When it comes to Christianity there is one thing that separates it from all other religions and that is we do not believe we can earn our own salvation. Many Christians believe we cannot earn our salvation but believe they have to “earn their Keep” after they are saved. Although we may not have a works mentality when it comes to salvation we do have a works mentality when it comes to our growing in Christ. People make statements like “I just want God to be Happy with me’, or” I just want God to smile down on me” You also see it with how they do service for the church or other organizations because they are not serving out of gratitude for what has been done but out of obligation as if God is a task master. Somehow we take the gift of Salvation and we want to pay it off by doing the best we can once we gave our lives to Christ.
Imagine someone giving you a gift and then every week you pay them for that gift even though the gift was so expensive you could never repay them. That is what many Christians are trying to do with God and miss out on what it truly means to be a child of God and what it means to live by Grace.
Let us see what Gods word says about Grace but also maybe notice some our misconceptions about God and some of the false thinking you may have about His grace.
1) Salvation is by Grace
Although most people understand they are not going to make it on their own they do not see their efforts as being in vain. I must start here because if you do not understand your salvation then you will not be able to understand what Christianity is all about.
When talking about salvation people use The Grand Canyon as an illustration. The illustration is that we are separated from God and cannot make it across on our own. That is a correct view because there is no way we can cross the gap between us and God that has taken place because of sin. Where some people teach the illustration incorrectly is that they say that we all have to jump and if you make it three feet across and I make it six feet across then God makes up the difference. This is a false way of thinking because we believe that any effort of ours is going toward the end goal which is crossing the uncross able. We have nothing to offer God in the process of salvation and we have to know that every bit of crossing the chasm that existed or exist between us and God can only be done by Him.
Some believe that the gap between them and God is not as bad as others because they believe that they are a good person. We judge ourselves by the standards of others and sometimes we even compare ourselves to the worst people in our society. The comparison to others is wrong because our comparison needs to be to God and His Holiness. When we see that we do not come close to how Holy and pure God is then we begin to realize we have nothing to offer God.
What the Bible says about us:
Romans 3:10-12 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one;no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”
Isaiah 53:6 says, Each of us has turned to his own way
Psalm 51:5 I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Romans 4:5 calls us wicked
What the Bible says goes contrary to our culture who believes that we are basically good people who just had a bad upbringing or a faulty behavior of some sort. Yes Nature and Nurture are what makes a person behave in certain ways but what we have to remember is compared to a Holy God we are all evil, wicked people.
We are bankrupt before God with nothing to offer Him but there is two types of bankruptcy that people claim.
Chapter 11 Bankruptcy : a healthy company that can work through its debt over time paying back what they owe
Chapter 7 Bankruptcy is a company that has nothing to offer and no future.
The question is which bankruptcy with God did you declare? All other religions are about you working for your salvation (Chapter 11 bankruptcy) but Christianity is about you being so helpless that you had to be Saved. (Chapter 7 bankruptcy) The Old Hymn was right when it said “Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe”
When we accept the free gift of Jesus Christ as our payment to God then the Bible says that we are declared as being Justified.
Justification: being declared righteous before God through faith in Jesus Christ. Another way of saying is would be “just –as if I never sinned” but it is even more than this because you are declared righteous. So going back to our bankruptcy illustration, you do not have to pay the debt you owe but someone has paid them for you. If you can imagine someone coming to your house and asking for all of your debt that you owe and they paid for each and every one of them. That is more what Christianity is talking about when you declare bankruptcy with God. God does not just forget your sin He paid for them personally so that the one you were in debt to would be paid off. I did not just file bankruptcy but Jesus paid all the debts I owed putting me free and clear with all my debts.
Romans 4:5 says, It is God who justifies the wicked . If someone came and paid off all your debts there is still a chance that you can go back into debt. With Christ all the debts have been paid in full, the ones you have already committed and the ones you will commit.
It is important that we understand we have nothing to offer God because if we do not get this down then we will have a misunderstanding of our Christian life. The Gospel means good news and it is called good news for a reason because it is. It is Good News because you will no longer have any debts to pay. You will never understand the Grace of God if you do not understand how undeserving you are of His love.
