My little brother, Jack, turned five today. He is just about the sweetest (and cutest) little boy in the whole wide world, but that's another post. When we went out the each lunch today, Dad told Jack Henry that he was going to get him an ice cream sundae for dessert. Without a moment's hesitation, Jack reached into his pocket and pulled out a penny. He held it up to Dad's face and said, "I can pay for it, Daddy!" Dad very seriously turned to Jack and said, "Thank you, but it's your birthday so I'll pay for it."
It reminded me of something. How often do we try to do that with God? He has given us the greatest gift of all, salvation (much more costly than a couple scoops of ice cream with whipped cream and sprinkles). It is nothing we have in any way lended to, and yet how proud we are of that little shiny penny. "Here, look, God, I go to church every week." Or, "See, I'm reading my Bible." We don't like to feel indebted. And we very effectively (in small, subtle ways) convince ourselves that we somehow aided God in our salvation. We responded. We prayed. We read our Bible. We went to church. We forget that we gave nothing. God gave everything.
"For by grace you have been saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God. Not as a result of works, so that no one may boast." (Ephesians 2: 8-9). It doesn't get any clearer than that.
As silly as it was for Jack to assume that he could pay for a dessert with a penny, it is far more ridiculous for us to assume that we can pay for our salvation with...nothing. At least Jack had something to offer. But we have nothing to offer God. In fact, it is even worse than nothing. The only thing we bring to God is our sin.
Not the labors of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law's commands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.
Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to the cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless, look to Thee for grace;
To Thy fountain, Lord, I fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die.
-Rock of Ages
Words by August M. Toplady