My uncle enrolled into a two year carpentry course so many years ago. Wanting to make something of himself
, he studied hard and finished top of the class that semester.
An administrator of the school asked him if he could pay some little money – a small fraction of the tuition so that he could study the rest of the course free of charge. My uncle was stunned! He ran to look for the money for it was insanely little. After finishing the course, he found out that top performers were entitled to bursaries.
But he had paid for one. My uncle had paid for what was given to him free of charge!
That is the same with church, many Christians wake up to sermons about performance. What can I do to earn a right standing with God? What steps can I follow to attain God’s righteousness? We have based our relationship with God on what we can do (for him) – our performance.
The result is a list of tasks we need to perform in order to ‘win’ righteousness and approval from God, lose weight, have our sins forgiven, receive divine healing, win a promotion at work, and even nail that interview!
We have put God in a little box, tucked Him away in the best seat of the theater auditorium to see us perform – and the liberty we have given Him – is to nod His head in approval (of us)!
This is life by law. It’s easy. It makes logical sense to us. It keeps us in control. It keeps the scientists in business. We love it because it allows us to do what we do best – perform. But God did not send His son to die on the cross so that we could perfect our performance. No. Paul, writing to church in Rome puts it like this:
And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work (Romans 11:6) [KJV].
You see, life by law teaches us that our performance determines our relationship with God. We work. The laborers of glory, they call us. We, in away think that our performance will arouse a ‘divine attention’ in God’s heart of hearts towards us. The pivot of this teaching is the life of the Christian.
Grace – the free gift.
Life under Grace, on the other hand, is different. It is not based on what we can do, but what Christ did 2,000 years ago. In other words, it’s not about us. The pivot of this message is the Christ.
Grace is God’s unmerited favor to our undeserving souls. We don’t deserve it because our best does not come close to God’s worst – our best is filth in God’s eyes (Isaiah 64:6).
Because there is no currency in the world that can buy us God’s grace, and we are also in a position of an undeserving receiver, God offers it to us free of charge. We are wretched people looking for a savior to rescue us from our bodies of death (Romans 7:27).
We could never measure up. We will never measure up. Our unrighteousness was great, but the price Jesus paid was exceedingly greater – for it outdid our unrighteousness.
That’s why He offers his grace to us, free of charge. To His disciples, Jesus said, ‘freely give, because you have freely received’ (Matthew 10:8). The gospel doesn’t ask us to perform, to measure up to a certain standard (because after all we can’t). It instead emphasizes FAITH in God. All over the four gospels, those people who were delivered by the miraculous hand of Jesus Christ had one constant – faith. Jesus always said, ‘your faith has made you well.’
In the gospel of John, people moved up to Capernaum in search of Jesus, when they found Him, they asked; ‘What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?’ Jesus in response said, ‘This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent’ (John 6:28-29) [Emphasis is mine].
That is what the message of grace is about – believing in Christ alone. And it’s through faith alone that we can be set free, and live fulfilling and victorious lives.
For grace is neither expensive, nor cheap, it’s free of charge.
May God’s amazingly free gift of grace grip our hearts and set us free from the need to perform and do it ourselves so that we feel relevant and appealing to God, ourselves and other people.