“And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Acts 2:21
“He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, Nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive blessing from the Lord, And righteousness from the God of his salvation.” Psalm 24:4-5
I opened my bible and these words from the 24th Psalm stared back at me. “He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, Nor sworn deceitfully . . . ” and I couldn’t help but think that not a single one of us would ever qualify to “receive blessing from the Lord, And righteousness from the God of his salvation.” Not. A. Single. One.
I was raised in a grace based denomination. “Salvation is through grace alone. Not works.” I heard it from the day I was born. But at the same time, I also heard, even if it wasn’t meant this way, “You must . . . you must be good. You must behave. You must _______ or God will not _______. Christians don’t do/believe/say ______. ” And while I do not think that anyone was ever telling me that I had to earn my salvation, I believe Satan took well intentioned teaching and guidance and twisted it in my mind so I heard, “You must be good . . . you must be good or God won’t love you . . . you must be good or God won’t be pleased with you . . . you must be good or you might not really be saved . . .” . And whatever “good” was I was going to excel at it.
So I was “good”. I was very good. As a child. As a teenager. As a young adult. Did I mess up? Yes, I did. But mostly, I strived to be perfect . . . morally, ethically, outwardly, inwardly . . . perfection was always the goal. It was exhausting, and because of the constant striving, from a very young age, I oscillated between two, seemingly, dichotomous traits . . . shame . . . shame every time I did make a mistake, every time I messed up, every time I had a bad thought, every time I was less than what I had decided was “perfect” . . . deep shame that constantly told me I could never measure up, but I’d better keep trying . . . and pride . . . pride that crept in when I was killing it and said in this quiet whisper in my mind “look at how good I am . . . look at me earning my way . . . my salvation . . .”.
In my early 20s it hit me squarely in the face. The realization that I could be the “best” . . . I could be a really good person . . . I could walk through life almost perfectly, but almost isn’t ever going to be good enough. I would never actually get there. Because even if all your actions seem right, the striving, the pride, the insistence that you are good . . . that I was good . . . they were an idol, and my hands and my heart were far from clean.
That can sound kind of depressing. That can be a real bummer. And this is where you have a choice. You can look at yourself . . . you can start listing ALL the things wrong with you. I did. My list was eternally long. And it was as shameful as it was long.
You can look to Jesus.
You can look to the grace of the cross.
“For by grace you have been save through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9
Grace – from the greek “charis” – (a) grace, as a gift or blessing brought to man by Jesus Christ (Strong’s 5485)
“A gift or blessing brought to man by Jesus Christ” . . .
Because here’s what grace does. It takes all that stuff that isn’t good. It takes the sin, the ugly, the pride, the striving, the work . . . it erases it all with the blood of Christ. And instead of man trying to reach God, which isn’t possible on any level, it is our Heavenly Father, sending His son to be hung on the cross, as a sacrifice for our sins, so that we never have to try to reach Him again. It is the Father going to His children because He knows nothing they can do will get them to Him.
I often hear well meaning Christians say, “You can’t be a Christian and _______.” But here’s the only qualification for salvation “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from he dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” Romans 10:9-10
That’s it folks. And I think, if we truly mean it when we confess those words . . . if we’re truly seeking God’s salvation (which if you’re sitting there wondering if you really mean it . . . I’m pretty certain you do . . . it’s not complicated . . . it’s not tricky . . . it’s not hard) . . . it’s at that moment everything changes.
“Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?” Romans 2:4
As I’ve grown older, I’ve realized that behavior modification is not a heart change. There is absolutely a time for teaching and guiding and addressing sin, but it needs to come from a place of God’s goodness. And I do believe that obedience is both protective and leads to natural and spiritual blessings. Not that we earn anything, but obedience to God and His ways can save us so much grief and hurt and heartbreak. BUT the starting point should always be, it has to always be, accepting Jesus as your Savior . . . accepting His grace and salvation as a gift freely given and never earned. We grow from the point of salvation. We do not work to earn that salvation. And as we grow in our relationship with Jesus, I firmly believe that He changes our hearts. That He shows us the things in ourselves that need to be different.
Paul speaks in Romans 5 and 6 of the grace of God.
“Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through the Lord Jesus Christ our Lord. What shall we say then? Shall we continue to sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” Romans 5:20-6:2
Growing in a God, learning, and changing are a life long process. As long as we’re on this earth, I believe He will continue to peel back the layers. To lovingly teach, admonish, guide, and change us. And if ever we think we’ve arrived, if ever I think that I’ve arrived, then that is glaring evidence to me that God still has a lot of work to do. And spoiler alert, I’m not arriving this side of Heaven. For me pride and arrogance and perfection and judgmental-ness and yes, even shame and feeling like I’m not enough (which circles back to pride) are areas where God continually works. At almost 39 years old, I think God is just scratching the surface of transformation in my life. So much has changed. So much still needs to change. But God is never in a hurry. He takes His time. He lovingly and tenderly teaches and transforms and molds us.
If you’ve never accepted the free gift of God’s grace and forgiveness then that is where you start. There is no decision you’ll ever make that is more important. That brings more hope, more deep joy, and more peace, in both good times and hard times, than that to follow Jesus. You don’t need anyone else to but you and Jesus to get it done. All you have to do is talk to Him. He’s always there. He’s always ready and willing to listen.*
Copyright 2020, Courtney G Davis, All Rights Reserved The writings and images contained within this site are the intellectual property of this writer unless otherwise noted, and may not be copied or used without express permission of the author.
* And I do encourage you to find a Bible believing church where you can learn and grow in God’s grace.I know finding a church can be challenging at these times, but there are no shortage of churches teaching, preaching, and praying on the internet until it’s once again safe to meet in person. So if you need help finding resources feel free to reach out. I’ll do my best to help you. And if you need prayer or have questions, I’m also here for that as well. I don’t have all the answers, but again, I’ll do my best to help.