I accepted Jesus as my savior as a child and have attended church most of my life.

I was a Sunday School teacher’s dream student; my Bible was always in hand, I knew all the answers, and rarely walked out without a gold star. 

On top of Sunday School, I attended every VBS and summer camp possible.

As I got older, I went multiple mission trips, joined the youth choir, and was invited to be on the Youth Leadership Team.

I even started working part-time at the church office when I was still in high school.

And yet, through all of my church experience, I learned more about religion than I did about God.

Perhaps you’ve heard the following equation:

More right behavior + Less wrong behavior = godliness

This equation is the very definition of religion – the idea that if we can control our actions by not sinning and doing enough “good” things, we will be right with God.

So we spend our lives trying, striving, performing, and proving that we measure up.

Just what is it that we’re trying to obtain? Righteousness.

Righteousness can be defined as right standing with God.

We think that if we attend church enough, serve enough, give enough money, and read our Bible enough that we’re somehow balancing the scale that is piled high because of our sins.

Here’s what God’s word says about righteousness:

“For we all have become like one who is [ceremonially] unclean [like a leper],
And all our deeds of righteousness are like filthy rags;
We all wither and decay like a leaf,
And our wickedness [our sin, our injustice, our wrongdoing], like the wind, takes us away [carrying us far from God’s favor, toward destruction].” | Isaiah 64:6 Amplified Bible (AMP)

Well, that’s depressing!  You mean we’ve been working so hard to be “good enough” for God and we’re not even tipping the scale a little in our favor?  Yep.

But GRACE!

Grace can be defined as the unmerited, unearned, undeserved kindness and favor of God.

What does this mean for us?

It means that there is NOTHING we can do to earn right standing with God.

It is a GIFT.

And what do we do when we’re given a gift? We receive it, use it, appreciate it and give thanks for it.

We don’t give it back and say, “Oh no, I am going to work hard and buy this for myself.”

The Greek word for ‘grace’ is CHARIS.

It literally means favor, to bend or stoop in kindness to another as a superior to an inferior.

Ephesians 2:8-9 Amplified Bible (AMP) says:

“For it is by grace [God’s remarkable compassion and favor drawing you to Christ] that you have been saved [actually delivered from judgment and given eternal life] through faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [not through your own effort], but it is the [undeserved, gracious] gift of God; 9 not as a result of [your] works [nor your attempts to keep the Law], so that no one will [be able to] boast or take credit in any way [for his salvation].”

Saved by FAITH.

Faith is complete trust or confidence in someone or something.

Believing that what Jesus accomplished on the cross is enough to cover any and every sin for all of humanity.

Religion also teaches that people go to hell because of their sins but Jesus paid for ALL sin when he died.

People go to hell because they do not believe. They don’t put their trust in God. They choose to NOT accept the gift of grace.

Back to righteousness…guess what?  We get that gift too!

2 Corinthians 5:21 Amplified Bible (AMP) says:

“He made Christ who knew no sin to [judicially] be sin on our behalf so that in Him we would become the righteousness of God [that is, we would be made acceptable to Him and placed in a right relationship with Him by His gracious lovingkindness].”

God has made it crystal clear in His word that we are righteous and he has showered us with the gift of grace.

Our job is to simply believe it!

– Shannon Smith

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