After we have made the grade exchange through repentance and faith, what now? This is where true Christianity often gets derailed. If you have ever heard anyone say that in salvation God “gives you a clean slate” or “a second chance” then you know what I am talking about.
When we experience the grade exchange, God does not give us a clean slate or a second chance. I cannot be more emphatic about this. What he gives us is far better!
Remember, the grade exchange does not just wipe away our bad score (ie, forgive our sins). It gives us a new score—a perfect score (i.e., the righteousness of Jesus). This means that our “slate” is not clean—it is full of the righteous obedience and moral merit of Jesus that he has credited to us through faith. It is a slate that can never be erased. God has written his indelible grace in the indelible ink of Jesus’ blood.
When folks speak of God giving us a second chance, the idea is that he has forgiven us for failing the exam the first time, but now requires us to retake the exam. In this model of Christianity, we essentially are told to try harder and do better the next time. I don’t know about you, but I’m going to need more that a second try. In fact, there is no chance for me if all I get is a second chance—or even a third, or fourth, or fifth, etc.
“Second Chance Theology” leads to either self-righteous pride for those who are able to look religiously respectable on the outside (Phariseeism), self-righteous despair for those who keep failing to keep the rules, or flat out rebellion. The problem with second chance Christianity is that it leaves grace at the door like an umbrella on a rainy day. But grace is not just for initial the grade exchange. It is for living every moment after the exchange takes place.
This means that the “what now” of the grade exchange is to keep living in the shadow of the cross where I can be perpetually mindful of my new status as an A+ student in the eyes of God.
The problem with second chance Christianity is that it leaves grace at the door like an umbrella on a rainy day.
Did I earn that status? No. Do I deserve that status? No. Do I have it? YES! This is to the glory of God’s grace. For He is praised not by my abilities, but by His gifts. And the ultimate gift is the new status before God that I possess through the person of Jesus that leads to knowing God as Father.
Some people have compared the Christian life to a dance. It is really a simple dance. Not easy, just simple. Kinda like a two-step.
The first step is to take the step of repentance. Keep taking your failures to Jesus.
The second step is faith. Keep receiving his record of righteousness as your own by faith. Then keep it going. Left foot, right foot. Left foot, right, etc. But as you dance, don’t look at your feet. Keep your eyes on Jesus!
At this point, many will ask, “Okay, if I am saved by sheer grace, then why should I now obey God? If I no longer must take the exam for my grade, why not skip class?” These are great questions! To answer them, it will help us to distinguish between the work of God for us and the work of God in us.
We'll address that in the next post.