Me… But For The Grace Of God

I have often heard my parents say, upon seeing a helpless drunkard or anyone visibly suffering at the hands of the Devil, “There go I but for the Grace of God. This is a fitting paraphrase of the message of Jesus in Luke 13:1-5. Hell has no “First Class” section for those who did good deeds on earth, but did not repent of their sins. Our eternal destiny hinges on God’s Grace and not on our goodness.

The full impact of the Gospel of God’s Grace is lost upon a sinful world with distorted values of the path to self-righteousness. That is understandable. But that same Gospel of God’s Grace is fully understood by very few Believers in Christ who are actually the beneficiaries of God’s Grace.  You see, it is counter intuitive for me to believe that outside of God’s Grace, I am NOTHING in His sight. Actually, I am something, but nothing that is flattering. The Amplified Bible expands the meaning of the central word in Isaiah 64:6. Listen.

“For we have all become like one who is unclean [ceremonially, like a leper], and all our righteousness (our best deeds of rightness and justice) is like filthy rags or a polluted garment; we all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away [far from God’s favor, hurrying us toward destruction].”  That polluted garment is actually what corresponds to our modern sanitary pad. Ideally, those are not washed, cleaned and reused. Those are discarded. And this imagery equally applies to the best works of righteousness of men and women, boys and girls.

We spend a life-time nurturing our ego for our own survival in the name of “self-confidence”. We learn and practice the golden rule and we live by great values that say, do not kill, steal, lie or covet. We tithe and give alms to the poor, and we do all these great things, only to hear God say, none of these things have any value when it comes to putting you in right-standing with God. “ For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—  not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

It is only after we get this message fully, firmly and finally into our heads, that we dare begin to live in the light of the legacy of Ephesians 2:10. “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”. Talking about turning on a dime. Watch this! Before conversion, I feed the hungry, clothe the naked and defend the oppressed. These are good, but outweighed by my sin, and useless in reconciling me to God. These are filthy rags in God’s sight. After conversion, I feed the hungry, clothe the naked and defend the oppressed. These are good works, appointed and approved by God and precious in His sight. Men shall see them as my light shines in a dark world, and as they bring glory to the Name of God (Matthew 5:16).

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