Friday, November 19, 2010

Guilt or Grace?

The essence of what makes Christianity theologically unique is summed up in Eph. 2:8-10: "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." All religions prod to good works, and many believe in a Higher Power that makes some allowances for human shortcomings; but Christianity alone teaches unequivocally that grace comes before good works—any good works.

That is, pure, Biblically-based Christianity teaches such. You'd never guess it from what's heard in many churches. "All God wants from us is obedience." "Every day millions of souls die without Christ—what are you doing about it?" "Your church is in desperate need of more financial contributions/teachers/blood donors." The causes behind such appeals may be valid, but the implication comes down to "it's your personal responsibility to meet all outstanding needs as you and your spiritual leaders see them, or God will be disappointed in you." Or, bluntly, it comes down to a guilt trip.

God does not send His people on guilt trips. Certainly He convicts of sin; but failure to personally meet every outstanding need is not sin. In fact, it may actually be sin to try, particularly when we are so busy relying on human judgment that we never bother to ask for God's guidance. What's really wrong with works-based religion is that it's human-based: humans decide everything that needs doing, humans do everything that needs doing. Humans thus take over God's privilege of running the world, and God becomes the insurance company that pays out our eternity in Heaven because we kept up the premiums during our lives. There's no grace involved, merely our rightful due.

To do our good works as God intended—motivated by gratitude rather than guilt, fully relying on His guidance alone, and with acknowledgment we are only giving Him His rightful due—is to experience divine grace to its fullest.

What is driving your devotion,
As you seek God's face?
What is your chief motivation?
Is it guiltor grace?

What propels you on your duties?
What's the goal you chase?
You are working in God's service,
But through guiltor grace?

Is He just your Lord and Master?
Is there any trace
Of delighting in His Friendship,
Trading guilt for grace?

He Who gave His life to save us,
King of time and space,
Longs to free us from guilt's burdens:
Praise Him for His grace!

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