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Q&A: I know that we are saved by grace apart from works, but how can it be that easy?

I know that we are saved by grace apart from works, but that seems too easy. How can that be how it works?

What is grace? Grace is God’s undeserved love.

There are two main reasons people say that grace is too easy. One says in despair, “I know what I’ve done and there’s no way God can just forgive me.” The other says in pride, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch. I work hard for everything I have.”

These statements are really two sides of the same coin, both leading us to say, “Grace is too easy. You must have to do something to be right with God.” In fact, our sinful nature leads us to believe that we can and must do something in order to earn forgiveness.

Recognize who you are

We need to see ourselves for who we really are compared to God. God is perfect. He is holy and he demands the same. There are no degrees of holiness. Either you are or you aren’t.

When Moses wanted to see God’s face, God told him, “You cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live” (Exodus 33:20). Why? Because sinful man cannot stand in the presence of the holy God. God is not impressed when we try to appease him with our efforts. He demands perfection; our efforts aren’t up to that standard.

Imagine trying to swim across a ripple-free pond without disturbing the water. That would be perfection! But no matter how hard you try, you still will make ripples. Even the best Olympic divers make ripples when they enter the water. Even the best of us still sin daily. Working hard does not cut it. Forgiveness and salvation need to be free gifts from God.

But that doesn’t mean there is anything easy about grace, not for God anyway.

Realize what God has done

Adam and Eve broke God’s heart when they sinned, yet God promised to send a Savior. God shaped all of history so that two thousand years ago he himself would enter this world clothed in the skin of a baby. Jesus grew up and lived perfectly because we needed his perfect life. There was nothing easy about it. Jesus mourned, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem . . . how often I have longed to gather your children together . . . and you were not willing” (Matthew 23:37). It wasn’t only his heart that was torn, but a few days later, also his back, his brow, his hands, and his feet, as he hung on the cross to pay for every one of their imperfections, and ours too.

Now God looks at us and sees Jesus’ perfection. We do not deserve it, but he gives it to us anyway. That is grace. God does not love you because you are perfect. Instead, you are perfect in his eyes because he loves you. That is grace.

Some will object, saying, “Doesn’t that give people the right to do whatever they want to do?” The answer is yes. So, what do you want to do for the One who gave his life for you? What would you do if someone saved you from a burning building or from drowning? The last thing you would do is say “I didn’t need your help,” and go back to the fire or into the water. No, there is only one thing to do. Thank the One who saved you.

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Author: David Scharf
Volume 108, Number 10
Issue: November 2021

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This entry is part 21 of 65 in the series question-answer

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