Grace + Nothing
Jesus Christ transforms. His cross transforms. The will and act of God alone to take human form and to rescue humanity from their plight transforms.
Unwittingly, so many in the Church have undercut the cross and what Jesus accomplished on it. He rescued us. If in fact we can agree upon this basic Christian, gospel tenant, can we really say that we rescue ourselves? *OF COURSE* we can’t. And few Christians would claim outright that they do indeed “save” themselves.
In many a Sunday sermon, however, we often hear the call the pick-up and carry our cross. Jesus died for you, but now you need to die to yourself to make yourself worthy of his “gift.”
The irony in this call to self-mutilation and religious suicide is that the work of the cross is no longer a gift. If we must “pay” for it, it can no longer be called a gift. In fact, if it is really a gift, there is nothing you can do to pay for it. If the his blood truly paid for ALL our faults, mistakes, and sins, than we are now perfect in Christ.
Yes, PERFECT. That may sound extreme to some. Indeed, scandalous, no? The gospel is called the gospel— “good news” — for very good reason. We have been made perfect by Christ’s work on the cross. There is NOTHING that we can add to HIS work.
Indeed, if any further work, obedience to any law, or required task is added to this work of Jesus, his gracious gift, than it is not a gift.
While grossly inadequate an analogy, the grace of Jesus is like the wealthiest king of a kingdom taking a pauper from the street and making him a prince. This king poured riches, land, and power out on this boy. The appropriate reaction of the now son would be to praise his lord and serve him. But those actions are a product of his gracious gift, not a surcharge, entry fee, or required task—and certainly not equivalent to paying back the lord. Indeed, there is no paying him back. The boy has no riches of his own. He may use his new wealth (the wealth of the king) to give him gifts, but who are we fooling? All that the former pauper has belongs to the king. And this street kid may go off into the street and do as he once did, but why? To play in the filth in which he once squalored?
Our relationship with Christ is like this.
I am not saying that an appropriate response to Christ isn’t love, praise, and speaking well of our savior. Indeed, we would obviously tell others how awesome and mind-blowing he is. In truth, he has elevated us from the street and made us his heirs. He has made us his sons and daughters. We are not enemies. We are not unclean. We are not sinners. We are already his perfect children, a task that he accomplished on his own without our permission or help some 2000 years ago.
Grace + Nothing. It is His victory. And it was a victory won on cross, not our white-knuckled self-efforts to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps.
“When the time came to completion, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba, Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.”
— Galatians 4:6
“For by a single offering He has forever completely cleansed and perfected those who are consecrated and made holy.”
— Hebrews 10:14
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