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by Jacob Ninan

It is the promise of the new covenant that we can be set free from sin and partake of God's own nature (2Pe.1:3,4). Having received faith in this promise, it is possible (and quite common too) to seek to obtain what is promised by works of the law rather than by faith (Ga.3:1-5). Many unconverted people try to please God by their good works or ceremonies. But even after receiving the forgiveness of sins as a free gift of God and entering through the narrow gate, it is still possible to slip back to trying to earn our own salvation by our own efforts.

For example, we know that God gives grace to the humble (1Pe.5:5). We can then set about trying to humble ourselves so that we can obtain this grace. We know that God causes all things to work together for the very best to those who love God (Ro.8:28). We can then desire to love God in order to obtain this benefit. It is easy to see that these works are done with the motive of obtaining a reward or wages. If God were to give us grace because of our humbling of ourselves, then grace would not be a free gift (Ro.4:4). We would, in that case, have earned it ourselves. How stupid it is to imagine that we can ever humble ourselves sufficiently so as to deserve God's grace! We are saved by grace through faith and this is a free gift of God (Ep.2:8,9).

But does this mean that we need not humble ourselves, or that God would cause everything to work for our good even if we do not love Him? Far from it. We must humble ourselves because it is perfectly fitting for us to do so. Humbling ourselves does not mean that we make ourselves believe something worse about ourselves than we actually are. It is only an acknowledgment of our true condition - of our own need and our dependence on God. Is it not therefore right for us to humble ourselves, shall we say, whether we receive grace or not as a result of it? Also, is it not ridiculous to call it love for God, if we 'love' God so as to get some benefit from Him? We love Him because He has loved us first and He is surely worthy of our love (1Jn.4:19).

In a similar way, if we try to obey any of the exhortations in the New Testament expecting to gain some wages for it, we go back under the law. Such works are dead works because there is no love in them. But when we love God, we rejoice to keep every one of His commandments and then the commandments are not burdensome. God on His part, out of the abundance of His goodness is just waiting to be gracious towards us (Is.30:18). "So you too, when you do ALL things which are commanded you, say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have done only that which we ought to have done'" (Lk.17:10).

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