Christmas is based on an exchange of gifts, the gift of God to man – His unspeakable gift of His Son, and the gift of man to God – when we present our bodies a living sacrifice.
No more soul-destroying doctrine could well be devised than the doctrine that sinners can regenerate themselves, and repent and believe just when they please. As it is a truth both of Scripture and of experience that the unrenewed man can do nothing of himself to secure his salvation, it is essential that he should be brought to practical conviction of that truth. When thus convinced, and not before, he seeks help from the only source whence it can be obtained.
If any man ascribes anything of salvation, even the very least thing, to the free will of man, he know nothing of grace, and he has not learned Jesus Christ rightly.
The thief had nails through both hands, so that he could not work; and a nail through each foot, so that he could not run errands for the Lord; he could not lift a hand or a foot toward his salvation, and yet Christ offered him the gift of God; and he took it. Christ threw him a passport, and took him into Paradise.
Religion says, “Attain”; the gospel says, “Obtain.” Religion says, “Attempt”; the gospel says, “Accept.” Religion says, “Try”; the gospel says, “Trust.” Religion says, “Do this;” the gospel says, “It is done” (John T. Seamands).
No sinner was ever saved by giving his heart to God. We are not saved by our giving, we are saved by God’s giving.
On the one hand, Christianity is the most exclusive religion imaginable. It insists that belief in Jesus Christ is absolutely necessary for salvation. Jesus is the only way. You must go to Him to get eternal life. On the other hand, Christianity is the most inclusive religion possible because it makes salvation accessible to everyone. Salvation is offered for all people through one Person. Whoever believes in Him will not perish. Anyone who receives or believes in Jesus will live forever with God. There are no racial, social, intellectual, or economic criteria that prevent anyone from joining God’s family. One of the problems with the other religions of the world is that they all smack of elitism… Only Christianity offers salvation to everyone as a free gift.
Is salvation a reward God owes you for your actions or grace that results from His action in Christ? Is salvation payment from on high or is it a gift given to us by God that we did not deserve? Is salvation God praising you for your goodness or is it you praising God for His goodness? What do you believe based on the Scriptures?
But God thrives for His glory in working through the impossible. In His love and mercy, He chose a way for people to be reconciled to Him. God would not accept people’s works as a gift to Him, but rather accomplish the works He requires of people and then then give people salvation as a gift.
In Philippians 3, Paul explained how his “righteous merit” exceeded any on the planet. If anyone could have earned heaven it would have been him. Yet Paul knew we can never earn God’s favor. The only hope we have is the righteousness of Jesus Christ given to us as a gift when we embrace Him by faith. Though the specifics are different, the boasts are the same: I was born in America. I grew up in a devout Christian family. I was baptized. I read my Bible and pray every morning. I faithfully attend church. I serve in the church. I participate in the Lord’s Supper each month. I am blameless in my obedience to the Scriptures. All of these are excellent, but when we use them to earn God’s saving favor, they are but “rubbish.”
The only thing of our very own which we contribute to our salvation is the sin which makes it necessary.
Salvation is from our side a choice; from the divine side it is a seizing upon, an apprehending, a conquest by the Most High God. Our “accepting” and “willing” are reactions rather than actions. The right of determination must always remain with God.
Salvation is not something we achieve but something we receive.