On the radio the other morning, I listened as the commentator gave a rundown of local news, everything from the impending first frost to legislation over the ban on bump stocks. It was a quote regarding the latter subject that piqued my attention. In response to passing a ban on bump stocks, Illinois state Rep. C.D. Davidsmeyer had this to say:
“You’re turning law-abiding citizens into criminals,” he said.
That single sentence played over and over in my head all day. Maybe it’s because we’re studying Romans this year in bible study, and my heart has been reminded of grace and without it I am a simple criminal. Maybe it’s because we’re hours from celebrating the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s 95 theses and the beginning of the Reformation.
Whatever the reason, I was struck by that quote and continue to be so for two reasons. First, despite our law-abiding tendencies, apart from grace we simply remain criminals next to a holy God.
“For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:2-4).
As if His dying on the cross to fulfill the Law’s requirements wasn’t enough, that was merely the beginning. It was enough that every slap of the whip and pound of the nail through soft flesh was payment for every evil thought, unkind word, ungodly motivation I have indulged in over my lifetime.
But it doesn’t stop at the cross, and it is this second part that I find stunning. He finishes His work of salvation by not just offering me the gift of going from criminal to forgiven through unmerited grace, but then extending another gift: faith. The faith to not only believe that all of this is true but to accept it as such and believe.
When I was teaching my kids to pick up their toys, I would take their small hands in mine, walk them to the pile of toys and one by one, walk them through the process of picking up each toy. Closing their hands around the toy, I walked them over to the toy box and opened their hands where it would slide down their fingers and into its designated spot.
In the same way, God reaches down, takes the curled fingers of our clenched fists and opens them one by one until they are reaching back to His.
Ephesians 2:8 says it best.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (ESV).
The simple truth is this: as humans, we take part in a myriad ofcactivities over the span of our lives; activities that get things done, accomplish goals, and change the world. Let’s marvel at the one thing we will never be credited for doing, having the faith to accept Christ’s gift of salvation. We are simply too broken and rebellious to ever accept the life-saving act of Christ without His intervention. Praise God for the completeness of His work.