If any of you are familiar with the Bible at all, you have probably come across Ephesians 2:8 which says,
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.
Maybe you are familiar with this concept, even if this verse is unfamiliar Maybe you understand that we have done nothing to deserve what God has done for us in Christ. But what about life after we have believed?
My first year of college I was confronted with the gospel - that I had rebelled against a holy God and I deserved his wrath, but in his great love for his creation this same God sent his son to pay the penalty of death I earned for my sin so that I could be right with him. It was a divine and wonderful gift. But almost immediately I felt the weight of what Christ had done. It was good for me to know what an unthinkable sacrifice it was, but that quickly turned to indebtedness. I couldn’t think about the cross without an urge to work very, very hard to make it up to him. My motivation for living the “Christian life” was to repay the Lord for what he had done for me.
It became almost devastating my senior year when this mode of thought had me convinced that when I was disobedient God was supernaturally disappointed with me. I began to run from God in my sin, terrified of having to bear his displeasure.
Allow me an illustration. I am newly married (about two weeks) and I am just itching to buy a house. You know, so I can paint it, and put nail holes all over the walls and get a dog (or maybe seven). Unfortunately, my husband and I are not at a point financially where it would be wise to dive into home ownership. But what if a wealthy celebrity (let’s use Usher just for fun) heard of my new marriage and my desire for a home and purchased my family a huge plot of land with a massive plantation-style mansion right in the middle of Danville, KY. Then, Usher asked to meet us at the house with the keys and said, “my gift to the newlyweds” (and maybe sang a few lines of "You Make Me Wanna," just for fun).
I would clearly be floored. I would run into that house and dance on the hardwood, lay on my back on the carpet, and run around the deck. I would get on Petfinder immediately and find at least 3 dogs that would fit perfectly into that beautiful backyard. I would be beyond thankful.
But what if, at the end of the month, I mailed Usher a check - my “mortgage payment.”
First things first: this is an Usher-sized house. It’s huge and brand new. I don’t have enough money, nor will I ever, to pay off this mansion. Second, now I have offended one of America’s favorite pop sensations because I am not accepting this house as what he meant it to be for me - a gift.
We should absolutely feel deep and rich gratitude toward Christ. But we should not view our obedience to him as a mortgage payment. We will never, could never, pay him back. In fact, every single act of obedience requires his grace. John Piper wrote, “Rather, we should think that obedience is going deeper in debt to God every moment, because it takes more grace to be obedient this afternoon than I had yesterday…We will never get out of debt to grace. And so the thought of gratitude ethic as a kind of payback ethic is devastating to increasing the glory of God's grace in our lives. We go deeper into debt in grace, not pay it off.”
And this is our God. A loving father, giving unbelievable gifts to his children. What is our right response? Beyond our joy in him, he desires our constant plea for more of his grace and glory.
“What shall I return to the Lord,
for all his goodness to me?”
“I will lift up the cup of my salvation
and call on the name of the Lord.”