Do we treat salvation like a gift or work?

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, (1 Peter 1:3)

There is a word in these verse that tells us what salvation is all about. The word is mercy.  All through the Bible the mercy of God is set out for us to see.  It is the mercy of God that spared Adam and Eve an immediate death after the fall.  It is the mercy of God that spared the human race in its sinfulness by calling Noah.  It is the mercy of God that made saints out of sinners like Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon, Elijah, Peter, John, and Thomas.  It is this mercy that sent Jesus. We must ask the question of our own life: Does that mercy free us or burden us? Do you and I live in the joy of that mercy?

We struggle with finding joy in salvation because we think it is about us. We think of salvation as our salvation.  We think of this relationship we have with God as our relationship.  We think of saving faith as something we have done.  We think of walking by faith as something we do.  We have made it all about us.  We have made it about what we deserve because we said yes to Jesus.  Yet, nowhere in Scripture does saying yes to Jesus mean that we have earned anything.  It is hard to stop thinking like that, isn’t it?  When the apostle Paul says in Romans 6 that the wages of sin is death, we have no difficulty in accepting that if we work for someone that they will pay us wages.  If we work for sin, sin will pay us.  That is simple enough.

The profound difficulty is in Paul’s next statement.  He says in Romans 6:23, “But the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (emphasis added) Free things bring excitement.  Free things bring joy.  Free things are fun.  Is that what faith is for you?  Is your faith exciting?  Does it bring you joy?  Too many times our thoughts of God bring us guilt.  Our thoughts of God are burdensome with thoughts of work and effort.  Often our thoughts of God center on things like duty, rules, and disappointment (His or ours in ourselves).  I know that we all want to be better, but is disappointment and discouragement really the key heart description of what it means to be a believer? Don’t these words describe a person who is trying to earn something, rather than someone who has been given something?  Is that the pressure and the guilt we feel?  That is not a gift.  That is a curse.  It is the curse of having to earn what we get from God.  When will we be strong enough?  When will we be good enough?  When will we belong?

Mercy isn’t like that.  Mercy is free.  Work is about what we have done.  Mercy is about what God has done.  Peter declares to us this profound truth: we aren’t working, God is giving!  God is giving us these things.  He is calling us His people.  As Jesus said, “You did not choose Me but I chose you.” (John 15:16)  The apostle John said it this way, “We love because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)  He chose us!  It wasn’t our love of Him that motivated His calling and saving and sustaining and empowering us.  It was His love.  It wasn’t something we earned.  It was something that His amazing mercy gave.  He freely gave it.

We think of salvation as our salvation.  We think of this relationship we have with God as our relationship.  We think of saving faith as something we have done. Mercy isn’t like that.  Mercy is free.

Consider this simple device: a pressure cooker.  A pressure cooker uses heat and pressure to preserve food.  It creates a powerful circle: heat creates pressure, pressure keeps water from evaporating, this makes water get even hotter before it can boil off which creates more heat.  You can see the cycle.  The only way to relieve the pressure is to somehow reduce the heat.  If you don’t reduce the pressure, the cooker will eventually explode. Mercy reduces the heat.  For a people who feel alone, mercy lets them know that they don’t have to earn God’s love or acceptance.  The rest of the world may say that they don’t stack up.  It may say that they are small or insignificant, but God has said that He loves them.  For a people who feel weak, mercy declares that is not their might that God is interested in.  He has already given them His power.  Mercy has strengthened them.  For a people concerned or maybe even worried about the future, mercy is the embrace of God that Heaven is secure.  It cries out to us that nothing can separate us from the love of God that is found in Jesus our Lord. You and I have received such a mercy.

Something to think about,

Pastor John

One response to “Do we treat salvation like a gift or work?”

  1. Although I don’t think eternal life is earned, or deserved, I do think that it should be given to us because we are God’s children. I am his daughter. You are his son. I can’t imagine loving your children any less. My thoughts about God mostly focus on being grateful. However, in recent years, I have thought some about my disappointment with God’s decision to let me remain suffering. I was extremely sick for many years. I was eventually healed. Hallelujah.😊 One thing you said that struck a cord with me was our frequent belief that we choose to walk with God in faith. We often do try to make it about us. I agree God’s mercy and our salvation are gifts. His mercy does take the heat off. I like how you explained it. Thank You. Love, Teresa

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