What does God do with your sin?
Psalm 103:12 Removes them as far as the East is from the west.
Isaiah 38:17 Puts our sins behind His back .Out of His sight because He put them there.
Micah 7:19 Hurled into the Sea He hurled them they did not fall overboard but He purposely and intentionally removed your sins.
Isaiah 43:25 Blotted from your record Legal act of pardoning to be remembered no more. No one can open up the record book and remind you of the sins that you have committed.
Hebrews 10:16-17 Remembered no more. is a term that can mean that God refuses to bring them up again. Have you ever had someone that reminded you of the bad things you did and would not let you forget your past? God will never bring up your sins again because He already paid for them.
Colossians 1:21-22 says we are free of accusation.
Romans 8:1 says there is no condemnation
See Also: Romans 5:1; Hebrews 10:22; Colossians 2:13
Grace is God’s free and unmerited favor show to guilty sinners who deserve only judgment. It is the love of God shown to the unlovely. It is God reaching downward to people who are in rebellion against Him” (Transforming Grace, pg. 21, Jerry Bridges)
Our relationship with God is based on either works or Grace but it can not be a little of both.
Isaiah 55:1 Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.
This is a very difficult concept when we believe nothing is free or when we believe there is a catch. This is even more difficult to someone who believes that they are a good person and deserving of Heaven based on their performance. God’s offer of salvation through Jesus Christ is free and cannot be earned nor can it be paid off.
We do not go to Heaven based on our performance but on the performance of Christ.
2) Following Christ is by Grace
Many of us believe that we need Grace to get us into heaven but we still have a mindset that we can help ourselves out if we do a little extra while on earth. If we perform well then God will smile down on us and maybe help us out a little more. If we perform poorly then when God does not answer our prayer we understand it was because we have not been good enough or we did not have enough faith. We believe we are saved by Grace but we must live by our performance in order to have Gods approval of us.
“God helps those who help themselves” is our motto but the problem with that is that is not biblical. Churches even say things like “Salvation by Grace” but then say, “The Cost of Discipleship” which makes us think we can pay God back some how. We keep a check list of the things we have done right and the things we have done wrong with the hopes that our good outweighs our bad.
We believe we have two angels on our shoulders, one who keeps track of the good things we have done and one keeping track of the bad things we have done. The problem with that is that is not a Christian teaching and was developed in other religions.
Galatians 3:3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by[a] the flesh?
I will answer the question by saying yes, many of us believe we can be perfected in Christ by our own efforts. We accept our salvation by faith in Christ but then we jump on a performance treadmill hoping that our hard work is getting us somewhere but in reality we are not going anywhere.
Isaiah 64:6 We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
Even our best efforts are tainted so the grace of God extends even further than the initial act of salvation. When we believe our good works earn us favor with God we begin to try and manipulate and control Him by being good. We think that God will love us more because we have been good not remembering that He chose to love us despite how we acted.
Romans 5:8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
God cannot love you more than He loves you right now. His love is not based on our works but on His nature. God’s feelings for you do not change because of how you acted for one day, one year or for a longer period of time. The story of the prodigal son is all about the one who wished his father was dead and left home to try and be a slave but came back to find his father still loved him the same. The older brother (which is most of us) missed the love as well because he was slaving all those years for his father to try and earn love from him.
When you have the wrong view of God then you will not live for Him the way you can. If you see God always counting your sins against you and keeping track then you will live in fear of Him. The Beautiful but sad part of the prodigal son is that he wasted all those years away from his father because he had the wrong view of his dad. The sad part of the older brother is he was faithful to serve but was miserable because he missed out on the relationship he could have had with his father because he thought he must earn his fathers approval.
God’s grace is not just for salvation; His grace is for our everyday lives.
When you realize that you are fully loved and fully forgiven then your relationship with God changes. How many times do we avoid God, church or even other believers because we feel as though we have sinned too much? What if you knew that right after you sin God will come and love on you even though you are filthy and smell bad? (Prodigal Son) Your joy in the Lord will be hampered by the thought that God is mad at you. Always remember that He loves you because He chose to and He made you Holy through Jesus Christ.
