After the rain this past weekend, the colors of autumn are vibrant and almost overwhelming. Fall is still sporadic around New England right now, but we had a frost a few days back, so the season will become more pronounced soon. Our yard is already filling up with leaves. As I was washing dishes a little while ago, two chipmunks were playing chase through the leaves and up and down the old oak tree. Some days, it just feels good to be alive.
As I was busy with chores this morning, my mind was wandering here & there. One thought led to another and I remembered a saying that I grew up hearing a lot, “You never truly appreciate anything unless you have earned it.” There’s an enormous amount of truth to that statement. My parents taught all of us kids that hard work is a good thing. I go through the morning washing, cleaning, and discarding the unnecessary stuff with these thoughts running through my mind. I’ve mentioned in the past that Honey is a ‘collector’. Getting Honey to let go of things often takes a two-handed grip and threats to throw it away when he’s not looking. But there are some things Honey will NOT part with no matter how much I threaten - its gifts that have been given to him. Be it cards, little drawings, or his mug collection, they are HIS. If someone cared enough to choose the gift and give it to him, then he’s not going to let it go without a fight. He carries a little multi-purpose tool that my Mama sent him a few years back with him everyday. If he ever sets it down and misplaces it, he stops all activity in the home until it’s found. The tool has little knife blades, scissors, etc. and is handy. But its value to him is in the fact that Mama gave it to him. He believes in hard work, but to him, a gift freely given with love, is something to be cherished.
I look around at the different ‘religious’ folks across the country, and around the world. They seem awful intent on ‘earning’ something from God. I’m not real sure if they are trying to ‘earn’ salvation or favor. They often try to 'earn' it with rituals. The rituals are sometimes as simple as just being in church on Sunday morning; others are far more complicated. Sometimes my contrary side kicks up, and I want to remind them that they didn’t hop on one foot, turn around twice, and say the alphabet backwards.
Now before anyone starts condemning me for being sacrilegious, take a deep breath and let me finish. I’m a simple person. I look at things a little too basic sometimes; but the way I understand the Gospel (good news), becoming a child of God isn’t that difficult. All He requires of us is that we acknowledge our sins, ask Him to forgive us, and accept Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. 1, 2, 3 … simple. This can be done in the middle of a massive football stadium while attending a revival with thousands of your closest friends, or it can be done in the comfort of your easy chair, with no one there but you and God.
Do we make this process difficult because we feel the need to earn salvation? Surely such a valuable gift can’t come without strings attached. In truth, it didn’t. Jesus’ death on the cross cut the strings. The price isn’t ours to pay now. He paid it for us. When He rose from the grave on the third day, salvation became a gift; one that He gives freely to all that just stretch out their hands to receive it.
In my thinking, people would rather ‘earn’ the gift. That would leave control in their hands. If they ‘earn’ salvation, then it’s on their terms. They don’t have to be broken, they don’t have to turn from their sins, and they can continue living like the devil during the week as long as they perform their rituals on Sunday morning. To me, that thinking is sad. If we can earn salvation, then Jesus died that awful death for nothing. Rituals make light of His sacrifice of love. That’s just tragic. Father God chose the gift, Jesus willingly paid the ultimate price, and it was given with so much love.
Folks, it’s time we stop fighting over whose rituals are more righteous and get our focus back on God. There’s only one way to receive the precious gift of salvation – accept it with a repentant heart; and then turn around and offer it to someone else.
Just a little food for thought. Well, I’d better get back to work.
Have a great day, and may the Lord bless you.