Yesterday’s message at church is still on my heart. It was such a timely message for me and it’s something I desire for all Christians and non-Christians to know and take to heart. The passage was from Galatians 1:6-7a:“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you in the grace of Christ and turning to a different gospel-not that there is another one.” Paul had to write this letter to the churches of Galatia because after he left them (he preached the good news of grace) some false teachers came in behind him and started twisting the truth. They would tell the Galatians that they were saved by grace but they also had to be circumcised, eat certain foods, or become Jewish before they could accept Christ (read all of Galatians to get the whole picture). This was adding law to the gospel, therefore making their relationship with God into a legalistic religion.
Paul is astonished that the people were falling back into the law that Christ came to free them from. How true is this in our own lives? Some people will say that after we are saved we have to start reading the Bible, praying, tithing, going to church to be good little Christians to continue to be right with God. These things are so important for our spiritual growth in the Lord but they do nothing to save us or keep us right with God. Salvation and the Christian life beyond are completely maintained by Jesus Christ. If we had anything to do with our salvation, we would boast about it. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” You see, you had nothing to do with your salvation! Because if you had a part in it, you would also have to maintain it. The saving of our souls is a gift of grace alone – and that’s good news! Who wants to be in a relationship with a God who requires all these rules and regulations to keep yourself right with Him? That’s burdensome and God sent His Son to take the burden of the law upon Himself. And in return He gives us grace – undeserved, unmerited favor that gives us power for every day living.
I read a parable this morning that connects to this and illustrates the difference between law/works and grace.
He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
The Pharisee is a perfect example of one who is trying to be right with God by his own works and the law. He trusted in himself and boasted of his righteousness by what he did (fasting and tithing) and by what he didn’t do (commit adultery, lie, cheat, or steal). But the tax collector recognized his sin and humbled himself before God asking for mercy. This man was justified. Why? Because he knew that apart from God’s grace and mercy, he could not save himself. He understood that salvation was from God alone and not by what he did or didn’t do.
What about you friend? Are you struggling with keeping and maintaining your own salvation? Do you find it burdensome to pray, read your bible, or even go to church because you feel like you have to to make God happy? May you and I come back to the simplicity of God’s grace. It’s something we did not deserve, but God gave it to us freely. We don’t have to work for it or earn it – just simply accept it. It’s given to us at salvation and for every moment of our lives. 2 Corinthians 12:9 says,“‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
May we rest in the power of God’s grace for salvation and our Christian life and be free from the burdens of the law and our works. And may we be free in our relationship with the Lover of our Souls! Amen.