If you haven’t been living under a rock for the past year, I’m sure you’ve heard of the “Great Resignation.” People everywhere are making hard choices about how, where, and when they work. Some are changing jobs to work from home more; others are realizing that their employers don’t “own” them and moving to careers with more freedom – scheduling, location, benefits, or just treatment of employees. Some are calling it other things, like the “Great Reshuffle.” Few people are leaving the workforce entirely, but they’re moving and re-prioritizing like crazy.
Yesterday, Oscar and Gail talked about the freedom we have in Christ to quit working so hard at being “good.” Oscar described the difference between religion (conforming to behavior and ritual in an effort to earn our way to God) and truth (surrendering ourselves to God and allowing Him to change our minds and hearts, and understanding that righteousness is already ours in Christ).
You may know the verse Psalm 46:10 in various translations; here it is in the New King James Version:
Be still, and know that I am God;Psalm 46:10, NKJV
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!
I’m usually not into “translation hopping,” but check out that same verse in the New American Standard Bible:
Stop striving and know that I am God;Psalm 46:10, NASB
I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted on the earth.
Striving is effort; striving is trial; striving is relying on oneself to do only what God can do. One of my favorite passages in the Bible is in 1 Peter:
Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for
“God resists the proud,
But gives grace to the humble.”
Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.1 Peter 5:5-7, NKJV
People love to quote the last verse, but they forget the prior context. This passage says to be humble, before casting our care upon God. What does that mean? I think Peter is saying, “If you don’t realize God is where all the power and goodness are, you can’t fully submit your cares (i.e., effort, pain, selfish desires) to Him. You’ll hold back because you trust yourself more than you trust Him to do what you cannot.”
Have you had a moment in your life when you realized that God has forgiven you once and for all and that you can just surrender your striving to Him? If not, I hope yesterday’s message, or our upcoming Freedom in Christ: Restored study, or this blog, help you get there. If you need more information, drop us a comment below!
I vividly remember my “God is grace” moment.
I had just finalized my divorce. I was broken down, exhausted, and looking for life. I grew up in an extremely “religious” church, and when I was in my early 20’s I got fed up. By the time I was progressing through a divorce in my 30’s, I was crying out to the God I didn’t believe in, to strike me down so I wouldn’t wake up the next day. God had other plans.
After my divorce, my best friend became my boyfriend (can you call it that when you’re over 30?), and before long he’d proposed. We’d known one another for seven years by then, and we knew we just worked together. But as a Christian, he knew that I needed Jesus more than I needed him, and I was moving in that direction. We began going to church together, and after he proposed, we went to the pastors of the church to start talking about marriage. The pastor we spoke with at the time said, “Congratulations on your engagement! Right now, though, I’m more concerned about your soul than your relationship.” He asked why I’d left the church, what my life had been like for the past several years, and what precipitated my divorce.
Explaining why I left the church, I told him something like this: I grew up believing that almost everyone is going to hell because they’re just not good enough – people who don’t know about God, but also people of other Christian denominations. They haven’t cut out sin, they’re not following the rules, they’re not worshipping “correctly,” they have musical instruments in their churches… Basically, we had to work really hard and then hope we got good enough before we died. I told the pastor about my mom, the most loving, kind, and generous person I knew, who still cries herself to sleep fearing that she won’t be good enough to get to Heaven.
As my story wound down, the pastor looked into my eyes and said, “Did you know it doesn’t matter how good your mom is?”
“What?” I said.
“Your mom isn’t going to heaven because of how good she is. She doesn’t need to even try to get there.” My jaw kind-of just dropped.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Does your mom believe that Jesus died to save her from sin? Does she confess Jesus as her Lord?”
“Yes, absolutely,” I said.
“Then she’s going to Heaven. It’s that simple. And she can stop trying to be “good;” she just needs to surrender all that effort to God.” He quoted some scriptures – I don’t remember which ones, and I burst into tears.
I apologized and said, “Sorry I’m crying. Wow, I didn’t know that was in there.” I think I meant the tears, but he thought I meant, “I didn’t know that was in the Bible.”
You see, I have a degree in Biblical Studies. I know the Bible. I know it really well. But the idea of true grace – effortless forgiveness – had never gotten from the scriptures in my head to the transformation of my heart… until that day.
Yesterday, Gail said something so profound but so simple, I’m afraid some of us could’ve missed it.
Eternity doesn’t just start when we die. We’re in eternity right now. So we have been saved from the penalty of separation forever, but we are being saved every day as we give ourselves to the Lord.Gail Shipps, “Redemption and Saying Yes,” 4 September 2022
You see, I used to believe that the point of being a Christian was being better than everyone else and going to Heaven when we die. Not knowing I was deceived, even studying the Bible enough to get a degree on it didn’t break me of that deception. In the premarital conversation I had with the pastor, the message finally got to my heart. The chain of deception was broken. My heart understood the words that had only been in my head before.
The point isn’t that we go to Heaven some day, and it certainly isn’t that I can look down on others. The point is that I can live in God’s Kingdom, as an ambassador for Him on earth, free from the guilt, shame, and striving of life because I know the work of salvation is finished. I know that if I sin, I can take it to God and am forgiven. I know that Jesus sits at God’s right hand, speaking to God on my behalf and covering me with His goodness. I know that I am not only saved – I am righteous.
Righteous, as in, “in right standing with God, not by my own goodness but by Jesus’.” That’s what’s on offer, and getting there is as easy as this:
But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”Romans 10:8-11, NKJV
Do you have a story of life change? We would love to hear it. Let us hear how God is transforming your life and the lives of those around you through the power of Christ. Drop us a line at [email protected] or submit a form using the button below! We’ll get in touch and work with you to share your story.