But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
- Ephesians 2:4-10
The following is the devotion entitled, The Riches of the Destitute, in My Utmost for His Highest, by Oswald Chambers (with Romans 3:24 also quoted):
“The gospel of the grace of God awakens an intense longing in human souls and an equally intense resentment, because the truth that it reveals is not palatable or easy to swallow. There is a certain pride in people that causes them to give and give, but to come and accept a gift is another thing. I will give my life to martyrdom; I will dedicate my life to service – I will do anything. But do not humiliate me to level of the most hell-deserving sinner and tell me that all I have to do is accept the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.
“We have to realize that we cannot earn or win anything from God through our own efforts. We must either receive it as a gift or do without it. The greatest spiritual blessing we receive is when we come to the knowledge that we are destitute. Until we get there, our Lord is powerless. He can do nothing for us as long as we think we are sufficient in and of ourselves. We must enter into His kingdom through the door of destitution. As long as we are “rich,” particularly in the area of pride or independence, God can do nothing for us. It is only when we get hungry spiritually that we receive the Holy Spirit. The gift of the essential nature of God is placed and made effective in us by the Holy Spirit. He imparts to us the quickening life of Jesus, making us truly alive. He takes that which was “beyond” us and places it “within” us. And immediately, once “the beyond” has become the “within,” it rises up to “the above,” and we are lifted into the kingdom where Jesus lives and reigns (see John 3:5).”
The same night that I read the above devotion from Oswald Chambers, I read Believe That vs. Believe In, in Today’s Moment of Truth, by Lee Strobel and Mark Mittelberg. Strobel points out that many have a misconception regarding the word ‘believe’ in the famous verse, John 3:16. Many believe that Jesus lived 2000 years ago, but they don’t believe in Jesus, in their lives today. He uses a Mark Mittelberg example to illustrate.
Mark Mittelberg has said, “When this church service is over, I’m heading for the airport to fly back home. But it’s not enough for me to sit in the terminal and believe that airplanes can fly. Just acknowledging the soundness of aviation science will never get me home. I have to go beyond mere belief that airplanes fly to a personal belief in the particular airplane that’s heading to my city – demonstrated by climbing on board. It’s that act of trust that will ultimately get me where I want to go.”
“Similarly,” Mark continues, “we all need to go beyond merely believing that Jesus is the Son of God who died on a cross for our sins. We must take the next step and trust in him personally, asking him to forgive our sins and lead our lives. That is the equivalent of ‘climbing on board’ with Jesus in a way that will ultimately get us where we want to go spiritually.”
I often thought that my testimony was so ordinary. I grew up in the church. I never doubted that Jesus was the Son of God or that He died on the cross to save me from my sins, but it was something that happened 2000 years ago. It wasn’t personal to me. Then, when I moved back to my home town after a three-year absence for my junior year of high school, the Jesus Movement had hit the youth of the town. I knew that I was out of step. I prayed for Jesus to come into my heart every day for over a year. Then I simply prayed, “Okay, God, I give up.” That was my ‘door of destitution’ as Oswald Chambers put it. God was no longer “beyond” me, Jesus was “within” me.
I often think about the techniques of various churches. The Southern Baptists have an altar call every Sunday. The Presbyterians don’t have altar calls ever, because there is no ‘altar’ at the front of the sanctuary. Methodists aren’t opposed to altar calls, but usually not on a weekly basis. I’ve often wondered about the person that goes forward, not just once, but every Sunday. I can’t complain. It took me over a year of trying to do the ‘work’ of the salvation prayer, maybe 400 times. That’s the problem with the ‘techniques’ employed by the churches. They are techniques. They require actions, even if the action is simply saying a prayer.
Yes, we need to pray to talk to our savior, but when the focus is on doing the ‘thing’ that gets you into the exclusive club, God isn’t listening. In Ephesians 2, Paul explains that salvation is a gift and not by works, but what is the gift? Is it salvation? Is it grace? Or is it faith? If salvation is not by works, isn’t it all three? We can’t force our way into heaven. We can’t demand grace. We either have faith or we don’t.
Lee Strobel talks about the Greek word for ‘believe’ in John 3:16 being closer to ‘have trust in or place confidence in.’ Our faith isn’t an act that we perform by saying a common prayer, it is a non-act, if you will. We need to let go. When we get outside the door of destitution, Jesus is knocking on the other side. Are you leaning your shoulder into the door? Are you resisting the savior? Or will you simply stop trying to do it all yourself? Can you quit pushing the door? Stop your ‘works,’ and let Jesus in. Revelation 3:20 says “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” Some may take exception with Oswald Chambers when he mentions in the quote above that ‘God can do nothing for us.’ God is omnipotent, but it is not in His nature to force the door open, and God cannot go against His nature.
The invitation is there. If you feel that you are in the pit of destitution, God is knocking. Are you tired of leaning against the door? If you simply quit trying to do it yourself and tell God to come in, He will.
Do you trust Him?