Grace Short Meditations: 23. Grace without works
Rom 11:6 “if by grace, then it cannot be based on works”
Yesterday I told a modern parable of a garden party. Imagine that again. The guests turn up and you invite them to take a glass, size of their choice, and take from the barrel. These guests were invited. They hadn’t worked to get there and, even more, they hadn’t been there before the party began and helped set it up, prepare the food, prepare the punch, lay out the glasses. No, they had done nothing but turn up and believe the host who said, “Please help yourselves.” Why do we find such a picture so natural and easy to understand but struggle when it comes to God’s daily provision for us called grace?
OK, calling all Christian workaholics, those who feel they have to be DOING something to impress God, get Him on our side, win His favour, bend His ear, bend His arm. The thing about grace, if somehow you still missed it along the way and even in the parable above, is that it is FREE, it cannot be earned by anything we do.
It is just an expression of His loving heart towards us. Let’s use another analogy. It’s like getting up in the morning and finding a Christmas tree with presents all around it, all with your name on. You tear off the paper and inside you find tokens and vouchers with words on – love, joy, peace, blessing, strength, wisdom, understanding, patience, perseverance and so on. On each token or voucher are the additional words: “to redeem, take to the giver,” and it’s yours! Need more be said?
Well yes, we do need to say more because the sin aspects of our lives still struggle with the goodness of God. We’ve learnt in life that nothing is free and if an offer looks too good, it probably is – until we come to God! But we’ve been taught ever since we were young, we need to work hard to pass exams, we need to work hard to earn promotion in our career, we need to work hard to be successful in business, we need to train hard to be a successful athlete. Oh yes, we live in a world of ‘Work hard!’ America has this ideal by which equality of opportunity is available to any American, allowing the highest aspirations and goals to be achieved. It’s called the American dream, but with few exceptions (handed down the generations) privilege is worked for – hard! And then we turn to the kingdom of God and the Lord says stop trying to earn my blessing – Jesus earned it, you can’t add to it, you can’t do any more to make yourself worthy of my blessing. It’s not about your achievement – but mine!! When will we lay down our self-endeavours to please God, or ‘organise’ church and so much more? Sit still and lay it all down before the Lord and sit there, eyes closed, arms open wide and say, “Lord, please forgive me. I receive all you have for me.”