You are ready to receive what God wants you to have. You believe and you have pushed past your doubts and fears. You reject the lie that says you are unworthy and you acknowledge the love of God. But what is in the gift?
Someone I know well was recently awarded a cruise by his company. He knew from others that he would receive many gifts and that all requirements of the cruise would be provided. It was an honor for him, a thank-you for superior service, and he was looking forward to the trip.
But he really had no idea what he was going to receive. He didn’t know what to expect. Should he take this? Should he take that? How much money would he need? You see, he had never been on a cruise before and had never received any special award from the company before.
Now, suppose that someone met him at the airport to take him to the ship. This person would be his guide through the whole process. The first thing the guide asks is whether he brought enough money. What?
“Well, there are a few things you will need to take care of for yourself.”
“The cab fare to the ship. The key deposit for the room. Breakfast and dinner will be provided, but lunch is your responsibility. And I hope you brought work clothes.”
It doesn’t take long before the free trip becomes something different.
I am afraid that we do something like this to new believers. We tell them that salvation is a free gift. God loves them and wants to give this to them. Their sins will be washed away. Heaven will be theirs. And it’s all free!
“Well, there are a few things you have to take care of for yourself. You won’t want to sin anymore because you will have to go through a process of confession and penance to pay for any new sins. And you have to read your Bible and learn to pray right and evangelize your family and give your tithe and work in the church wherever we need you. But these are just ways we celebrate the free gift of salvation.”
People who find the love of God in Jesus usually have no idea what they should expect. They understand the idea of Heaven, someday. They might even believe that their sins are forgiven. But no one has told them much beyond that.
Then, when they get to church, they begin to learn that the free gift has a lot of strings attached.
“Do this. Don’t do that. If you don’t live up to the expectations you might lose your place. At the minimum, you won’t enjoy the trip.”
So, they get involved in the church, with a lot of others who have received this “free” salvation, and they begin to work hard to maintain the little hope and joy they picked up at the beginning.
And that’s where a lot of believers are today. Still on board the heaven-bound ship, paying for their own meals and working to keep the ship nice. And they wonder what it would have been like if it were not free.
Now, suppose someone else was on board that ship who understood what free meant. This person is having a great time, paying for nothing and working for nothing. When he sees you, he asks why you are working and what you are paying for. “But didn’t you get a free trip?” he asks. Your guide quickly steps in to separate you from him, calling him a trouble-maker who is cheating the system.
Sometimes people who teach grace are thought to be dangerous. After all, if people are content with striving to earn something that has been given freely, they should be left alone. The grace message, some say, cheats the system.
Okay, all of this to say that we need to be upfront with what we can expect to receive in this free gift. If we know what to expect, then we can evaluate the message of others to see if they understand what free means. Over the next few weeks I will be taking the Grace 101 posts into a series of topics that will encourage you and, I believe, make you stronger in your faith. These will be the things we should expect to receive in the free gift.
You will be surprised at how large the gift is!