God’s Word is clear. You and I do not earn our salvation. We cannot obey enough laws or do enough deeds to cleanse us from sin and restore a right relationship with a holy God. There is nothing that you and I can do to reconcile ourselves to God. That is the bad news; the good news is that God has done for us what we cannot do ourselves.
The Apostle Paul declares this good news: “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). Grace – free – full – undeserved – unearned – but not cheap! The cost of grace can be seen most clearly in the cross where Jesus died to pay the price for our sin.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Eternal life is found in Jesus. You can search your whole life for the secret of living forever, but here it is right before your eyes. Every time you see a cross it is a reminder of the high price of this free gift. What you earn for your sin is death and eternal separation from God. What you receive by grace through faith is eternal life through Jesus.
Salvation is not merely fire insurance – a means to keep us out of hell. Jesus never invited people to Himself with the words, “Hey, if you’d like to stay out of hell, I’m your man!” Jesus’ call was to a new life – a life lived by His power for His purposes. Jesus said, “Follow me.” Following Jesus means that we believe in Him, and believing in Him means we trust Him for life in heaven and life here on earth.
Somehow we have gotten the warped idea that we can divide Jesus. We can take the Savior part without declaring Him as Lord. We get our all-access pass to heaven but can live anyway we want while on this earth. Salvation? Yes! Sacrifice? Not so much! Heaven? Yes! Inclusion in His church? Not a big deal! Eternal life? Yes! Great Commission? Nah, I’ll pass! This, my friend, cheapens grace.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote: “Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”
I am not your judge, but one day we will all stand before the Judge. God’s Word encourages us, therefore, with this challenge: “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?” (2 Corinthians 13:5)
Grace is free to us, but it came at a high cost. The eternal Son of God not only died a gruesome death on a cross; He also bore the sins of the world upon Himself knowing for the first time in all eternity separation from His Father. He did that for you and me. He paid a high price that our broken relationship with God might be restored. Grace is free; let us not cheapen that costly free gift.