Of Children, Gifts and Grace
I now have nine grandchildren, all under the age of 5. They are beautiful, brilliant and regularly leave me in breathless wonder.
What I love best about young children is how excited they are about gifts. No matter how big or undeserved it is, the gift is always welcomed with wonder, appreciation and gratitude. I’ve never had a child or grandchild say to me, “I’m sorry Papa, I can’t take that, I don’t deserve it.” Nor have they ever said, “That gift is so big and so amazing I can’t possible take it for free - please let me pay you something for it, or do some work for you.”
This has never happened and never will. Why? Because my grandchildren are humble and they believe I love them so much that of course I’m going to give them presents they could never earn, deserve or afford.
Jesus said it: ““Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3, ESV)
Why is a childlike faith so important for being allowed into the kingdom? Because you only get your entrance pass one way — as a gift through faith in God’s grace. And it is the biggest, costliest and most undeserved gift we will ever be offered.
The sin that separates us from God, that makes us unworthy and guilty is way too big of a problem to take care of on our own. No amount of striving, good works, good intentions, or self-sacrifice can ever clear our ledger; there’s just too much red.
So it took the blood of Jesus to wash us clean. His perfect life and perfect death and resurrection from the dead vindicated his pure and total righteousness, and it is only that kind of perfect righteousness that can be a part of the kingdom of God.
The Gift of the Great Exchange
So God offers each of us a gift — the perfect righteousness of His son Jesus — in exchange for the only thing we have to bring, our sin. The only proper and appropriate response is to receive it like a child, with wonder, gratitude and humility. Taking the gift means death to our pride, death to our self-effort, death to our ability to contribute. And in dying to these things we honor the death of Jesus and demonstrate our faith and trust in God, that He will give us the wholly undeserved for free.
When we take forgiveness of sins, salvation and eternal life as gifts, we acknowledge our need for mercy (not getting the punishment we deserve) and our need for grace (getting something amazing we will never deserve).
Only in this posture of childlike trust, humility and gratitude can we ever hope to enter the kingdom. The Father won’t have it any other way, and neither can we.
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 2:8-9)
For our sake he [God] made him [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
This is what it means to experience a grace that heals.