Donald Trump told CNN last Sunday that he has a "great relationship" with God. He explained: "I like to be good. I don't like to have to ask for forgiveness, and I am good. I don't do a lot of things that are bad. I try to do nothing that's bad."
I'm reminded of Warren Buffett's explanation when he signed over $30.7 billion to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation: "There is more than one way to get to heaven, but this is a great way." Donald Trump and Warren Buffett are not alone; according to a recent survey, seventy-one percent of Americans think works play an essential role in salvation.
Hopefully you know better. Hopefully you know that you are saved only on the basis of God's grace (Ephesians 2:8–9), and that you can do nothing to deserve such love. But let me ask you: If you attended worship last Sunday, why did you go? If you spent time in prayer and Bible study today, why did you do so? Why did you open this Cultural Commentary? Is there an impulse, perhaps unstated and unconscious, compelling you to earn God's favor by your actions?
I'm no different. I'm just as tempted to seek God's blessing through my merit. This is not surprising—we live in a culture that measures us by what we do. But we can never do enough well enough for long enough to gain the significance and security our souls long to know.
How can we experience the transformational freedom of grace?
I spoke last Sunday on the question, Why is there only one way to God? (I invite you to read the transcript on our website.) After exploring the biblical and logical reasons why Jesus is our only way to the Father, I asked the congregation to consider this thought: The real mystery is not that there is only one way to God, but that there is a way to him.
It is remarkable that the holy, perfect God of the universe would make a way for me to spend eternity with him. It is beyond comprehension that this way would cost him the life of his only Son. And yet this is what our Father did for me. And for you.
If you have children, try a thought experiment with me. Imagine a situation where you could choose to save the life of a person, but at the cost of your child's life. Perhaps your daughter is a doctor who will save patients during an Ebola epidemic, but you know she will contract the disease and die. Or your son is a soldier who will save villagers from ISIS, but you know he will be captured and beheaded. What would you do?
I cannot think of a situation where I would send one of my children to die so someone else could live. If you made such a choice for me, I know this: I would never again doubt your love for me.
In light of the cross, ask yourself two questions:
One: Is there anything you can do now to lose God's love? If your sins already cost Jesus his life, can you do anything worse to your Father?
Two: Is there anything you can do now to earn God's love? If your Father already gave his Son for you, what more can you persuade him to do for you?
Philip Yancey noted that "grace, like water, flows to the lowest part." Where do you need God's grace today?
Publication date: January 19, 2016
For more from the Denison Forum on Truth and Culture, please visit www.denisonforum.org.
Do you want to live a life in whole-hearted pursuit of loving God and others?
Read today's First15 at www.first15.org.