Let’s pretend you have a debt. I mean a big, BIG debt: one million dollars. “How am I going to pay that?” you moan. “I won’t make that much money in twenty years.” So you live life in the dumps, a perpetual frown etched on your face, and a black cloud of depression following you everywhere you go. The debt is a prison from which you cannot escape.
One day you get a call from a friend with deep, deep pockets: “I hear you have a big debt,” he says. “Well, I want to help you settle it.” You’re momentarily dumbfounded and then elation floods your soul! You mute the phone, pinch yourself to make sure this is not a dream, and begin scream and shout for joy. You come back to reality, however, when the magnitude of the debt slaps you in the face. You tell your friend, “Bill, I still owe $972,989 at eighteen per cent!” He assures you that he is quite aware of the severity of your situation, but fully intends to cover it. Next thing you know, Bill is on your doorstep with his checkbook in hand. You stand there, mouth agape, as he writes $972,989 and signs the check. You reach out and take it, transfer it to the proper account and the debt is paid!
The next day as you are relaying the great news to a friend, you boast: “You should have seen the way I took the check!” Your friend stares at you like you belong in an asylum and says, “Are you nuts? You didn’t do anything. Bill paid the debt. He did everything.” With a look of snobbish disdain you respond: “Oh he really didn’t do all that much! After all, it was I who took the check.” How foolish! When a gift is given, especially an undeserved lavish present, it is time to celebrate the giver – not the receiver.
I learned that lesson from Ray Stedman. Believers are recipients of a lavish gift from God. Salvation is a huge pardon for those who deserve an eternal death sentence. If we are not careful we can forget that we had nothing to do with it. Take a look at Paul’s words:
But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so very much, that even while we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s special favor that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ, and we are seated with him in the heavenly realms – all because we are one with Christ Jesus. And so God can always point to us as examples of the incredible wealth of his favor and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us through Christ Jesus. God saved you by his special favor when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. (Ephesians 2:4-8 NLT)
Paul wants us to grasp God’s incredible grace – what he calls special favor – so he points out that you and I were stone cold dead in the morgue of sin when Christ gave us life. A person raised from the dead has no room to boast about his or her part in the effort. He or she just looks up at the giver of life and says, “Thank you! What an incredible gift!”
FOCAL POINT: Jesus said, “Come follow me.” His call requires a response, but I must remember he wrote the check. Reread the passage. Let the significance of God’s grace seep into your heart, and then celebrate his kindness! Give credit where credit is due.
Copyright © 2010 Tommy Kiedis