(originally published November 19, 2012)
In Part 4, we will be taking a look at V. 14-15.
"If those who get what God gives them only get it by doing everything they are told to do and filling out all the right forms properly signed, that eliminates personal trust completely and turns the promise into an ironclad contract! That's not a holy promise; that's a business deal. A contract drawn up by a hard-nosed lawyer and with plenty of fine print only makes sure that you will never be able to collect. But if there is no contract in the first place, simply a promise—and God's promise at that—you can't break it."
We've all seen a contract and the fine print that goes with it. Experience has also showed us that with the fine print there are usually loop holes. Paul is trying to paint in this picture that with a contract is fine print, and ultimately a contract we will never be able to fulfill. No matter what we do, we won't be able to hold up our end of the deal.
Here's a thought we sometimes take for granted: Our relationship with God is not a contract or a to-do list.
Went to church on Sunday...CHECK.
Put money in the offering...CHECK.
Did my good deed for the day...CHECK.
That is a list of works, not a relationship. You see, a contract eliminates personal trust and relationship completely. You could never attend enough services, or give enough money, or do enough good deeds to set you right with God, because that isn't relationship.
When I was spending some time over these verses, I got this idea in my mind. Not that I would know personally, but I know there was a time in our history where people could trust each other by their word and a handshake. Today you would never see such personal trust but rather would see people pushing a contract to seal the deal. God doesn't want a signed contract from you, but to take His hand and trust Him at His word.
God wants a personal relationship with you!! Think about the following question for a moment...
Do you remember the first moment when you believed in Him. When you had that personal moment with God?
That was God choosing you and you accepting His grace. That was trust and that is a promise.
The person who trusts in works nullifies the work of Christ on his behalf. I don't know about you, but I would rather have Christ working on my behalf than trying to get all the work done myself in vain. And yes it would be in vain. With a contract there are penalties for neglecting to fulfill what is there. Since you would never be able to hold up your end of the deal, you would inevitably face penalties.
Think about that for a moment. If it wasn't for God's grace, we would face penalties; however, Jesus took our punishment. How sweet is His grace!
Let's look at what Jesus has to say about this. In Luke 18. 9-14, Jesus tells a parable of a Pharisee and a tax collector.
"He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.' But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted."
Here is a Pharisee, a man thought by all righteous. And there to the side, a tax collector and one known for his sins. Yet in this picture Jesus highlights the humility of the tax collector. When I try to imagine the scene, I can't help but be shaken. The tax collector couldn't even lift his eyes to heaven while at that same moment a Pharisee is thanking God that he is not like that tax collector. We look at that picture and instantly side ourselves with the tax collector, but I know at times I've seen the Pharisee in myself. How I've self-righteously thought my works were so valuable.
I don't want to be known for works but lack grace. I want to be known as someone who coupled the grace given freely to me with works of love.
Who do you see in you? Answer honestly. Is it the humbled sinner saved by grace? Or the self-exalted deemed right by works?
This coming week, examine the motives behind what you do. I know as a result of these verses, I want to carefully examine why I do what I do. And I want to live my life according to His promises and not by a to-do list.