FAITH PLUS NOTHING
The just shall live by faith. Romans 1:17b
I write today with fear and trembling. Prayerfully, I seek God for the concepts and language to write about this critical and most important issue in all of Christianity. This is the verse Martin Luther stood on and why his life was on the line. Protestantism was born on the foundation of this theological truth.
If ever someone had the moral credentials to earn his salvation, it was Paul. He listed them elsewhere in Philippians. The humbling discovery he made on the road to Damascus was that his ‘credentials’ had actually kept him from saving faith. The very things he worked so hard to attain, that he thought were winning him eternal favor with God, were his own stumbling blocks. He came to understand that his attempts to act righteous were like presenting an offering of filthy rags.
The law was not given so that we could mimic it and please God. There is no brown-nosing the Teacher. Righteousness, through the Law, was revealed so that we would understand that we are completely incapable of attaining it, needing to reach out our arms to Christ for that divine exchange ~ He takes my sin, I take His righteousness.
Without Christ’s atonement, I am utterly lost and condemned. There is no balance sheet keeping track of my good works and bad deeds. That is not the basis by which God accepts or condemns me. The question has always been, “What will Christine do with Jesus and His death on Calvary?” I can bring nothing to the table to contribute to my salvation.
Some would argue. “But I bring my faith to the table. I choose to believe.” Even that isn’t true. If I have the faith to believe, it is only because God opens my eyes. By His grace, He extends the faith to me so that I can see the treasure of Jesus and believe.
I offer some closing questions as we often wrestle with our insecurity as God’s children.
- If I did nothing to earn my salvation, then why do I work so hard to try to keep it?
- Do I believe that I must perform righteously to keep God happy with me?
- Do I really know how to rest in the finished work of the cross?
- Do I really believe that I received Christ’s righteousness? Where is my joy?
Children of God are adopted by faith alone. We come empty handed; orphaned, filthy, emaciated and deeply scarred. God does not despise us for that. His compassion reaches out in the person of Jesus to do what we can’t do for ourselves. We cry, “Abba, Father!” and are invited to embrace Him without any hint of reservation. How? By understanding that we are dressed in the robes of His Son, the One who took our sins, paid the debt we owed because of them, and then removed them from His sight forever. In that we rest. In that we heal. In that we worship.
You did it all. I did nothing. You loved me that much. Amen