My favorite word. The beauty included in this small, five-letter word, draws us in and calls us home. It's a veil-lifter and a chain-breaker. It causes us to take our eyes off of ourselves and place them on Jesus, the grace giver. Because, it is by grace alone that anyone is saved—God's grace. Sola Gratia.
Made Alive by Grace
"But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." (Ephesians 2:4-9 ESV, emphasis added)
Many people believe that God throws us a lifeline and it's our responsibility to grab onto it. But Scripture's claim remains that before salvation we are spiritually dead...not headed toward death or half way dead, but 100% void of life.
Is a dead person responsive to a calling of their name? Can dead people resuscitate themselves? No. A spiritually dead person lacks the ability to respond in the same way a physically dead person does.
Just as Jesus called Lazarus from the dead to live again, He calls those whom He has chosen to be made alive in Him (John 11:38-44). It is His grace that calls, but it is also His grace that breathes life into our dry bones (Ezekiel 37:1-14).
"And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord.”...Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army." (Ezekiel 37:3-6, 9-10 ESV)
God opens our eyes, breathes life into our soul, replaces our heart of stone with a heart of flesh and says, "Live!" He regenerates us and grants us repentance and faith by His precious grace.
Justified by Grace
Okay, so we know we are saved by grace, but we still have a major problem: our sin. Now that we are made alive, do we make it up to God with our "good works"? By no means! We are not only saved by His grace, but we are also justified by His grace (Romans 11:5-6).
We stand before the throne of a holy God, forgiven and free on the basis of Jesus' death on the cross.
"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins." (Romans 3:23-25 ESV, emphasis added)
It is His sinless life, imputed to us, that justifies us, making it so that God sees the righteousness of Christ when looking upon his chosen ones. And that friends, is pure, undeniable grace.
Working by Grace
Now we've been made alive and forgiven, do our works as Christians come from within ourselves? God has prepared good works for each of us to accomplish during our time here on Earth. They are works that build His kingdom and spread the Gospel (Ephesians 2:10), but even the good things we do for God are wholly by grace. We can't do anything good apart from Jesus.
"Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15:4-5 ESV, emphasis added)
Our fruit is evidence that grace has changed our lives. It's the proof that by the same grace, God is working in us to build His Kingdom. Paul recognized this: "But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me" (1 Corinthians 15:10 ESV). We have no claim to any change in our heart or anything good in our life. It is the grace of God working in us to make us more like Jesus.
Wholly by Grace
What a humbling thought it is to know that our salvation, justification, and good works are all brought about by God's amazing grace.
May we live enlightened by this truth and thankful for its affect on our lives. May our eyes be opened to the beauty of this gracious God who reached down into our darkness and poured His grace on us. Let us remember each day that this privilege to bear His name was not earned, but instead, it was given despite our sinfulness.
And that same grace will lead us home to glory.