Gods love for you is not based on how you have acted but because He chose to love you by His own accord. God did not treat Adam and Eve as they deserved but He searched for them and he clothed them. Yes there were consequences to their sin, but if God would have let them stay in the garden and they were to eat the tree of life then they would have been forever separated from Him for all eternity. The loving thing God did for them is to search them out and kick them out of the garden so that they would not have to live for all eternity separated from His love.
The Grace of God looks not at our good and bad deeds but only at Christ.
So does that mean I can sin all I want?
If God’s grace toward us is taught correctly then that will be a thought you might have. Why should I not sin if God loves me regardless of what I do? Why should I serve the church if God is going to love me regardless of the time I give? After the Apostle Paul taught on grace it was something he had to address as well and the entire chapter of Romans 6 was written to address this issue.
Romans 6:1-2 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?
We do not serve God so He will love us more or to be a better Christians, we serve Him because of all that He has done for us.
Romans 12:1 says in view of God’s mercy we offer ourselves as a living sacrifice.
When I hear people talk about how they are serving God and they are doing it to guilt others it shows me they are not serving God out of a grateful heart but out of a required service. Because they are trying to please God (which they cannot do) they then demand others to do the same. This is what the older brother wanted in the story of the prodigal son. He wanted the younger brother to work as hard as him to prove that he loved the father. Miserable Christians try to earn Gods favor instead of serving out of the grace they have received. They talk about their service as a badge of honor and how hard they are working and that shows that their view of God is wrong.
Legalism is you earning favor with God by what you do. Grace is accepting that your standing with God is all about what Christ did.
“Such a works-oriented motivation is essentially self-serving; it is prompted more by what we think we can gain or lose from God than by a grateful response to the grace He has already given us through Jesus Christ….Only when we are thoroughly convinced that the Christian life is entirely of grace are we able to serve Him out of a grateful and loving heart.” (Transforming Grace, PG. 95, Jerry Bridges)
Why do you serve God ? Why do you not give into certain sins? Is it out of gratitude of His overwhelming love for you or is it because you think He will be mad at you?
Why do we not continue to sin after we become a Christian:
2 Corinthians 5:14-15 says that Christ Love compels us. (Fuels Us)
2 Corinthians 5:17 says we are a new creation. (Made new not fixing ourselves up,)
Hebrews 10:16 Says God writes His laws on our hearts and our minds.
Romans 8:29 says that God has begun the process of renewal in us and will complete it. Sanctification)
Ezekiel 36:26-27 says God has given us a new heart.
Romans 7:22 says we will delight in Gods laws.
1 John 4:19 says we love because He first loved us.
John 14:15 Jesus said if you love me you will keep my commandments.
We are motivated to not sin because we have fallen in love with Christ and the grace He has shown us. By His Spirit we are changed internally and that motivates us to follow Him. People that fully understand the grace of God will not abuse it because they will be grateful to receive the grace they do not deserve nor that they could ever pay back.
Jude 4 For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
People that abuse grace may not be Christians because Jude says they pervert grace to live the lifestyle they want to live. In God’s eyes any and every sin has separated us from Him it does not matter if it is lying or murder we have to accept the grace of God through Jesus Christ in order to be forgiven of those sins.
When people say we can sin all we want because Christ already has forgiven us then there is a real heart problem with that person. God hates sin so much that He was willing to die for it and to take our sin lightly is to take the cost of what Christ did for us on the cross lightly.
Romans 12:1 in view of Gods mercy we offer ourselves as a living sacrifice.
We serve God and we get rid of sins in our lives because God is worthy of our obedience. So if you are abusing the grace of God then you have a love problem and the problem is you love yourself more than you love God.
Non- Christian Christian
- Follows Code of Conduct 1) The Spirit gives us the desire to obey
- See’s Commands as a way to earn Gods favor 2) Commands are Gods loving guidance
- Obeys God out of fear 3) Obeys God because of gratitude
- Earns way to Heaven 4) Relies on the free Gift of God through Christ.
How do you see your relationship with God?
Do you understand there is nothing you can do to earn Gods favor?
If you are a Christian are you trying to earn favor with God through your sacrifice or do you view your sacrifice as gratefulness of what He has done for you?