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No Boasting

Ephesians 2:8-9
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. (NIVUK)

Every human success either stimulates pride at the achievement or gratitude for everybody's help. From the Olympics to exam pass lists and political or military triumphs, the winners are feted, and the losers are left in the shade. Every faith system, apart from faith in Christ, shares the same rule; the most diligent and devoted followers are honoured the most while the spiritual failures are ignored. But that is not true about those who are saved by faith in Jesus. None of them have any cause for boasting, and should be overwhelmingly grateful for what the Lord has done.

None of Christ's saints are worthy of heaven, all are stained by sin and have missed the Divine standard (Romans 3:23). Like in the children's board game, every ladder you climb has a snake waiting to drag you down. God's perfect standard has not been achieved by anybody. That is why the Gospel is so unique. Righteousness has been given only to those who admit their failure; and entry to heaven is open only for those who know they could never earn it. That is what the Bible means by the grace of God in Christ Jesus, through His substitutionary sacrifice: all our wrong was loaded onto Him so that all His righteousness might be loaded onto us (James 2:23). We cannot claim any personal achievement at all. It was His initiative, and His sacrifice, even while we were unaware of our need (Romans 5:8).

By contrast, Christless religion, of whatever flavour, is based on either being perfect, or on doing more good than bad. It is not what the gospel teaches. All we must do is trust what Jesus Christ has done. And yet Christians so easily slip into measuring themselves, and other believers, by what they do - rather than by their indebtedness to the loving grace of Christ. Mini-cults of Christian celebrity arise around singers or preachers, often aided by social media, as standards by which others are to be judged. This worldliness is not right. There is only one Judge and we will all have to give an account to Him (Romans 14:12-13). Salvation is not on the basis of what we do or say, but on whether or not we trust what Christ has done (www.crosscheck.org.uk).

But this benefit is not for all. It is only for those who take God's Gospel at His word: for those who believe Jesus died instead of them (John 3:16-18). To have faith is simply to receive the free gift of salvation, not to earn it in any way at all. Christians are not accepted because they are any better than others, but because they are given the right to be children of God (John 1:12). As we accept His gracious salvation, all we know is that there is no way that we could have reached His presence by ourselves. Without Him, we would be totally lost. So, let's forget how good we think we are, and, with John Newton the former slave ship captain, humbly thank God for His amazing grace.

Father God. Thank You that You planned that Christ's death might be for my salvation. I admit that all I can offer You is sin and failure, but that You offer me forgiveness and release from the burden of guilt. Forgive my attempts to earn Your favour. I accept Your offer of free pardon and a place in Your family - with no boasting but much gratitude that Christ has done everything to save me. In His Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams