Our Christian faith is made up of a unique relationship between the free gift of grace and the high cost of discipleship. It’s vital not to confuse the two, and keep them in their proper places. Some people lean more on one or the other, while the Bible keeps two in balance.
The Free Gift
The first and foremost we need to realize that salvation was bought with a high price on the cross but given freely to anyone who believes. Jesus the Son of God took on himself the sins of the world and paid the penalty with his own precious blood.
Jesus spreads his hand apart on the cross to say, “come to me, all of you who are weary and burned and I will give you rest” (Mat. 11:28).
He calls all people to himself. The gift of salvation is freely given to anyone who believes and repents of his sins. God is gracious and merciful to those who wronged him, and he extends his merciful hand through the cross to bring us back to himself. Our righteousness is not earned but freely applied unto us.
Faith, not works is the only way to enter God’s Kingdom. Jesus calls us to have faith like a child, to be humble and dependent on God. Jesus spoke a parable about a tax collector, a sinner, being forgiven because of his humble repentance, in contrast to the prideful self-righteous religious leader.
We also read that the criminal on the cross acknowledges himself as a sinner and believes in Jesus and Jesus himself tells him “truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” This man had no way to earn his salvation with good works, he simply believed, repented and received.
Thus we call all people to come to Jesus with faith and repentance, without any works.
The High Cost
On the other hand Jesus calls his disciples to leave everything behind and follow Him. His people are to deny themselves and take up the cross and follow Him (Mark 8:34-38).
The life of a disciple is not a life of ease. The grow into Christlikeness only happens through much effort and perseverance. Jesus says “no one who puts his hand to the plow and then looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62).
Apostle Paul had the same mindset when he says, “Don’t you know that the runners in a stadium all race, but only one receive the prize? Run in such a way to win the prize…. I discipline my body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified” (1 Cor. 9:24-27).
As Christians we are to keep consistent in our spiritual disciples. Work on actively fighting temptations. Engaging on our minds with truth, realizing that we are in a spiritual war. Satan, flesh and the world are our enemies. We seek God through his word, prayer and with the church grow into his likeness.
How do we reconcile the two?
If you are a parent your children are part of your family without anything they have done. You have brought them into your family. You accept them as they are. Yet, you have standards and rules. You take the necessary time to explain, guide and correct them. You desire that they will be strong men and women in the world. Their failure does not kick them out of your home, but on contrary you work very hard to have them overcome various obstacles, such as character building, and fighting sinful tendencies.
Now realize that we are children of God. We entered into His kingdom by His own doing, through his sacrificial work on the cross. We believed him and became his children. We do not earn this privilege we merely accept it! But yet in the kingdom we grow and are trained into His likeness, becoming as true kingdom people. There is something in our hearts that desires God to be glorified through our lives. We seek to love God and our neighbor.
Our growth into true people of God is not easy, it requires effort and rigor. It does not at all impact our salvation, but it does impact our spiritual growth and Christ likeness.
You are children of God not by your own doing, grow into the likeness of your heavenly Father with all effort.