“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.” Ephesians 2:8-9.
Can you imagine opening a gift with a set of car keys inside or opening a Christmas bonus check from your employer, both accompanied by cards? You read the card only to find out that this gift may be yours if you do certain things approved by the giver to earn them. The gift instantly becomes a burden and something that is dependent on your performance. You accomplish this or you provide that, but is it enough? This is how we tend to treat our faith. We strive and toil to gain the favor of God believing that an invisible sliding scale is above our heads moving from one accomplishment to the other.
I certainly have been this person who opened the gift of grace, only to feel there were certain things that I should do to hang on to this favor. I served here…I was caregiver there…I claimed this truth…I denounced this falsehood. And all the while, I was striving against myself. The sliding scale was a burden that I placed above my own head while God worked relentlessly to remove it. His message on my life over the past few years is that I can twist and bend myself in any kind of service I choose, but it is to no gain. My gain comes from the empty cross and the fact that Someone else performed…strived for…toiled and accomplished. My definition and identity comes from the empty grave, and not a full calendar of service. Our gift is freedom from who we think we are, and acceptance that we are who He says we are in Him. ‘Self-esteem dies hard, especially for those of us who stand on a great performance. If our true worth, significance and identity come from something so solid and eternal as God Himself, we don’t stand on our own accomplishments, personality and performance. We stand securely on the nature of an infinite, loving God. The grace God gives us in defining who we are changes everything. It is the character of God that gives us worth, not anything we have done or will do’ (Chase Study, Jennie Allen, p. 34).
May this be great news for all of us this morning! God’s grace comes with the promise that while we will never be good enough to get into Heaven by our own works, we will never be bad enough to fall from grace. It is our gift in Him.
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