the moment she leaves in the morning. Everybody else gets a 70 or worse on a test. She gets a 98. The girl is wrecking the curve.

On the flip side are the curve helpers. I love these guys. Once upon a time they showed up for a class. Somehow, they score worse on multiple choice tests than they would if they filled in the answers randomly. When it comes to true or false questions, they flip a coin. Their coin isn’t very lucky. I love these guys. Did I say that already? There is nothing like scoring a 58% on a test and then finding out that is a B-. There must have been a lot of curve fodder in the room.

When it comes to our spiritual life, some people look at those like Mother Theresa and Billy Graham as curve wreckers and Adolf Hitler or Charles Manson as curve helpers. When it comes time to the judgment, I don’t want to be the one right in line after Mother Theresa. I don’t care how good I try to be, she’s gonna make my outlook pretty rough. On the flip side, if Bin Laden’s right in front of me, I think I’ll dance a jig right on the spot.

React: Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work that way. Making the grade into heaven is pass fail. Even worse, the test is incredibly hard. Life is made up of an infinite number of choices. There are hundreds, no thousands of moral questions presented to us each day. We are faced with opportunity after opportunity, choice after choice, decision after decision with how we will live our life. A skipped question counts as a wrong answer so we aren’t just graded on what we did. We are also graded on what we should have done. It gets even worse. According to James, according to God writing through James, the only passing grade is 100%. If we fail on even one question, we have failed them all.

The fact is, passing this test, the most crucial test in all eternity is the next thing to impossible. There is a curve wrecker, it can be done, but only once in all of history. Only one person has ever answered every question right. The rest of us seem to mess up over and over again. I might say, “Oh look I got 52% right and my neighbor Joe only got 49% so I must be doing pretty good.” It’s fun to compare ourselves with the Stalins in the world who are shooting in the low 30’s, not as much with the saints who are hitting in the mid to high 60’s. It doesn’t matter. Even if I were to answer only one of the 33 million questions wrong, I’ve failed. Perfection can be achieved, but I didn’t do it. No amount of correct answers from here on out will change that fact.

But here’s the good news. Right before it was time to turn in our tests, the curve wrecker came to me with an offer. He said we could switch names. He would take my failure, the wrong answers that I’ve earned, and the judgment I deserve and in return He would give me His perfect score. All I have to do is write His name on my life and in return surrender my name (life) to Him. Considering what is riding on this test, I’d be a fool not to take Him up on the offer. What about you? He’s making you the same proposal.


God, I thank You for Your Name. I am a failure. I have messed up time and time again. Holiness is required and I am covered in sin. Perfection is required and I have fallen short time and time again. I’m so sorry for this. I am so sorry and willfully chose to do evil over and over again. Forgive me. I give You my name. I give You my failures and mistakes. In their place I accept Your grace. I accept Your perfection. When people look at me, let them see Your Name shining through.

149 thoughts on “The Test: Pass or Fail

  1. Pingback: 30 Brilliant Test Answers From Smartass Kids - Awareness

  2. Well, yes, it’s difficult to get into Heaven. However, It is difficult because we make it so. God gave us a world full of love, warmth, friendship and everything we need. He had hopes for us and still does. He has shown compassion. He gave us 10 simple rules to follow and we simply would not follow them. Or maybe we couldn’t because of the apple…but anyway…realizing this…He again gave us one last chance and sent His son to save us. Again, we failed. Badly. We tortured the very Life He gave us. Now the road is much more narrow going into Heaven…and it’s OUR fault. Partly at least. Anyway, Jesus said that many of us won’t make it. Many of us don’t even know Him, but we claim to. It’s a daily duty to remember The Lord’s words, preach them,and try to abide by them. It’s never been easy being a Christian, but the reward is so great…..

    Personally…I struggle with being nice to people who do me wrong among other things. But, I’m trying and God knows that. Jesus hears my words, knows my strengths and weaknesses, and knows when I am sincere and when I need a lesson.

    I have written a book on Miracles called “In His Glory, A Book of Miracles” that will be out on Kindle soon. I am currently reformatting the book and hope to have it back up by Easter. For your convenience, I have posted the first chapter of the book on my website under the sneak preview section. The chapter is called “The Lady at St. Louis Cathedral”. I have also posted an Easter poem to share with everyone called “The Love”, you can find that under the Lagniappe tab.

