By Karen Sargent
Jesus paid it all.
We say that and we even sing that. But do we really believe that Jesus offered himself for our sins and He did this once for all of us? (Hebrews 7:27)
By grace you have been saved
To be honest, I still need to be reminded that the cross represents a finished work. I guess it’s not too surprising considering that much of my training as a Christian came from the viewpoint that I didn’t measure up. But then, that’s what religion does, keeps you in the position of always trying to earn God’s love and favor and forgiveness. Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us the truth. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
Why is that so hard to believe?
We are bombarded with messages that we are not good enough and we don’t have what it takes. These messages may come from inside ourselves- our thoughts, or outside ourselves- someone’s words. It might be hard to believe because grace is not based on our merit.
Sometimes even words meant to encourage us are working against our belief. When someone says “God will make a way.” It sounds good, but that is not what the Bible says. He has already made the way, and reconciled believers to himself. 2 Corinthians 5:18.
Favor does not depend on what we do, but on what He’s done.
The truth is God has already won the battle on our behalf. He has already given us access to His Grace. What is grace? It’s His unmerited favor. He paid it all, remember? Even though we have done nothing to deserve it. 2 Corinthians 5:19
When I hear this message again I think. Why is it so hard to grasp? It’s so simple. How do I miss it? How do I slip back into trying to earn God’s love?
It seems to me that it has become a habit, and working makes us feel better. Religion is like a stationary bike. It provides a good workout. In religion I am constantly trying to get better and make progress in my relationship with the Father. Of course those are our goals. But when I live by the rules, I’m also out again the next time I break the rules. So in the end, I’m right back where I started.
What a welcome reminder
The truth is that I cannot add anything to the cross. None of us can. What a welcome reminder it is that God did the heavy lifting when Jesus died on the cross in my place. Because of the sacrifice Jesus made, giving His life and His precious blood, we have salvation, redemption, healing, grace, and also dominion. Ephesians 1:7 says “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.”
What does this mean to us as believers?
It means that we can rest in the finished work of the cross. Resting from our works, we trust that the price paid on the cross canceled the debt. Remember we have nothing to add to the cross. When we try to earn salvation, redemption, healing, or grace, we are trying to help Jesus. What a joke. Obviously, God does not need our attempts to earn His grace or favor. He has already given us all things that pertain to life and godliness. (2 Peter 1:3)
Growth and good works
That means our growth and good works have a different purpose. We all agree that they are goals worth having. But why? Share the gifts we have been graced with.
The apple tree produces fruit for others, not itself. I believe we discount what we have been given; faith, gifts, and talents. Then when we don’t value our gifts, we don’t use them. Giving or using our God given gifts will benefit ourselves and others. This will also connect you with your purpose.
Take note, we have all been given a measure of faith. Our faith does us no good unless we exercise it. In order to receive God’s grace, we have to use our faith. Remember all those negative messages? One way we use our faith is to hold up our shield of faith to put out those fiery darts. (Ephesians 6:16)
However, it is not our faith that moves God. First of all, remember the work is done. God has already moved. Truly our faith pleases God, but God does not need it. We do. When we exercise and grow in our faith we are aligned with Him, to do the good works he has planned for us. Using our God given talents will still require faith.
God has given us a mission
Another point to remember is that God has given us grace to fulfill our mission or ministry. Mark 16:15 is known as the great commission. We have been assigned by the Almighty to go into all the world and make disciples of all men. Jesus is our example, so how did he instruct his disciples?
In Matthew 6:34-44 Jesus tells his disciples to feed the hungry people. They wanted to know if they needed to go buy food. Notice that Jesus then asks them “What do you have? “ When they offer what they have, the five loaves and 2 fish, He provides the supernatural increase to feed all that were there, and gave them leftovers.
What do you have?
That is what Jesus asks us. What is in your hand? Many times we think we need to go get a degree or somehow become qualified to share the good news. Don’t look at how imperfect your are, and think that limits you. Jesus didn’t ask us what we didn’t have or what we can’t do. Calling us to ministry, He asks us to give him what we have, and He will work with it. Begin with what is in your hand. Remember If you don’t have it, you don’t need it. Jesus and His grace is all we need. Where do you volunteer? Where do you work? With whom do you have influence? What touches your heart? That is where you start.
Use your gifts
It is so important to use what we have been given. If you love to nurture little kids, find a place to put that talent to use. Maybe it’s organization that comes easy to you, find a place in your church to organize. Pay attention to what comes easily for you. That’s usually an area you are gifted with grace. Those talents were placed in you to help others.
Remember your gift is not natural for everyone. The reverse is also true, so take time to appreciate what you have been given. So often we compare ourselves with others. Don’t spend time wishing your apples were oranges. If you can sing, then sing and use that gift. Let’s not waste time envying those with gifts we haven’t been graced with.
Give Jesus something to work with, your five loaves and two fish, and watch Him do the miraculous. It’s His super on our natural that works every time.
Be the Word!