November 29: Grace is a Gift (so stop trying to pay it back)

Romans 6:23. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Our relationship to God is fundamentally one of receiving grace. The giving and receiving of grace is ultimately how God relates to people. Everything God does he does to bring us into a relationship of grace with himself.

Grace is a gift. It can never be repaid. Let me share four reasons why we should not see our relationship to God as one of indebtedness.

First, it is literally impossible to repay God. And not because what you owe is so big (this is how I often here preachers explain it – you can’t repay God because the debt is so large. But this is still calling our relationship with God primarily one of indebtedness). The reality is that God is the source of all that you do. His grace empowers every breath you take. So as soon as you work hard to repay God, all the hard work that you just did is also by the grace of God. By working to pay off your debt to God, you just went deeper and deeper into debt. Everything is from grace. But if grace is a debt then we will never be out of debt.

Second, grace, by definition, can never be repaid. As soon as God demands that you repay it, it ceases to be grace. Grace is one-way love. It holds no expectation. It makes no demands. It keeps no record. The gospel never describes our relationship to God as a lender – borrower relationship. Yes, before justification, we owed a sin debt to God, but our justification in Christ has cleared our debt.

The idea of grace is hard for us, even offensive. We believe that the right and moral thing is to pay for what you get. To earn everything. If you buy me lunch, then I say “I’ll get the next one.” If you give me a gift, then I feel the need to get you a gift. If your gift is better than mine, I have to one up you next go around.

Sometimes even what we call gratitude is actually us just trying to pay back grace so we don’t feel so guilty. The very thing that God gives us to relieve all guilt often makes us feel the most guilty. Why is this? Because we don’t really trust in grace.

Third, if we believe that we can pay God back then we are rejecting forgiveness. God’s forgiveness eradicates your sin. Your debt is gone forever. As far as east is from west. If you can pay God back (which you can’t) then are you really forgiven? Jesus died so that you wouldn’t have to pay him back. This is the very essence of Christian forgiveness – God takes the hit. He pays the debt himself. The wage of sin is death. So God died. He took the earned wage and now offers the free gift of grace. That is the definition of forgiveness.

Fourth, you were never intended to be in a relationship of indebtedness to God. When God made Adam and Eve as the representatives of humanity, what was the goal? What was the nature of their relationship to God? Worship. Image bearing. Receiving. Dependency. Submission. Enjoyment.

Not debt.

Humanity’s job is to live. Live a life that reflects and represents God. This kind of life was lost at the Fall and regained for us by the cross. Your salvation is a restoration of this life. Plain and simple. Did Jesus’ resurrection place him in God’s debt? Or did it restore his relationship to God as the Son of God? You too are restored as a son. You too are not placed into God’s debt, you are restored to a worshipping image bearer who loves and enjoys and serves God. Not because you owe him but because you are joyfully enslaved to him.

“To live is Christ” is to live in grace. Grace that not only can’t be repaid but was never meant to be repaid. Grace that was meant to restore life, worship, and love.

In what ways are you trying to repay God? How does our union with Christ prove that we are in a son-ship relationship with God, not a debtor relationship?

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