The discussion was about how we become right with God, assured of His love and, ultimately, of our home in Heaven. As talk flowed around the table there was quite a contrast in experiences, some being taught the obligations of their faith and the ‘rules’ they learned about ‘’sin.” I stated my conviction that a person receives grace only through faith in Jesus, that no amount of good deeds or religious practice can merit it. One man wryly observed that I (as a pastor) was then at a disadvantage to get people to do the right things, to give, and to serve. He was joking, but it’s true! Religious guilt can be quite effective in producing donations and compelling church attendance. But, the Truth is that salvation is not for sale, period.
Paul explains “For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” (Romans 1:17-18, NIV) What a grand proclamation is this scandalous grace of God. From our earliest years we learn how to please others. The love and acceptance we experience in our human relationships is often transactional and conditional. “You do what I want you to do and I’ll like you.”
But, God tells us that He loves us. Yes, that is a complete sentence. He does not love us if we go to church often enough, if we give more in the offering, if we say our prayers or read our Bibles, or are kind to our neighbors, or … The truth is that “When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, no one is likely to die for a good person, though someone might be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” (Romans 5:6-8, NLT)
Like my friend in last night’s conversation, you may be wondering if there is any need then to be good, to pursue holiness, to desire the will of God for your life? Can a person just believe and then ‘sin and grin?’ When we truly receive Christ’s love, by faith, those questions become moot, meaningless to us. Why? Because grace experienced brings us a new heart, one that is alive to the Holy Spirit, that knows Him and desires Him.
Augustine’s famous line is this: “Love God and do what you will.” It is much misunderstood. Some believe that what he is saying is that if we love God we need no other instruction, that we will automatically do the right things, living ethically. Not quite! Others read him as giving us liberty to live as we desire without fear of consequence. Certainly that is not the whole counsel of the Scripture. Augustine’s intent is to turn us to a radical faith, a full acceptance of God’s transformative love that will cause us to change, inside out.
The Christian’s hope rests solidly on God’s grace, shown in Christ Jesus, offered to all who will respond to His invitation with humble faith. From that place, we practice the disciplines of the Spirit, not to merit His continuing blessings, but to learn His wonderful ways and to open our heart and mind to the work of the Holy Spirit.
Are you trying to buy your salvation?
Are you attempting to find peace with God by being ‘good enough?’
He does not offer eternal life for sale at any price. Grace is priceless. Salvation was fully purchased at great cost by Jesus.
Now, believe and receive. Be loved and live!
Here is the word from the Word today. “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.” (1 John 3:1-3, NIV)
Abba, I am so thankful for Your amazing love for me.
You know me best and You love me most.
I am humbled, brought to silence by the astounding, scandalous love of Jesus.
When I am tempted to revert to the old ways of making deals with You,
call me again to faith.
If I grow proud of whatever growth in my spiritual life that You have made possible,
speak insistently to my heart to return to trusting You and Your Son.
May we walk with You, letting Your light shine through us,
For the glory of Jesus,
Until that day when You welcome us into Your eternal home.