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Monday, January 26, 2009

By Grace Alone

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith;
and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;
9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Ephesians 2:8-9

It is humbling to believe the Gospel. Religion, on the other hand, is a great foundation for human pride. Religion lets me continue to think well of myself even as I exult in “the depths” of my devotion to God. With religion I am the one in charge. I set the pace. I make the decisions (at least the ones that really matter!). I devote myself to God’s cause and do my best to practice my faith in a way I feel is both personally fulfilling and, I imagine, of help to God.

But the Gospel is just the reverse. When the Gospel comes to me, it finds me to be an outcast, powerless and – to be honest – anything but devout. No, I am a sinner. A reprobate. A pagan with nothing in me that could commend me to God. Every decision I have ever made – spiritually speaking – has been the wrong one. And even my best acts of righteous devotion have been nothing but filthy rags of self-serving pride. That’s where the Gospel finds me! Not a good man, hoping to be better. Not even a weak man needing to be made strong. But a dead man who needs to be given a life that comes from outside himself.

I remember for years thinking of my salvation as if I had been drowning – going down for the last time - and Christ at the last minute jumped in to save me. Now I know that I was a dead man, three weeks dead, bloated and lying at the bottom of the ocean when Christ, for his own purpose and glory chose to come to me. I could not cry out. I would not save myself. Nevertheless He came. And with a marvelous display of astounding power and grace, He saved me! He rescued the perished and gave life to the dead. Where then is my boasting? It is no more. All I can do is say, “Praise! Praise! Praise for an Amazing Grace!”


A living, loving, personal Savior

One of the things that really struck me this past week as I was preparing for Sunday's message is the personal nature of Salvation by Christ. I'm fully aware that many in evangelicalism have misused the idea of having Jesus as "personal" Lord and Savior. We've bent and twisted this idea into the creation by each of us of our own "personal Jesus" which is, of course, idolatry. The same Jesus who saved Paul is the Jesus who saves me. He's not my personal possession (though I have become His). He's not mine to re-image or re-configure. He is Who He is. The Living God become flesh -- the Eternal Son, Second Person of the Trinity as revealed in Scripture.

And yet, when He does comes by His grace to save a loathsome sinner like me, He comes to me in a way that is real and person through the Gospel that is preached. By His Holy Spirit He opens my heart to believe in Him. And as a result, I personally, through that grace given, repent and believe in Him and am brought into the personal intimacy of a new relationship with Him and with His church that is real. I come to know Him who died for me and with all the saints begin to live to the praise of the glory of His grace.

That's the point of this little quote below. Jesus becomes for those He saves.....

A living, loving, personal Savior

(J. R. Miller, "Counsel and Help" 1907)

We are in the habit of saying that Christ saved
us by dying for us on the Cross. In an important
sense this is true. We never could have been
saved--if He had not died for us.

But we are actually saved by our relation to a
living, loving, personal Savior
--into whose
hands we commit all the interests of our lives;
and who becomes our Friend, our Helper, our
Keeper, our Burden bearer--our all in all.

Christian faith is not merely laying our sins on
the Lamb of God, and trusting to His one great
sacrifice; it is the laying of ourselves on the living,
loving heart of one whose friendship becomes
thenceforward the sweetest joy of our lives!

"The life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith
in the Son of God, who loved me and gave
Himself for me!" Galatians 2:20