Mankind has awoken to find himself in a pit.
He looks about, encompassed on all sides by an unscalable wall, there is no way down or around.
He looks up, and in the distance sees a light at the very top, beckoning him, calling to him. Open pastures are above.
He gropes at the wall in hope that by some means he can muster up what it takes to get himself out.
The markings on the sides of the pit tell stories of others who have been there before.
There was one named "Good Works" and he wrote that he had once climbed to a height greater than any other, touching the side of the pit nearly 10' up.
"Philosophy" had boasted that he had looked at the light, all those thousands of feet up, longer than anyone before him
"Wisdom" sketched out how to live productively at the bottom of this pit, and muse about what the significance of the light may be and what its source could be
But there was another pair of markings, ancient, as if as old as the pit itself.
One of these was written by the one called "Law", it spoke of life above, the perfections and the glories; it condemned those in the pit for not being the same. "There is no way one could escape this pit." It claimed, "You may be able to clamor at the sides, but even in your best attempt, you will never get out"
The second, written by one named "Prophet", spoke of a plan of escape. "Not on your own" it began, "will you ever reach the top, but there is One coming who will be able to bring you out." Mankind continued to read, "He will live as those above. Perfect. Holy. He is the Creator of us all, even of the one called 'Law'. He will come down the pit from the land above and live here. A perfect life, His. One that will scale the unscalable wall, one that will climb the impossible. He comes down to do one thing, Mankind, to bring you up from this pit, this inescapable pit, to the glories above."
Mankind stumbled back, shocked to see his name written in the most ancient script. "Who is this 'Prophet', that he knows my name even before I was called it?"
His eye caught the last of the markings on the pit's side. Written low, underneath Prophet's writing so that all could see.
"Apostle is my name," it said, "the one spoken of by Prophet has come. He is the Ruler of the land above. Just as Prophet wrote, He lived a life like no other. He showed us the way out. He showed us the rope in this pit, that rope called 'Faith'. It has been here ever since the beginning, and it is only by this rope that you will be rescued. Leave behind what you learned from Philosophy, he only loves to look at the light. Leave behind what you learned from Wisdom, he only speaks of things he doesn't understand because he doesn't hold the rope. Leave behind what you learned from Good Works, he will only tempt you to let go of the rope to try once again to climb the pit.
"Turn from these, grab the rope, and be pulled to safety."
I used to imagine that the grace of God was a fine thing that was necessary for salvation.
I was right.
As I began to grow and learn more about salvation, God, and the way He moved in the world, I started to realize that the grace of God was far more than necessary for salvation. Indeed it was sufficient for salvation. What a glorious thought! That God's grace alone is the source and cause of our salvation. That I need not look for any other cause, any other source, any other solution.
I was more right than I knew.
You see, I have spent many years imagining that I knew all about God's grace. That I could quantify and define it well. That I could express its realities and effects and that by so doing I would grow more thankful for the grace of God in my life.
I was wrong.
There is a wideness to God's grace that I have never known. As I assumed the vast focus of God's grace was exclusively on the glorious act of salvation, I have spent much time overlooking the grace of God in sanctification. Let me see if I can prod you to interact with it as well.
Have you ever desired God to punish you?
Oh, I don't mean expect Him to punish you but want Him to do so? That rather than know His gracious dealings with His beloved, you might be able to feel the scourge of His disapproval? Maybe it is my errant understanding of the "fear of the Lord." Maybe it is my pride wanting to take part in my own atonement so that maybe Christ would not have to suffer so violent a death if I suffer more intense consequences.
The more I grow as a Christian, the more I realize that there are parts of my heart that despise grace. Parts of me that would sooner suffer a thousand lashes of sorrow than the loving look of all-sufficient grace in the face of my Father. I, at times, want Him to look on my sin and deal harshly with me. Not in chastisement but in hatred. At least then I could feel vindicated, having suffered sufficiently to assuage my guilt.
Do I know? Do I even have the faintest inkling of the depths that Christ already suffered to rob me of my guilt? To steal away that precious guilt that pets my heart while singing soft words of hopelessness.
