In our last post, we discovered that God requires perfection. But we have all failed the test... and miserably.
But there is hope!
This hope is what I call grade exchange.
Here is how it works.
I fail the exam and Jesus makes a perfect score. As the grades are being handed out, Jesus stands up and makes an offer to the class.
Anyone who made an F is invited to come forward and exchange that grade for the perfect score achieved by Jesus. If I will make the exchange, in God’s record book, my grade will be changed forever. The result is that my status changes from unrighteous to righteous, from condemned to justified, from an object of wrath, to an object of mercy, from an orphan to a son. I will no longer have to live in fear of God as a judge, but can know him as a good, wise, trustworthy, strong and loving Father.
This Father’s love for his children is such that he cannot love me more, even if I do good things, and He will not love me less, even if I do bad things. It is a perfect, complete, eternal love that will not ever, ever let me go—regardless of my past, present or future performance.
So how do we make this exchange? There are only two steps in the process.
First, we take our F to Jesus. This is what we call repentance. We simply admit our failing grade and acknowledge the consequences that it deserves. We confess not only our rebellious sins (the stuff we know is wrong), but also our religious sins (the stuff that think is good and feeds our prideful self-righteousness).
Second, we receive Jesus’ perfect score as our own. This is what we call faith. Faith is not just believing that there is a God or that Jesus was a real person who lived, died and rose again. Gospel faith believes that Jesus‘ record is now my record.
This exchange is what we call a gift, or grace. It is not deserved and cannot be earned. We can think of it as charity (after all, our English word charity comes from the Greek word that means grace, charis). In that light, we can say that every Christian is a charity case! This is because, in the gospel, rather than achieve for God, we receive from God. Period.
Of course, this entire picture defies religion. That is why Christianity is not religion in the sense that we expect it to be. We are not saved by our works and effort, but by the works and effort of Jesus for us, and now can affirm Romans 8:1 with full confidence, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!”
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.
We'll address that hot potato tomorrow in the next post.
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