4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
A gift. By definition a gift is not something that is earned. If it was earned it would be called compensation or a reward. A gift is given at the unction of the giver. For some reason within the giver himself.
So what prompted God to give grace? What motivated God to give the gift? God was completely motivated by His own mercy and His own love for us. There was no “benefit” for God. There was no trade-off. He simply wanted us to be alive with Christ. He wanted to show us the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness.
So why is it so hard to receive a gift? Even in human relationships when someone gives me a gift it is very difficult to receive without somehow feeling the need to reciprocate with a gift of my own. Isn’t this what we often do at Christmas? Give gifts because other people have given gifts to us. Or worse, don’t we sometimes give in order to get from others?
To receive from God seems so overwhelming to me because I know the stuff of which I am made, apart from Christ. I know what I am capable of and what I have done. I know the things I think and don’t say out loud. I am not worthy. But that’s what makes the gift so incredible…it was given when I was dead in my sin, before I ever even considered not being in sin. It wasn’t given because I somehow earned it. I hadn’t done enough good things to make me worthy of the gift. God gave the gift because of who He is, not because of who I am. And yet because of what He did I now have worth. I now have value. I am no longer dead, I am alive. I didn’t earn it, I received it.
Receiving it…ahhh…that’s the hard part, isn’t it? At least it is for me. When I received the gift of grace I immediately felt that I had a debt to repay (which I guess begs the question, did I really receive it?) and set out to work as hard as I could and to work as perfectly as I could to pay Jesus back for His sacrifice. Something was definitely wrong with that picture! The sad part is that it took me about 36 years, a lifetime of difficult relationships and a host of digestive disorders to realize I had missed a very crucial truth of the gospel…IT IS A GIFT. Period. End of story. You either receive it or you don’t.
This truth is what has brought me to this place. I had knit together a version of myself that did not function well. But slowly, surely, faithfully, relentlessly, patiently God has been unraveling me with His love. Unraveling me with the truth of His grace. It is a gift.