"Those who desire grace and forgiveness are weak," it hums, "but you are strong with me."
What I have learned is that the song is very deceptive and that without pride it would never stand. Because, I am weak but I think myself strong. The guilt that fights the onslaught of grace's siege has but the appearance of strength and can not endure. Eventually the defenses that guilt and pride have built will crumble at the sheer determination and consistency of the grace of God. And, as another section of the defenses fails as the grace of God floods the ramparts, I begin to see that my guilt, my sin, and my pride are no match for the grace of God that defies all measure.
It reminds me of an old hymn:
There's a wideness in God's mercy, like the wideness of the sea.
There's a kindness in God's justice, which is more than liberty.
There is no place where earth's sorrows are more felt than up in heaven.
There is no place where earth's failings have such kindly judgment given.
For the love of God is broader than the measures of the mind.
And the heart of the Eternal is most wonderfully kind.
If our love were but more faithful we would gladly trust God's Word,
And our lives reflect thanksgiving for the goodness of our Lord.
May God make me thankful for His grace.
One could imagine that such a basic question does not warrant its own article. It just means 'to believe,' right?
No. No it does not.
When Christians say they are saved by faith in Christ it is not a mere acknowledgement that Christ is real and actually came to live, die and rise from the dead. Those are historically provable facts. It is also not the admission or realization that He is a great Savior. Both of these aspects are necessary to saving faith, but they are not sufficient.
Then what makes saving faith different?
Imagine, if you will, that a ship you were on has just sunk. You have no life jacket, and around you on all sides are bits and pieces of the ship, none of which are of sufficient size to save you. You see people likewise in the water and some of them are placing their faith on planks and random items that are adrift in the water. You witness their struggle and realize that what they are trusting on is not satisfactory.
Then you see in the distance one of the ship's lifeboats. You hear someone next to you call out, "We're saved!" You look over to him, bobbing in and out of the water, and remind him that he is still not in the boat.
"But I know that boat! It's strong and true. It will never sink and those who are near it are safe."
You both begin swimming over to it, driven by the familiarity and promised safety. Arriving to it you place your hands on the side and begin pulling yourself in.
"What are you doing that for?" He asks, "You already know this is the lifeboat, right? What need have you to climb in? If there arises trouble, we are right here with the lifeboat."
"But, are we not in trouble already?" You ask.
He replies, "Well, yes, but that is why we are here at the lifeboat." He knocked on the side of the boat, "Look how solid the craftsmanship is! This really is an amazingly sturdy lifeboat that could hold up to the greatest of storms; there really is no need to look for another lifeboat, this is the only one for me!"
Climbing in, I looked back to him and asked, "Don't you want to get in?"
"No," he said, "I am happy just knowing that I found this lifeboat."
The differences between people's definitions of faith can lead to some of the most destructive heresies in the church. When it comes to definitions, few could ever tell you properly what faith itself is, nor how efficacious faith is contrasted with dead faith.
The illustration above is one that focuses on the two misconceptions of saving faith, and the one example of saving faith.
First, we have the easily dispelled notion of "believe on whatever you want, just be sincere about it" crowd. These are those who, in that shipwreck, placed all their hope and trust (faith) on random pieces of wood that were insufficient to save them. This would be an apt description for anything but Christ.
Second, and much more common among the assembly of saints, are those unsaved who think themselves saved because they admit Christ is the Savior. Good for them, even the demons believe such. This is the man who swims with all his might to the lifeboat, throwing off all other hopes, but instead of getting into it he merely studies it. Appreciates it. Talks about it.
Third, and the rarest of all, is the only saving faith. They will not trust in other things, they learn and admit that Christ is the Savior; and then they trust Him to save them by being "in Christ." In the metaphor of the lifeboat, it is the one who climbed in that actually experienced salvation, not the one who simply admitted the reality of the lifeboat's existence and power.
How quickly are some evangelists satisfied with a mere admission of Christ's ability and power to save!
For salvation, one must place their trust, their hope, their all in Christ.
Recognizing a lifeboat's ability to save while remaining in the water will not save you in the least.
Get in the boat.