Devotional - Perfection & Grace
"What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, discovered in this matter? If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. What does Scripture say? 'Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.' Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness." - Romans 4:1-5 (New International Version, ©2010)
I am a recovering perfectionist. For the longest time I had trouble understanding God’s grace. As a child I was told that when someone does a favor for me, I need to repay them. These three statements may seem unrelated, but as I read Romans 4:1-5 I know that they are related. So often I try to earn my own salvation. I want to be the perfect Christian. Doesn’t it say somewhere in the Bible that we are suppose to “be perfect”?
But throughout the New Testament we are told that it is through God’s unmerited grace that we are saved. Our salvation is not an earned payment, rather it is a gift. And here in the first part of Romans 4 we learn that righteousness is not something we earn by doing good works or acts of service, rather it is something God gives us in response to our faith.
If our salvation or righteousness came about as the result of our doing good, then we would have a lot to boast about. But the story of Judaism and Christianity came about before God even gave the law, the direction for how we are to live righteously. The monotheistic faith as we know it today, started with one man, Abraham, “who believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.”
In Hebrews 11 we learn that we are made perfect by Christ’s example, his choice to die on the cross, to sacrifice himself for us. In the moment of his offering, “he made perfect forever those who are being made holy” (Heb. 10:14), for Jesus is “the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (Heb. 12:2)
See, nothing was gained by Abraham according to his fleshly obedience, but everything was gained by his belief or trust in God.
So we are left with the question, “Are we trying to earn our salvation or are we following Abraham’s example and trusting God to supply for us what we are not able to do for ourselves?”
I believe in you God. Help me to understand that it isn’t so much about what I do as it is about what you are doing in and through me. Help me to have faith in my unbelief and to trust you as Abraham trusted you. Amen.