Summary: Exploring what it means to be saved by “grace through faith” instead of our good works or righteous behavior.
Grace-Greater Than All Of Our Sin
Thesis: Exploring what it means to be saved by “grace through faith” instead of our good works or righteous behavior.
Ron & Susan Wenaas had been waiting a lifetime it seemed for a child to enter their lives that they could call their own. Finally that day had arrived. They had been able to adopt a five-year-old Korean girl. As the plane from South Korea pulled into the gate at the Twin Cities International Airport in Minneapolis, the Wenaases paced back and forth as they watched all the passengers unload. After all the passengers unloaded, they saw her. The girl had been prepared by the adoption agency to recognize her new parents. She looked at the picture in her hand, then scanned the crowd and spotted Ron & Susan. She spoke the only two English words she knew. “Daddy! Mommy!”
The parents had a picture too. Like the little girl, they had been prepared for this meeting. Though the parents and child had never met, they had already begun the process of knowing each other.
What the adoption agency did for the couple and the little girl is a bit like what God does for all of us in salvation. He prepares the way. Theologians call this prevenient grace, the grace that comes to all people before they meet God in conversion. It’s the love God extends to people to show them He wants to save everyone.
People have trouble with this concept. Even Christians can’t accept the idea of grace. They think God’s love must be earned. “What must I so to be saved?” (Acts 16:30).
Some of the common responses are: Do good deeds, keep the Ten Commandments, live a moral life, love your neighbors, be honest and upright, attend church regularly. As a pastor that is what I would like for all my people to be doing, but that isn’t going to get them saved.
During a serious illness Charles Wesley received a visit from Peter Bohler a missionary and preacher in the Moravian Movement. The Moravians were known for their evangelism and Christian living. During their visit Bohler asked Wesley what hope he had for being saved. Wesley replied, “I have done my best to serve God.” Bohler said nothing. He just shook his head and left.
This brings us to the heart of the issue at hand. Why do people try to earn their salvation.
1. Earning Our Salvation.
John Wesley, the forefather of the Wesleyan/holiness movement, organized a small group of students at Oxford in 1729. This group was given the nickname the Holy Club. Later they would be called Methodists. Wesley was more than a member of the Holy Club; His disciplined commitment to God would shame the most devout believer into blushing.
When he was twenty-two Wesley’s father convinced him to become a preacher. At this time he committed himself to becoming a “good Christian.” Each day he would pray for two hours. He tried to keep the whole of the law of God, through careful self-examination and through helping others. Despite all of his devotion and love, John Wesley was miserable.
For fifteen years John Wesley had tried establishing his own terms of salvation. This only served to intensify his broken relationship with God.
John Wesley’s experience parallels the life of many around us. Even though they believe in God, they choose to be their own gods, determining how they will live in this world.
John Wesley was not conscious of any desire to disobey God. Quite the opposite. However he was still trying to set the terms of his relationship with God. We can be right with God only when we accept God for who He is. Our Creator, Lord, and Savior. We can’t experience a loving relationship with Him if we try to tell Him how He will be our God.
It wasn’t until Wesley met Peter Bohler that he realized that he needed to rely on God for his salvation not his works or spiritual achievements. Another example of someone who tried to lead a life pleasing to God was Paul before his conversion. (Read Phil. 3:4-6).
Both Paul and Wesley’s struggles remind us that salvation does not start with ourselves. Without God’s prior decision to love us, we would not even care about our relationship with the Lord. But before, our misconceptions, before our misguided attempts to find sincerity, before our desire to set our own terms with God. He chose to love us. He refused to allow our relationship with Him remain broken. We can be made right with Him through trusting Christ for our hope of salvation. Though the Bible clearly says we can’t earn our salvation that doesn’t mean we play no role in our salvation.