John Stott, a pastor in the Anglican church of England and a noted leader of worldwide evangelicalism, made the following observation: “Faith’s only function is to receive what grace offers.” Is that what you believe?
We live in a high performance society. We are driven to excel and be obsessed with success. We long for bigger and better. We put in 50, 60 and 70 hour work weeks believing that this will get for us what we want. Many people believe that there is a passage in the Bible that says, “God helps those who help themselves.” Just so you know, that quote is not in the Bible.
I hope you don’t misunderstand. I’m not at all opposed to success or hard work. In fact, I believe God made us to be successful and to take on jobs that are well beyond our ability as we learn to walk with Him and be led by His Holy Spirit. But we must never forget that principally, Christianity is not about the sacrifices we make for God but the sacrifice God made for us.
Because the church in America is accustomed to receiving a steady diet of “do more” and “try harder” sermons, there can be created the unintended result of Christians being focused on what they must do for God, rather than focusing on what Christ has done. When the vast majority of sermons are about Christian living, rather than about Christ, we begin to misrepresent the good news of the gospel. Grace is hijacked and replaced with brands of Christian behaviorism.
I think part of the reason for this emphasis on Christian living is that we think this will somehow get people to clean up their act. If we keep a steady and consistent diet of “do more” and “try harder” sermons, this will get people to read and obey their Bibles, give to and serve their churches and be more loving and considerate as they represent Christ in their neighborhoods. And as this cry for intensified devotion toward God gets louder and stronger, too many people conclude that the focus of the Christian faith is upon our love for God rather than God’s love for us.
The Bible is not a story about good people reaching up to God. The Bible is the story of God reaching down to bad and broken people. Therefore, the Bible is not the owner-operator manual for Christian living. Rather, the Bible is a revelation of Jesus who comes to rescue us from our sin, our failure, our guilt and our badness with His love and grace and offers us a whole new identity.
The good news of God’s unmerited favor toward mankind, God’s desire to see man saved and healed must be recaptured by God’s people. We must understand that God reaches out to us not because we are good but because He is good. Our Heavenly Father is pleased to extend to us everything we need in this life and for the life to come and He wants us to simply receive all that we need with the hands of faith.