It’s a big question. An important question. The answer will change how you work, rest, and pray. Do we earn God’s grace or are our works there for another reason? The answer- and application- may surprise you.
When I finally relied on God’s grace alone, a huge burden fell away. God’s grace is important- but is it free?
Grace had a Price
Before I begin this article, I would like to clarify what I mean by “free”. When God gives us grace, we do not earn it, and therefore it is free for us. But grace had a price- a big price. Since God is just, our sin had to be punished, and the punishment was taken by Jesus.
1 Corinthians 6:20
“for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
Grace is Not Earned
I’ve written before about how God’s grace is only truly understood and accepted when we humble ourselves before Him. Maybe you acknowledge that. But humility comes in realizing we can’t earn His grace and that we are too weak to save ourselves.
Is His grace something to be earned? Do we have to prove we’re worthy of it?
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
It’s not earned by us! Instead, Jesus paid the price, God gave us the faith, and then He leads us to “walk worthy of the calling”. (Eph. 4: 1)
Grace is the gift of something we don’t deserve . Mercy is the absence of the punishment we deserve. God gives us both.
If a judge lets a criminal go free after someone else pays the fine, the judge is just. If the criminal tried to work off a 150-year sentence, it would clearly be unproductive, so he would accept the gift and out of gratitude, he would obey the law.
Now imagine the judge offered to pay the criminal’s fine, but the criminal said he would rather work it off. The criminal not only dooms the rest of his life, but he also stomps on the kindness of the judge.
We think Jesus’ blood isn’t enough to pay for our sins. We think God must want something from us before He will accept us, forgetting that He is the One who calls and sanctifies us in the first place.
Why We Work and Obey
We work for God, yes, but we do not work to earn God’s grace or forgiveness. Our works show whether we actually gave our lives to Christ. When we give our lives to Him, we become His bondservants, and, as servants, we serve our master. Jesus said we can only serve one master, and sinning is like continuing to clean the floor for the cruel master you escaped. Further, Jesus said that loving God is the foundation for all laws. We obey God and do good works because we follow Him. Our works show who we belong to.
True, honest good works can only come from a changed heart. The works come from the heart God has softened.
When we become His children, we must surrender everything, including our sin.
Application in Prayer
This theology only does good, however, if we see how it affects us.
The application of this theology is prayer.
The opposite of self-righteousness is prayer.
Once we realize our weakness, prayer is the only rational response. When we pray, we admit we don’t have it together, and we ask for help and strength from Him who does.
Once I fully realized that I cannot earn God’s grace, I started to rely more on Him through prayer. Instead of battling sin on my own and failing, I prayed for help, and God changed my heart for me.
Part of God’s gift of salvation is sanctification, but we sometimes miss the main point of it. Sanctification is the ongoing change in our hearts as we continue to seek God. Sanctification, however, is not us changing our own hearts, but God changing our hearts and making us more like Him. God is the One who sanctifies us, and He will make us more like Him when we ask.
Rely on God’s grace by praying for His help. God’s grace is free, and He will continue to transform us as we rely on Him through prayer.
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