I remember holding a golf club for the very first time. Baseball was my major sport, but I thought I’d give golf a try. And because of my background in baseball, I had inclinations that were all wrong for golf. I wanted to hold the club like a bat, swing the clubs like a bat, even step into my swing like you do when batting. It was only through teaching and practicing that I could combat my natural inclinations.
You ever have natural inclinations that were all wrong? A wrong way of tackling in football, a wrong way of writing or adding at school, a wrong way of handling money that felt like the right way?
Do you know spiritually we have a natural inclination that is all wrong? And that is the inclination to win salvation by what we do. We might think, “I have to be a good person. I have to have it all together. I have to be a great mom/dad, great student, great employee, great neighbor. I have to say the right prayers, serve in the right ways, say the right things and then... God will love me. Then God will approve of me.”
At Seminary we learned this mentality was called the opinio legis. That’s a Latin term that means the “opinion of the law.” And the opinion of the law that we come into the world with is that we can keep the law and so be right with God. That we can win salvation by what we do.
This is our spiritual default setting. Just as you set defaults for email with your name and favorite phrase, so this serves as the default setting we continue to go back to. I have to keep the law to win salvation. I have to be good.
But did you know it’s wrong? Consider a Christ-follower named Paul who wrote, “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight (God’s sight) by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.” (Romans 3:20). In other words we cannot be right with God based on what we do. Paul says we haven’t been good enough, we haven’t said or done or thought all the right things. The only thing the law confirms as we try to follow it is that we are law-breakers. And we should be separated from God forever based on law- breaking.
But herein lies the beauty of grace, and the beauty of Jesus. Jesus as a gift of love comes into the world. He is the good guy, the perfect person, we could never be. He fulfills and keeps all of God’s laws. He also takes the penalty we deserved for our sins, for our law-breaking. He dies on the cross releasing us and all who believe from the wrath of God over sin. And while our natural inclination keeps insisting “do”, the good news of Jesus confirms to us, “done.”
Consider these incredible words of God’s gift of grace, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) Salvation is this wonderfully counter-intuitive message that says Jesus did it all for us! So what is left?
Rest. True spiritual rest knowing God has by his grace in Jesus saved us. We don’t wonder if we’re good enough, we rest in Jesus’ goodness. Thanks. We can’t win salvation by what we do, but we can respond in loving obedience to God’s will. Steadfastness. We should
hold on, clinging tightly to this message of grace by hearing it often, so that our spiritual default doesn’t come back to steal peace or convince us salvation is by what we do.
Amazing Love invites you to hear more on this as we continue our October series, “Death to Selfie.”