Grace Can’t Be Earned

March 21, 2016  |  Dale Thackrah

I have a really bad heart.

When I go to dinner with a small group of people, I actually try to figure out ahead of time how I am going to get the bill from the server before they lay it on the table. I do this, in part, because I can’t stand when other people try to pay my way. Now, before you try to book my wife and I on your next double-date please read on, because my heart motivation is usually wrong and is embedded in sin.

In all honesty, most of the time I pay the bill because I don’t want to owe anybody anything. I don’t want to be indebted to them.

I bet you’re like me too. Think about it. When somebody does something nice for you, what’s one of the first things that comes out of your mouth?

Ok, I owe you.”

Perhaps you utter, “Ok, next time I’ll get it.”

Most of us have the same “I need to pay you back” kind of mentality or heart.

Guess, what? We do the same thing with God. Let me explain.

What About Grace?

Living my life, not owing anybody anything, reveals a level of pride and need for control that speaks loudly to my deep rejection of how God loves me. Simply put, it’s anti-gospel.

Anti-gospel? Is that a thing? Yes, sadly, it is a very big thing.

In his letter to the church in Ephesus the Apostle Paul wrote that every Christian becomes a Christian by grace. Grace defined is, “the free and unmerited (not deserved, unearned) favor of God.”

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 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.”

I Didn’t Earn It and I Can’t Do Enough to Keep It

One of the biggest battles of the first century church was working through a theology of grace, mercy and freedom. The apostle Paul spent much of his writing efforts in responding to and warning of those in the church who were trying to add ‘law’ or ‘works’ to the gospel. In other words, people who taught you had to pay God back through obedience and works to earn and keep your salvation. In the book of Galatians, Paul strongly says:

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” – Galatians 1:6-10

Through this text alone (there are others) it would seem that God is pretty serious about not adding to the gospel, or having a heart to pay him back. The truth is that as soon as you decided to pay God back for what he has done for you, it ceases from being a gift. You are now bartering with the God of the universe and proclaiming that your works and your efforts can reach the level of paying him off. The truth is that the work of Christ is so big, so out of the realm of possibility for man to achieve, that if it weren’t gifted to us, we would be lost forever.

So What?

Let others bless you. Let others pick up the dinner bill and just say, “Thank you.” Receive the gift of mercy and love from Jesus and just say, “Thank you, Lord. Thank you.”