A Prize To Be Won, Not Earned

Grace For The Journey

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15Aug  I pray that today’s blog is a great source of comfort for you today.  It is a word about the need to quit trying to earn God’s favor and simply trust in what Christ has already done.  Nobody knew this better than the apostle Paul.  The Holy Spirit led him to write in Philippians 3:12-14, “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.  Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.  But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Paul had every reason to believe he could earn the favor and blessing of God.  He was part of the “in” crowd at the Temple.  He was “… of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew Of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee” … “concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.” (Philippians 3:5-6).  Yet, in spite of all of his efforts to be pleasing to God and trying to earn God’s acceptance, God made it clear in His Word that Paul was never going to be able to earn his way into God’s favor, no matter how hard he tried.  In fact, his focus on earning God’s favor and doing good things to be accepted by God was only driving him further away from God . . . not closer.

What a comfort for those of us who are running on the performance treadmill of life and trying so hard to meet God’s righteousness demands!

We do not have to perform our way into relationship with God!

And …

We do not have to maintain our performance,

Increase our performance,

or

Improve on our performance to remain there.

It we were not good enough to get in, we certainly are not good enough to stay in.

It is a prize that is to be won, not earned; and it has been won by Jesus Christ.

The more Paul dug deeper into this truth, the more he could focus on pursuing and finding pleasure in God, rather than performing for God.  Because of what Jesus had already done upon the cross and through the empty tomb for Paul, he could live out practically what he already was positionally: a child of the King.

Paul knew it was Jesus who took hold of him, and not the other way around.

When we understand this Gospel-saturated truth, we are free to be what we have been called and saved by God to be.

This truth empowered Paul to rise even above a past that was littered with sin, even the wickedness of his involvement in the death of Stephen and many followers of Christ..  A past like Paul’s would have paralyzed him if he was still stuck on a performance-based religion – the need to earn eternal life and God’s blessings in everyday life.  Guilt would have ground him into the ashes of defeat.  But Jesus freed him from that, and now Paul was indeed free to focus on the life of forgiveness and power that had been won by Jesus on the cross.

So for all of us recovering Pharisees (and believe me, I am one of them), let us rest in the truth that Jesus has done everything that needs to be done for us to have a relationship with Him.  We cannot damage that relationship or destroy it, no matter how badly we perform.  Resting in the truth that we are covered in the righteousness of Christ is reason to celebrate, and the more we celebrate this truth the more we will consistently live a life that is pleasing to God and beneficial to others.  As J.I. Packer rightly observed,

“No need in Christendom is more urgent

Than the need for a renewed awareness

Of what the grace of God really is.”

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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