Though I've been sending these "thoughts" out for years I realized today that I've never sent one out from Max Lucado (yes, a one-sentence quote once, but no extended thought). So, I thought I would remedy that! Max is a best-selling Christian author. Most of you will recognize his name. It's hard to say how many books he's written or sold -- in the millions for sure (at least on the books sold side)! His skill? Making hard to understand truth understandable to most anyone. He has an uncanny way of simplifying the complex and putting the cookies on the lower shelf. This particular thought has to do with The Grace of Salvation (or how one is saved), and comes from his book, "A Gentle Thunder." Enjoy.
"What is it, then, that God wants us to do? What is the work he seeks? Just believe. Believe the One he sent. 'The work God wants you to do is this: Believe the One he sent" (John 6:29 NCV). Someone is reading this and shaking his or her head and asking: 'Are you saying it is possible to go to heaven with no good works? The answer is no. Good works are a requirement. Someone else is reading and asking, 'Are you saying it is possible to go to heaven without good character?' My answer again is no. Good character is also required. In order to enter heaven one must have good works and good character.
But, alas, there is a problem. You have neither. Oh, you've done some nice things in your life. But you do not have enough good works to go to heaven regardless of your sacrifice. No matter how noble your gifts, they are not enough to get you into heaven. Nor do you have enough character to go to heaven.
Please don't be offended (Then, again, be offended if necessary.) You're probably a very decent person. But decency is not enough. Those who see God are not the decent, they are the holy. 'Anyone whose life is not holy will never see the Lord' (Hebrews 12:14 NCV). You may be decent. You may pay taxes and kiss your kids and sleep with a clear conscience. But apart from Christ you aren't holy. So how can you go to heaven?
Accept the work already done, the work of Jesus on the cross.
Accept the goodness of Jesus Christ.
Abandon your own works and accept his.
Abandon your own decency and accept his.
Stand before God in his name, not yours.
"Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved, but anyone who does not believe will be punished" (Mark 16:16 NCV). It's that simple? Yes, it's that simple. It's that easy? There was nothing easy at all about it. The cross was heavy, the blood was real, and the price was extravagant. It would have bankrupted you or me, so Jesus paid it for us. Call it simple. Call it a gift. But don't call it easy. Call it what it is. Call it grace."
It's an affirmation of the Gospel truth that salvation is by grace alone, though faith alone, in Christ alone. The Heidelberg Catechism (written in 1563) put it this way.
Question & Answer #60:
Question: How are you righteous before God?
Answer: "Only by true faith in Jesus Christ.
Even though my conscience accuses me
of having grievously sinned
against all God’s commandments;
of never having kept any of them,
and of still being inclined toward all evil,
without any merit of my own,
and out of sheer grace,
God grants and credits to me the perfect satisfaction,
righteousness, and holiness of Christ,
as if I had never sinned
nor ever been a sinner,
and as if I had been as perfectly obedient
as Christ was obedient, for me.
All I need to do is accept this gift with a believing heart."
The Law of God in the Old Testament demands two things of us: Perfect and flawless obedience, as well as punishment for all disobedience. And the grace proclaimed in the Gospel is this: what God demanded of us, Christ supplied for us, in both his life of perfect obedience and his death for sin. And these two together (and only these two together) become the righteousness that God credits to the believing sinner that they might be saved. "Upon a life I did not live, upon a death I did not die, I stake my whole eternity" (Horatius Bonar).
What could bring more comfort, peace, assurance, joy and gratitude to any believer's heart than to know that Christ is our perfection, and Christ is our pardon, and therefore our eternal acceptance with God rests upon Him and not us (I Corinthians 1:30-31). This is grace in its most extravagant form. And in understanding it, how could our hearts not overflow with joy, be filled with gratitude, or burn with a desire to live for such a kind and merciful God?
In The Bonds of Christian Affection, Pastor Jeff