Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Several years ago, my wife, Brenda, and I decided to accept an offer to hear a “brief presentation” in exchange for a “free hotel stay.” The kids were little and we thought that a free stay in a hotel with a pool would be a fun family activity. And since we had more time than money, it was in the right price range!
The presentation started with a hyped talk and what one might call an obnoxious and long video about the product. Following the address of the large group, we were all huddled into individual meetings with a sales associate, and there endured a lengthy spiel. It was a highly pressured situation where I finally had to say, “No offense to you whatsoever, but we will never buy this product. The only reason we are here is for the free hotel stay.”
Finally, when the two-hour or so “time investment” had ended, we said to each other in the car driving away, “Well, at least we will get a couple of nights away for some family fun.” However, that is not how it worked out. The stipulations of booking the hotel were like jumping through multiple hoops simultaneously and there was a timeline that expired quickly. So we never got our “free lunch.” It gave us a bad taste in our mouth and raised our level of suspicion about any offer that sounded too good to be true.
Maybe you have had a similar type of experience before, where it appeared you were going to get a gift and it turned out to be a lump of coal. Maybe it was “free advice” from someone that turned out to be counsel that served them. Or perhaps it was a deal that appeared to be good, but when you read the fine print, it tuned out to be disadvantageous to you. We can all get this negative taste in our mouths that can produce in our lives a pessimistic attitude that there are no free lunches.
But the message of God points us otherwise. In Romans 6:23, we find in brief form, a summarization of God’s message to humanity, “For the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” In this passage, we find two realities.
The first reality (which we looked at last week in this column) is contained in that first phrase, “For the wages of sin is death.” Sin is when we make choices that show contempt and disregard for God and his ways. The Bible teaches something that is pretty much a self-evident truth that we have all “blown God off.” But the result, or what we deserve for sinning, is tied up in the fact that God is just. Therefore, we bring death into our lives both now and eternally. So this first reality is summed up with the notion that we have a problem with God. But, there is the good news; God has a solution.
Second reality: God’s solution is laid out in the second phrase of Romans 6:23, “But the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” God offers us a gift that is in contrast with what we deserve. This gift, this truth, can change everything!
What is a gift? A gift is some special item given without the expectation of repayment. Along the same lines, as spoken to followers of Christ, Ephesians 2:8 says, “For by grace you are saved.” Grace presents the idea of an undeserved favor that makes salvation possible. I love this! There are free lunches!
How does that work? A great verse that helps us understand the mechanics of this more is Romans 3:25, “God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished.” “Under the hood” of grace we find the “engine” which is the atonement.
“God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood.” Atonement means to make amends for an injury or a wrong. The atonement is Jesus’ death on the cross in the place of sinners.
How does one get this gift? How does God’s grace get “unleashed” into your life? It is “to be received by faith.” Just as with any gift, in order for the benefits of a present to be enjoyed, one must receive it. “For by grace you are saved through faith.” Faith is a living and bold trust in God’s grace. Faith is what puts grace into motion for your life.
Are you skeptical? Does this sound too good to be true? One thing that I have learned in my experience as a “studier” of people is that everybody believes something. I urge you to seriously consider believing God’s solution. It’s not just a spiel; it’s the real deal!