    Please take a moment to visit my website I would love your feedback.

    Also, if you have not done so already, I would like to personally invite you to follow my blog. Thanks again. Have a blessed day.

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  10. In christ we pass the ultimate test of eternity. But you missed the rest of the story…
    Jesus the curve wrecker also gives us the answer key and a tutor to help us answer every question correctly. Even with this helper, from time to time , we choose to ignore the tutors advice and select the wrong choice. The buzzer sounds, we feel miserable, we learn the lesson, and we are graded on God’s curve which is actually straight and perfect. Over time, we trust the tutor more and more, getting fewer ( but always some) questions wrong. But we keep working on it with fear and trembling because Jesus’ name is on the exam, and He deserves our best!

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  13. H!, no curves–no test scores–Our home work–building a relationship–with our teacher–Jesus Christ–our graduation–the eternal campus–Gods Kingdom of Grace–let the celebrations begin. Thank You Lord

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  23. I always think of the criminal on the cross. All he said was “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” and that’s all it took for him to get it. He was probably a very bad person up til then. It would have been just as easy for Bin Laden or Hitler to get into Heaven.

    • Anyone can be saved, provided that God chose to save them. The spirit of thief on the cross was regenerated by God before he believed that Christ could or would save him and before he spoke. His words was the effect of what God did, not the cause of His salvation. Natural sinful man is spiritually dead in their sins, completely unable and unwilling to become righteous or repent from their sins. The elect of God are as undeserving of salvation as anyone else is. But once their spirit has been regenerated by God, they see their sinfulness and repent and thereby are saved.

      Sent from my iPhone


      • Lies. All lies. You have been deceived, and you are spewing untruths that are not in line with God’s ways or his word.

        I once looked up on Wikipedia what it means to be a Calvinist. I was shocked. I was horrified! If I’ve ever met a man-made religion, it is Calvinism, because it’s sure not in the Bible.

        • If you read the bible and reconcile what it clearly states, the doctrines of grace ( that you call Calvinism) is biblical and therefore truth. Most people are overly generous to say that arminianism can be accepted by Christians. But I believe doing so requires the spirit of error that leads many tares to falsely believe they are saved and yet still worldly.

          Here is the irrefutable evidence. Do you seek God truth or merely desire to justified in your spirit of error?

          Sent via the Samsung Galaxy Mega™, an AT&T 4G LTE smartphone

      • One of the greatest gifts God has given us is the use of our wills. We can make choices. “Choose this day whom you will serve.” But your theology strips us of this gift, causing us to be ineffective and powerless. And not only that, you are going around telling other people that they can’t exercise their wills either. Satan would be pleased. Open your eyes to see the truth.

        If you’re going to have a theology that says we can’t choose God, at least keep it to yourself. Don’t hinder the rest of us who are trying to follow him with all our hearts and minds and strength.

        • Its not my theology, it is god’s.

          The words you wrote are from the old testament

          I have given you a land for which you did not labor, and cities which you did not build, and you dwell in them; you eat of the vineyards and olive groves which you did not plant.’ “Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord! And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:13-15 NKJV)

          It was spoken to God’s people by Joshua. It was a challenge to them. But as the old testament shows, most were unable to obey God, because they were unwilling to. Sure for a while, but most fell away. Spiritually the were dead.

          “But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel, nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, ‘In Isaac your seed shall be called.’ ” (Romans 9:6, 7 NKJV)

          Read all of Romans chapter 9. It, like so many other passages, tells us that God elects.

          Many verses about choice Gives everyone the permission and promise of salvation, but not the ability. God alone gives the elect the ability ( desire) to obey.

          Your quick response proves that you didn’t study the link I provided which includes hours of sermons on the subject by John Mac Arthur. The evidence is irrefutable and overwhelming! Who needs God if we can save ourselves from sin. If we can save ourselves, Jesus’ death was unnecessary.

          So God ‘s gift to the elect is salvation which enables us to choose to follow Christ. Without Christ’s intervention, our will is wicked and contrary to God’s.

