There have been times at church or in Bible study groups that I have been a little too unorthodox or radical in my thinking when I’ve insisted that the only prerequisite to salvation is;
1. Belief in the eternal God
2. Belief that Jesus is His son .
3. Belief that every person who has ever lived is sinful by his very nature.
4. Jesus came to live the perfect life that we are incapable of living because of our inherited sinful nature, and to die, in our place, the death that we deserve to die.
5. All that we must do to receive Salvation from our sin, is to accept His gift of eternal life.
“Ah-h-h! But that’s Cheap Grace! Cheap Grace is worthless!” some have pompously proclaimed.
That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less. Free Grace! Cheap Grace! None of us deserve salvation from our sins, so what makes us so certain that we could influence God’s decision to save us?
No, you don’t HAVE TO keep the 10 commandments, or follow the dictates of some religious organization, or join a church. Of course, everyone one would probably be better off if they did do those things, but you don’t HAVE TO. You may WANT to do the impossible, out of gratitude for what Jesus did for you… but you don’t HAVE TO in order to have eternal life.
When a rich young ruler came to Jesus asking what he had to do to get eternal life, Jesus gave a curious answer, “You know the law, (then he gives a few examples).”
“Oh, I’ve done all that since I was a youth. What do I HAVE TO DO?”
Jesus tried tell the guy that he may have been attempting to keep the letter of the law, but he had missed the intent of the law. He was still way too selfish and he obviously loved money more than God or his salvation, for his next instruction was a shocker for the the ruler and the disciples, “Go sell all that you have and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Come follow me”
To me that is rather a strange thing to say. Why didn’t he tell the man to start giving away his camels and donkeys and sheep to the poor people that he knew. Why were his instructions to sell everything (convert it to cash), and give that cash to the poor?
There are so many layers to this story at this point that have applied to my life. If the rich dude had given away pairs of animals the poor recipients might have been able to build a herd and gotten out of their poverty, whereas in receiving cash it would undoubtedly be spent in no time at all and they would soon be poor again. So, why give them money to start with?
So, why should I give to the beggar on the street corner? Is that really banking my treasure in heaven, as Jesus said? In John 12:26 Jesus proclaimed, “If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there also My servant shall be. If anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.” (Emphasis mine).
It appears that God would honor me for that gift… regardless of what the beggar does with it. But more importantly, if I got acquainted with him and introduced him to the way of Salvation, we would both be blessed.
Was this dude really acquainted with ANY poor people? Oh, I’m sure he knew some existed. He might have known the names of one or two, but did he know any. Had he ever invited some to dinner? Did he know their families? Did he know the circumstances of their poverty?
I think that Jesus knew this guy loved his savings accounts, retirement plans, life insurance policies, and his toys more than he himself realized.
The story ends with the guy walking “sorrowfully” away, and Jesus proclaiming the it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven.
Jesus wanted to give the guy some free, cheap Grace, but he would have none of it, because it involved loving a neighbor as much as he loved himself. Because it involved loving God supremely… more than his things.
Incidentally, that thief on the cross beside Jesus received the cheapest Grace of all. He didn’t have to do anything either. He couldn’t give a thing, or do a thing for Jesus. But as it turns out, he apparently, was the only one on the hill to acknowledge that Jesus was the son of God when all the odds were against it. His mother didn’t. His disciple didn’t. And it wasn’t until he was already dead that a Roman Guardsman admitted, “Surely, this was the son of God!”
I will be forever grateful for that cheap Grace. I like to do good things for those I love. In the same manner, I want to do good things for God, but my salvation does not depend on the things that I do.