Something To Boast About
"Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith." (Rom 3:24-27)
So, driving down the road I see a sign announcing "FREE _____" and I just have to stop and get some of that. It's free, I just have to take it, so why not? But, I think, surely there must be a catch. No one just gives stuff away! So, maybe I better just pass on by. Then again…
Some people seem to have a real problem with the idea that our salvation is simply a matter of God's grace, given freely to mankind. Surely there must be a catch? What do I have to do to get some of that? Maybe better just pass on by because I'm sure God isn't really going to just declare me justified without me doing something first. What kind of a God is that? God is supposed to destroy the wicked, and if I need salvation, then I must be wicked, and so what's all this stuff about grace?
Oh yes indeed, your sins are covered by the blood of Jesus (AMEN) and you will have eternal life with Him (HALELUJAH) and isn't this just peachy-keen all this stuff that God did for us. Look at all that God has done for poor sinning man just because He loves us. Why, you'd have to be a fool not to take advantage of this. Just come on down and take advantage of this limited-time offer of eternal salvation. Say a little prayer, sign this card, get dunked or sprinkled as the case may be and you're all set.
So, now if it is truly FREE then all I have to do is believe in Jesus, accept God's grace, and then I'm all set and can go on living without any worries. YEE-HAH.
Now hold on a minute there dude! We can't just hand out eternal salvation like that and not expect you to have to do something in return. Why if that was all there was to it then everybody would get SAVED and nothing would change. They'd just go on sinnin' and, well what's the point then? Doesn't God want to get rid of sin? We better live up to expectations. Quit that sinning, ya know. So, we better make up all sorts of stuff to do so that somehow proves we are worthy of God's grace. Yes it is all God's grace, but you better sit up straight, watch your mouth, don't do this and don't do that.
AH HAH! I knew there was a catch in there somewhere. They only SAY we are FREELY JUSTIFIED but they don't really mean that. It's the ol switcheroo. Get 'em in the door with a promise of something free and then once you have them in your grip, start with the do-this-don't-do-that and, well, it just figures.
Hey! Paul said that we are freely justified. I'm going to have to go with what the Apostle said and accept that it's grace, freely given. Unfortunately that message of grace gets twisted and distorted in one of two ways. First are the ones that say it doesn't really matter what you do as long as you believe in Jesus. Then, there are the others that say it does matter what you do, otherwise God will take it all back. I say, they are both completely missing the point.
The problem is this man-centered attitude thingy. People are evangelized and converted on the basis of what man gets out of it. Of course you first have to scare them half-to-death with visions of hellfire. Or, promise that following the Christian way will make the world a better place. Yet, in the end the message is all about what man gets from the deal. It plays right into man's desire for man's well-being. I almost never hear anyone say anything about WHY God saves mankind other than God loves us. What does God get out of it? Are we so special that God just can't do without us? Nope. Maybe it's just too much trouble for God to get rid of all of us and just start over from scratch. That's not it either.
The answer to this little dilemma is sitting there in plain sight in the verse I quoted at the beginning. You did see it didn't you?
Another thing is that people have this silly idea that the God of the Old Testament is a God of vengeance and the God of the New Testament is a God of mercy. They try to make it out that this idea of God's grace is some New Covenant thing. That's not how David saw it. The Psalms are full of praises of God's deliverance. Here are a couple of examples.
"I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. They looked unto him, and were lightened: and their faces were not ashamed. This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the LORD encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them. O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him." (Psa 34:4-8)
"For I will not trust in my bow, neither shall my sword save me. But thou hast saved us from our enemies, and hast put them to shame that hated us. In God we boast all the day long, and praise thy name for ever. Selah." (Psa 44:6-8)
Throughout the Psalms there is a repeated theme that God will deliver those who trust in Him. It is deliverance (another word for salvation) given to those who trust (another word for faith) and not because they have done all the right things. It is faith that God is looking for from the beginning of the Bible right through to the end.
Do you understood yet why that is? I'll spell it out for you. SO THAT WE HAVE NOTHING TO BOAST ABOUT. Got it? If we do something to earn salvation either before conversion or after conversion then we might have something to boast about. That glorifies man, not God. And, I must say, is exactly what the deal is in the little dilemma above. People either want God to stay out of their lives except when they want him, or, they don't believe that God will save them unless they do something to prove it. Both of those attitudes are man's idea of man being in control of things. With man in control, man gets to boast of man. And that's the whole problem with man from the beginning.
This is the point of grace freely given. It demonstrates God's glory. It shows His mercy (which was not shown to the Angels that rebelled) and shows His power to make what is wrong into right. It shows how great His love is. Just as God's love for us resulted in His giving all to us, our love for Him means to give all the glory back to Him.
"But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." (Eph 2:4-10)
That's why it is grace freely given: that God may be glorified through us. Our response is simply to trust Him. If He has gone to all this trouble to ensure a means of our salvation don't you think that He will continue to do the work of transformation in us all the way to eternity? We trust God for our salvation and we trust Him also for our continuous renewal. His spirit working in us pours out in our lives, and the good works follow from that. So long as we remain in faith that spirit continues to work in us. To say that we will trust in the blood of Jesus but not trust in the Holy Spirit to change us is not really faith at all. To add to grace is fear of God interfering in what we want to do, or fear that God will abandon us, or fear that if we don't do something ourselves nothing will really change. All of those are simply a lack of faith combined with man's incessant pride and need to have something to boast about.
So where is the boasting? We have nothing of self to boast about because our justification is freely given to us by God and our sanctification is the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit. God is saving man to show the devil is a liar and prove to the entire host of heaven that God knew what He was doing from beginning to end. God was always in control. So, we have nothing to boast about. Except like David, we can boast in the glory and power and love of God. And that is definitely something to shout about.
"I will bless the LORD at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make her boast in the LORD: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad. O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together." (Psa 34:1-3)