Saturday, July 16, 2016

God's Free Gift Part 1 of 2

By Pastor Ken Lawson

Years ago, the story was told of a service man who, being stationed in a foreign land, fell in love with a beautiful girl. After a brief romance, he was transferred to another country but promised to return the next year. Throughout his absence he took out a substantial portion of his paycheck each month to purchase a gift which would be a worthy token of his love.

When the day finally came when they were united again, he removed a box from his coat and presented her with the most beautiful jewel she had ever seen. A troubled expression came over her face and she began digging through her purse. "What are you doing, dear?" he asked. "Oh honey, that is a very expensive gift and I think I should help pay for it." Shocked and hurt, he stood there speechless, not knowing what to say. She had missed the whole point. He didn't want her money, he wanted her!

Like the foolish young girl in our illustration, many people today have a distorted view of God's free gift of eternal life. Rather than receiving it by faith alone, they insist on helping pay for it. As a result they insult the grace of God and dishonor the blood of the cross. Any attempt to add human works to God's plan of salvation only mars it, so that it loses the character of a free gift and is rendered void. While some may even acknowledge the fact that Christ died for our sins and rose again, they maintain that it is still necessary to do their part to complete God's plan of redemption. All the while being ignorant of the fact that our Lord Jesus cried from the cross, "It is finished!" There on that cruel tree God the Father was making our Savior's soul an offering for sin-yours and mine!

God's holiness was so thoroughly satisfied with our Lord's substitutionary death, for us, that He proved it by raising Him from the dead, in power and great glory. This is our "canceled check" verifying that the sin debt has been fully paid. Our responsibility is to honor God by receiving the free gift. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved." (Acts 16:31) The writer of Hebrews understood something about this finished transaction when he wrote, "For by one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified." (Hebrews 10:14)

The ways people say we are to help pay for our salvation are many and varied: obey the commandments, follow the Golden Rule and the Sermon on the Mount, give money to the church, be baptized and partake in church sacraments, etc. But God says, "Not by works of righteousness which we have done but according to His mercy He saved us by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost." (Titus 3:5) "For by grace are ye saved through faith: and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast." (Ephesians 2:8, 9) "Therefore, we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law." (Romans 3:28)

Grace means that God delights to grant us special favor apart from personal merit or worthiness. That is why salvation and eternal life are so often spoken of as a gift in God's Word. No loving parent would expect their child to earn or pay for their birthday presents.

But why can't I get to heaven by living a good life? Why does my acceptance with God hinge on my faith in Christ's shed blood only? First of all, you are making an assumption that it is possible to live a good life. Our minds need to be reeducated concerning the holiness of God and the sinfulness of man. The problem is our perspective. When we talk about living a good life, we are thinking in comparison to others---other sinners! Such a comparison is unwise, for Christ is holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners. That is why Adam and Eve were expelled from Eden for only one sin. When compared to Christ's holiness, even the best children of Adam have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. To enjoy eternal fellowship with God in heaven, we must share in Christ's righteousness, acceptance, and life. That is where the free gift comes in.

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