          “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ (Matthew 7:21-23 NKJV)

          God knows His elect. Those He redeems know Him, and practice lawFULness (Righteousness). We do it to glorify the God we love, knowing that God alone deserves 100% credit, be cause He saved us.

          But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12, 13 NKJV)


          Again I challenge you to study the link, listen to the sermons, and accept the truth, if God empowers you to do so!

          Sent from my iPhone


        • After thinking about this for a few hours, I’ve decided to apologize, because God doesn’t like it when his children fight. I’m sorry for fighting and being mean and insulting. Please forgive me.

        • Were we fighting? Have you read Luther’s bondage of the will? Salvation changes our will by freeing us from our slavery of sin. You wrote:

          > One of the greatest gifts God has given us is the use of our wills. We can make choices. >

          Where in the bible is the use of our wills numbered among the greatest gifts of God? The free choices that we make are driven by our will, our fallen will that we are born with or the redeemed will of the saved elect. Except for those moments when the wicked feign godliness, or the redeemed are momentarily tempted, our choices usually follow our will.

          May God bless and guide us ( without sarcasm)

          Sent from my iPhone


    • Thanks. A pingback is made when you create a link to another post. It lets the person “pinged” let them know they were quoted or talked about.

  24. Pass-Fail. A very creative way of explaining the atonement. Thanks. You might want to check out my recent post on Nine Reasons Why Sound Doctrine Won’t Get You to Heaven@ thanks for checking us out.

    • It isn’t a matter of not being enough room. The issue is the truth that too many people just don’t want to go there. They want to try and live their life apart from God, and when He grants them that wish… that’s hell.

  25. Hey BJ,

    I loved this post! I especially appreciated the “3 Rs” in light of the message regarding tests. As a life-long learner, I am ever desiring to be a “straight-A student in the University of Life.” As I read your comments, I thought of this poem which I think you might appreciate.

    God bless

    Choices, Chances, and the Changes We Make

    And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

    Romans 12:2 (New King James Version)

    As we journey life’s highway, we all must make a choice:
    To follow the path that leads to life or the way of death.
    The Lord says choose life, but we must give heed to His voice
    And follow the path of life each day that we draw breath.

    Each day we can remain where we are or take a chance
    And open up to release what we have and to give,
    As we determine whether we diminish or enhance.
    Only when we give in love do we begin to live.

    God’s Word encourages us to be transformed, to change.
    As butterflies emerge in beauty, our lives unfold.
    From death to life, beauty for ashes God will exchange.
    For those who walk upright, no good thing will He withold.

    Life is the sum of choices and chances, risks that we take,
    Not to be conformed but transformed by the changes we make.

    Lonnell E. Johnson/Dr. J

  26. Jesus has set us free BJ so we can be perfected in Love by putting our flesh to death that causes us to sin and Being Born again of God’s seed or Nature we are like Jesus and we walk as He walked.

    It is not worldly Perfection we aim for, this keeps changing, it’s God’s perfection like Paul and other Christians had before they died. God tells us to reckon ourselves dead to sin not to keep saying we will sin and it’s OK because we are forgiven.

    I’m sure there will be many people who will say that we can’t be perfected in Love but that is not what the Scriptures tell us, so do we believe God or continue to Trust in our own understanding or others who have itching ears.

    1 John 3: 1-11 ( 9 ) No one who is Born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been Born of God.

    1 John 5:18-20 We know that no one who is Born of God sins; but He who was Born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him.

    1John 4:16-17 And we have known and believed the Love that God hath to us. God is Love; and he that dwelleth in Love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Herein is our Love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as He is, so are we in this world

    Matthew 5:48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect.

    1 John 2:4-6 He that saith, I know Him, and keepeth not His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth His word, in him verily is the Love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in Him. He that saith hebideth in Him ought himself also so to walk, even as He walked.

    Christian Love from both of us Anne.

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  31. Such a simple choice… and yet so many don’t take it. I really wonder why not…. When I accepted that He was in change of my life, the experience was liberating. Life is easy now… He makes all my choices very simple.

    • Nah. Entertain those doubts. Bring them to the light. Deal with them, wrestle with them. God is bigger than our doubts and He will help us see our way through them when we deal with them honestly. When we try to hide them in the closet or sweep them under the rug, that’s when they grow into monsters.

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