“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.'” (Rom 1:16-17 NIV)
It was the first time I was made aware of these splintered rocks in Iceland. Fascinated, I searched for the reason why such rocks could be splintered that way: in hundreds of little pieces. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t succeed in splintering a rock in this manner. Maybe a corner of the rock could be broken off, if I was lucky, but unless we are using harsher means, such as dynamite or an atomic bomb, rocks are hard to break!
But there had been no dynamite here, and certainly no atomic bomb. In fact, these rocks weren’t splintered by human means at all. Rather, a simple drop of water had initially found its way through a small crack in these stones. That water then froze in the colder weather, expanding and enlarging the crack. This made it an easier channel for the next water drop that might come along during the upcoming warmer season. The repetitive process of freezing and thawing eventually leads to the stone splintering apart completely!
What human power cannot shatter is accomplished by a single water drop.
The same is true with grace. Noticed Romans 1:16-17? The righteous do not live by works, but by faith in the grace of God. Truly, nothing we do can save us. Jesus did it all for us!
Why are we always trying so hard to prove ourselves? If only I could become assistant director/principal/head nurse people would think highly of me! If only I could afford a trip to Disneyland/Bahamas/Paris my kids would love me to death! If only I could get the attention of management by doing activities beyond my duties, promotion would soon follow!
In our society we like to focus on our work, our achievements, and our popularity. But do people really get to know the “real” us? Or do we start to live behind a facade, using our work, etc. to hide the emptiness we are experiencing?
It’s true that such emptiness can be forgotten when we are busy, but at night those empty feelings can come back with a vengeance. Do people really like us for our achievements, or would they like us more if we were filled with genuine, selfless love?
In all reality, how much do we like our presidents/prime ministers/queens and kings? Haven’t they obtained the highest position possible in our countries? Didn’t they work hard to achieve the impossible? But that doesn’t make us “like” them!
The apostle Paul, too, was on his way up the ladder of success. A real zealot in religion, persecuting the sect called “The Way” in order to be promoted. He was a dedicated follower, reading and memorizing all religious scrolls he could put his hands on (See Philippians 3:4-6).
One day, he, too, realized that he was grasping at nothingness. When he encountered Jesus face to face, he realized his life was a dead end street. He later concluded: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Eph 2:8-9 NIV)
He experienced firsthand the truth in this statement: “Now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Cor 13:13 NIV) The only place we can genuinely experience such love is at the foot of the cross. And this, friends, is the TRUE gospel message!
God doesn’t love us because of our actions. He loves us for WHO we are: Children of the Most High! God doesn’t take pity on us because of what we are doing. He loves us unconditionally! He loves us so much that He is the One who initiated reconciliation with us! We are the ones who erred and rejected Him completely. We are the ones who ignored His pleas. We are the ones who abandoned Him!
And we still ignore Him when we try to work our way to heaven, rejecting His offer of salvation through faith and trusting instead in ourselves: If I do more good than bad, I will reach heaven!
But God doesn’t work that way! We can’t earn heaven! We can’t ever be good enough!
Let’s put it this way: Do we love our children because they try their best to please us? Or do we love them for who they are?
Any parent knows how it feels to have their offered help rejected, to have their child, who is in trouble, insist that he or she can handle it alone. Don’t we feel rejected and disappointed when they don’t trust us? It is truly a question of trust-or in spiritual terms-faith!
Do we have more faith in our own abilities to reach Heaven? Or in the abilities of our loving Heavenly Father? Where is our relationship with God in all of that? “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (John 17:3 NIV)
Believe me, trusting in ourselves rather than in God will only leave us wanting and empty. Only One can save, and that One isn’t us! We either put our faith in God or in ourselves!
Will we stand with the apostle Paul and boldly declare Rom 1:16? Remember: “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.'”
Remember it takes only one drop of water to shatter a rock. In the same way, one tiny drop of grace will shatter our pride!
(To access the entire “Radical Grace From the Book of Romans” devotional series, please click here.)