“Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it” (Luke 18:17).


I find it astounding, all the different ways we complicate grace, and then I was reminded of something Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it” (Luke 18:17). It’s very human to embrace legalism, but legalism affords a false sense of control, and thus, rejects the freedom offered by grace; it presumes to diminish God’s sovereignty. We can be a quarrelsome lot.

I subscribe to the view of our works as evidence of our faith, which is why I believe James declares that faith without works is dead (2:14-26). With related themes seen in Romans and Galatians, Paul declares to the Ephesians that they had been saved by grace, which is a gift of God, not from themselves, so that no one can boast. Paul goes on to call them God’s handiwork and that good works were prepared in advance for them to do (2:8-10). Our works testify to our sanctification. It is God who justifies and transforms. God proceeds his chosen with a divine promise of what he will do on their behalf. God works most mightily in me through my weakness, so why do I routinely and mercilessly beat myself up over that weakness? God doesn’t call the qualified, but instead, qualifies those he calls, and that flies in the face of human sensibility; it flies in the face of my own sensibility. While I work out my salvation, I find God at work within me; I’m never alone. My experience hasn’t been one day at a time, or even one moment at a time; my experience has been more like one breath at a time. Inasmuch as I share in Christ’s sufferings, I’ll be all the more overjoyed when his glory is revealed.

Confidence in God’s election, his foreknowledge and plan, means nothing less than complete faith and complete dependence on the righteousness of God and complete submission to his sovereignty (Romans 9:14-29). God says to Moses in Exodus 33:19 that he will have mercy on whom he has mercy and compassion on whom he has compassion. Similarly, Jesus taught that no man can come to the Son unless his Father draws him (John 6:44). God doesn’t base redemption on natural privileges, nor does God play favorites. Salvation is never based on what humans do, as he already knows what humans will do, but what humans do bears witness to their salvation. This is a glorious mystery!

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