The Exchange

“Do not set aside the grace of God” (Galatians 2:21)

Real ID is the TSA-compliant identification needed to board a flight beginning late 2021. It is proof, stamped with a gold star, to validate I am who the government ID says I am. Real ID is free…provided I have offered proof of birth and residency, driven to the DMV, and waited in an interminable line. 

It is simply a given; we have been conditioned to believe nothing is free. There’s always a cost, monetarily or otherwise. TSA offers an enhanced ID; we have to do the background work. Someone offers friendship; we maintain our end. We receive a gift; we feel obligated to give one in exchange. As Christians, we know the best gift of all – our salvation – is free; however, isn’t it just like our fallen nature to resist, just a little, because we feel we have to do something to earn it (as if we could) – be good enough, give up this habit, donate money. Life has taught us we need to participate in our own success and acceptance into whatever identity we are pursuing. Thus, we can’t quite 100% believe something so amazing and eternal as salvation is free. 

But when we do grasp that glorious truth and come to Christ – receiving our real Real ID – are we then guilty of still trying to win God’s approval, to submit “paperwork” to substantiate who Christ says I am? Is it following our version of the Law: the Sunday School attendance pin, the committee assignments, the faithfulness to Thursday visitation, the Read Through the Bible plan to show our worth? If God expected such activity to secure our salvation, then “Christ died for nothing” (2:21). My Real ID will never result from Christ’s death + something, anything of my own doing.

Actions to further the Kingdom or deepen our walk with God are all laudable, but if I’m not doing them from a heart revealing “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (2:20), from a heart overflowing with gratitude for what God has done, then Christ may be my example and helper, but is He my Savior? By trying to earn my righteousness, I have “forfeit[ed] the grace that could be [mine] (Jonah 2:8). What a terrifying thought. By God’s grace, we are declared righteous in Christ, not granted it in recognition of our works. No, we are not perfect; we are not sinless. But when we trust Him, God exchanges our attempts to “be good enough” for what Christ has already accomplished: His perfection for my sin. 

Christ’s life and death + nothing else. This, and this alone, grants me the Real ID, gold star and all. I am who God says I am: His child. It is an identity based in grace, so I can “lay my doing down” (Tim Keller).  If God needed my help to secure my salvation, it wouldn’t be grace, and “Christ died for nothing” (2:21). 

Do not set aside the grace of God” (2:21). Take the gift. It cost God dearly, but this gift is free. What are you using instead of Jesus as your righteousness? What can you lay down that has you wondering, “am I doing enough?” 

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