Pray: Humbly ask God for wisdom. Ask Him to teach you as you read the following section of the Bible.
Read: Ephesians 2:8-10
If any Bible verse should roll off our tongues and be seared in our minds, let it be Ephesians 2: 8-9. Why? Because in these verses we see a gathering of all the elements necessary for our eternal salvation: Grace. Faith. Gift. Jesus.
Many people today assume that all religions are really the same. Sure there are similarities but there is something distinctly and irreconcilably different about Christianity. What is it?
I’ve had many conversations with friends who see all religions as basically the same. These are important conversations to have with our friends, neighbors and co-workers. That is part of loving our neighbor well. However, even though my discussions with them are usually very cordial, they all seem to get cut short when I get to this distinct point about Christianity: Salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone.
In other religions, people are taught to reach up to God in order to earn salvation by doing good things or not doing bad things. In Christianity, salvation is a free gift of God’s grace so that no one can boast. We can’t earn it but we can embrace it in faith. Other religions reject God’s free gift of grace by rejecting Jesus and continue on a treadmill of ‘good works’. Faith works, but spiritual treadmills leave you tired and in hell.
I was talking to a guy at Starbucks recently who described himself as, ‘not into religion but still spiritual”. More and more people today are abandoning all religions and defining for themselves how to get to heaven. My coffee drinking buddy told me “I’m a good person and I think I’ll go to heaven, if it exists.” His response saddened me. People like this want to define the criteria by which God should let them into heaven. That is a spiritual treadmill.
Both the followers of other religions, and those opposed to religion in general are equally offended by the exclusive claims of Jesus. They run right past God’s grace!
Christianity teaches that God reached down from heaven to save us because we are unable to save ourselves. We are NOT good people. We are sinners in need of a good Savior. Salvation is a gift of God, not a trophy we earn. Salvation comes by faith in Jesus alone. If you don’t grasp that you may not be saved.
Faith is the act of our soul that turns away from our own insufficiency to the free and all-sufficient resources of God. Faith focuses on the freedom of God to dispense grace to the unworthy. It banks on the bounty of God. –John Piper
So rather than trying to go around Jesus to earn your salvation, go to Jesus in faith. Rather than banking on being a better ‘good person’ than the guy sipping coffee (or hard liquor) next to you; acknowledge you aren’t that good and you need God’s grace and forgiveness in your life. He is gracious and ready to forgive you!
Sometimes, when I explain the freeing grace of God to people they ask, “So if I believe in Jesus, I can be saved and still do whatever I want?” Nope. Verse 10 addresses this question.
We were saved for good works, not to abuse God’s grace. In other words, the more we experience God’s undeserved grace in our lives, the more we are motivated to do good works out of love for Him. Anyone who has been rescued from a hopeless situation before knows this. Don’t you want to do something nice to show your appreciation for whoever saved you? Good works don’t save people, but they naturally overflow from saved people. Are you saved? Is your faith working? Faith works!
1. Are you saved? What do you base this on?
2. How would you explain the relationship between God’s grace and good works to a skeptical friend?
3. What are some good works this week, you feel motivated to do out of response for God’s grace in your life?
Memorize: Ephesians 2:8-9 “For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift— not from works, so that no one can boast.”