Summary: When we do a job we expect to get paid for it. When we do something right we might expect God to repay us - but that’s not how it works in God’s economy. Learn about the four keys to faith by Paul’s account of Abraham’s faith.
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My first job (after being a newspaper delivery person) was in a dry cleaners and carpet cleaning business. The man who owned it had employed his son, but they guy drove himself off a cliff and died. No kidding. So I went to work for this guy doing odd jobs, delivering curtains in a van that didn’t have brakes (that’s another story). I got paid, though always in cash.
After a while I got to clean carpets. At least at first it seemed fun – until I found out how much hard work it is moving all that furniture, lugging around heavy equipment, then getting all hot because of the steam. Well, eventually I got another job – as the helper at an Orange Julius store. It came time to give notice and my first boss asked if I’d do a couple more jobs for him – about 12 hours worth.
So I did the jobs but when I tried to collect my money, my former boss was mysteriously out of the office or would get right back to me. After a while I found out that the business had closed and he had, in fact, been paying me "under the table."
But I was so mad – I’d really worked hard for that money, and as a 16 year old, really needed it (or so I thought). Thing was, I felt I deserved it – a days work for a days pay, you know.
Now this kind of attitude can spill over into our spiritual lives as well. If I’m a good person, then God should feel good about me – the better I am the more God likes me. Or - I come to church, pay my tithe, do good works, obey God and don’t do any obvious sins – so when I pray, God should open up His heavenly check book and "voila!" my prayer is answered.
This was especially true for the Jews who received Paul’s letter to the Roman church. Many Jews felt that they were something special because of their obedience to the law and their relationship to Abraham. But Paul has something else in store for them – and us.
In chapter 3 Paul has made two really important points: we are justified by faith, not works, and Jews and Gentiles alike have equal access to this justification. Now he expands on the point by using Abraham has an example.
What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter? 2 If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about-but not before God. 3 What does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness."
The story of Abraham is found in the book of Genesis 11-25. Some people think Abraham, or Abram, was born with a halo around his head. Not so – Abram was a pagan – just some guy. And God said to him – "I want you" and Abram said "OK," and that was it.
The quote there is from Genesis 15. God appeared to Abram in a vision and told him not to be afraid, that God was his shield and very great reward. Abram asked God for an heir and God said not only would He give him an heir, but that his offspring would be greater than the stars of heaven. At that point is when Abram said he believed what God said.
Had Abram done anything at that point? No. God made a promise and Abram just said – OK, I believe You. Isn’t that simple? Isn’t that wonderful? This totally frees me up. You mean I can please God simply by believing His promises? Absolutely. Let’s read on.
4 Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. 5 However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.
So when we do good things and think we are earning God’s favor then we are treating him like an employer we are working for. God won’t go into debt for anyone. So instead of working I trust God. That’s it. I come to God and say "I know I can’t please you on my own, but I can trust You." You see, that’s what God’s after. He doesn’t create a system of do’s and don’ts then implore us to follow them – instead He wants us to trust Him, to have a relationship with Him. Amazing!
Santa Claus gets out his list and checks to see who’s been naughty and nice. The nice get neat toys and the naughty get coal. That’s not the way God works. Isn’t that freeing? Instead of relying on our fervor for God or our sacrifices for Him, we cast ourselves on His grace – He does it all and we don’t earn any of it.