All of Grace!
Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved through faith. This is not from yourselves - it is the gift of God - not as a result of works, so that no one can boast.”
There is a fundamental misunderstanding of God’s grace that exists amongst people today, especially as it relates to salvation. In Australia we are very good at owning the idea that doing more gets you more. Or that doing good will give you more “good” and that doing bad will bring more “bad” into your life. This attitude is what some people call karma or “what goes around comes around”. Many people believe that if they have “good things” in life it is because they’ve somehow earned it.
These thoughts carry over into our thinking of how God deals with us and where we stand with Him. If I have done enough “good” things then surely I will be OK, but if I have slipped up a few times too many, then watch out! This way of thinking is so contrary to what the Bible tells us about how God looks at us and accepts us. It’s important for us to understand the grace that God lavishes on us and to always keep this in focus. We need to be reminded of this so we can continue to trust Jesus with everything, and then be able to share Jesus with others. The two key issues that help us understand God’s grace are: 1) You can never be good enough to earn salvation since it is of God’s grace and 2) You can never be bad enough to be ineligible for salvation since it is of God’s grace.
What does “never good enough” mean?
However good we think we are, we can never be good enough in God’s sight. James 2:10-11 tells us that if we break any one of God’s laws then we are guilty of breaking all of them, and therefore of sinning against God. God’s righteousness demands perfection. This is why we must rely on Jesus to save us. Only in Him do we find perfection. We, therefore, need His grace. As the Bible tells us, we are saved by grace through faith not because of anything we do or offer up to God.
But the amazing thing is that not only do all the good things we do not save us, but our bad works can’t exclude us. We bring nothing to salvation except the sin that makes it necessary.
What does “never bad enough” mean?
Some people carry around with them the perceived shame that they have done such bad things that they are beyond God being able to saving them. Some get so hard on themselves that they give up and believe that God would not save anyone like them. Remember, except for Jesus, we are all 100% guilty before God. No one is ineligible for salvation because it is by God’s grace and not because of things we do regardless of whether those things are good or bad.
God’s grace in salvation is the amazing promise that all who believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross taking the punishment for their sins, and that He then rose from the dead, those people will be saved and have eternal life with God.
Read Romans 10:9-13 and put it alongside Ephesians 2:8-9… Meditate on the implications of God’s grace and give thanks to Him that you are neither good enough on your own, nor bad enough to be ineligible for His saving love. All of this is because of grace!
Faithful Rather than Famous
There is always a challenge for the Believer in Jesus Christ as to how much they seek the applause of others versus the acknowledgement of God. There is certainly no hindrance for any person to pursue excellence. In fact, this is something for which we all should strive. However, the prayerful consideration that must be made is at what expense do we pursue one at the expense of the other?
The Sunday School images we have of Daniel must be wrong! These are the ones that show a virile young man resting easy in the lion’s den. Either these images are misleading or, there is something wrong with my calculations or, the dates are not meant to come together.
Let’s assume that Daniel was, at the age of 17, part of the initial captives that left Judah in 605 BC. Then let’s assume that the lion’s den episode (Daniel 6) occurred at the beginning of the rule of King Darius in 538 BC. That would make Daniel 84 years old when he got dropped into the den! At an age when many of us face a real challenge just get around at all, Daniel is still taking on significant trials for the sake of his faith!
Everything we read indicates that Daniel had delivered exceptional service in Babylon. Right from what is recorded in Daniel 1, the promise he showed resulted in promotions, responsibility and authority. More importantly, Daniel combined his astute public service with continuing loyal service to God. In fact, for 70 years Daniel had been true to his real King – the Lord of Heaven. His faithfulness was part of a godly lifestyle. His graciousness, his commitment to his friendships, his trustworthiness, and his disciplined prayer life all resulted in a wonderful reputation right through his life.
But above all else there was Daniel’s unswerving loyalty to God that was even prepared to see his own life put on the line. What an inspiration this must have been amongst his own people, and what an example this is still to us today for each one of us.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes, “When we are called to follow Christ, we are summoned to an exclusive attachment to His person. The grace of His call bursts all the bonds of legalism. It is a gracious call, a gracious commandment. It transcends the difference between the law and the gospel. Christ calls, the disciple follows; that is grace and commandment in one” (The Cost of Discipleship).
Psalm 119:45 says, “I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out Your precepts.“
Let us be those who understand – and give ourselves to – the wonder of our called and directed relationship of faith in Jesus Christ. He will enable us in all things. And, apart from any wealth we may acquire in this life, this is a richness and a standing beyond any other.
Pastor Stephen writes weekly with his thoughts for MBC.