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“There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” & “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” These are well-known facts of life that personal experience drills into every one of us again and again. But the Christian gospel runs counter to them. The gospel does sound too good to be true. It does offer a free lunch.
The late Trinitarian theologian Thomas Torrance put it this way:
“Jesus Christ died for you precisely because you are sinful and utterly unworthy of him, and has thereby already made you his own before and apart from your ever believing in him. He has bound you to himself by his love in such a way that he will never let you go, for even if you refuse him and damn yourself in hell his love will never cease” (The Mediation of Christ, Colorado Springs, CO: Helmers & Howard, 1992, page 94).
That definitely sounds too good to be true! Maybe that’s why most Christians don’t really believe it. Maybe that’s why most Christians have the idea that salvation only comes to those who earn it through faith and a moral life.
But the Bible says that God has already given us everything — grace, righteousness, and salvation — through Jesus Christ. We can add nothing to that. Such complete commitment to us, such indescribable love, such unconditional grace, is not something we could ever hope to earn in a thousand lifetimes. All we can do is trust him to be true to his word.
Still, most of us have the idea that the gospel is primarily about getting us to improve our behavior. We think that God only loves those who “straighten up and fly right.” But according to the Bible, the gospel isn’t about us improving our behavior. 1 John 4:19 tells us that the gospel is about love— not that we love God, but that he loves us.
We all know that love cannot be coerced or forced or enforced by any law or contract. It can only be given freely and freely received. God freely gives it, and he wants us to freely receive it so that we, as Christ lives in us, can then love him and love one another.
1 Corinthians 1:30 says Jesus Christ is our righteousness, our holiness and our redemption. We have no righteousness to offer him. Instead, we trust him to be everything we are powerless to be for ourselves, in our place. It is because he first loved us that we are freed from our selfish hearts to love him and to love one another.
God loved you before you were even born. He loves you even though you are a sinner. He will never stop loving you, even though you fall short of his righteous and godly behavior every day. That is good news — gospel truth.
I’m Joseph Tkach, Speaking of LIFE.