For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing;it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast (Eph.2:8-9 ESV).
This text captures a fundamental truth of Christianity. We are saved by grace through faith. Good works doesn’t save. Morality doesn’t save. Church membership doesn’t save. Growing up in a Christian home doesn’t save.
In a secular state with about 71% professing Christianity ; many grow up in Christian homes with Christian discipline. Raised and groomed “christianly”; the Christian faith appears normal to many. Nothing peculiar! Business as usual(BAU). Church attendance is a given. Talk of morality, philanthropy, fighting the social cause—you might be actively engaged. You won’t give a second thought to it, you probably have grown up believing you are a Christian. But there’s a danger here. Growing up in a Christian home, regular church attendance, morality and philanthropy without saving faith in Christ still leaves you in a sinful state separated from God: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”(Romans 3:23).
The whole world, without saving faith in Christ, lies dead in sin.(Eph 2). We are broken and sinful–totally depraved and needy of God’s grace.The dispositions of our hearts are evil. We tend to believe we are good people. But no, Scripture describes us otherwise: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jer 17:9). If we are indeed dead in sins and our hearts desperately wicked, how can we help ourselves? Our humanity and pride coupled with false religion suggests to us we can help ourselves. Self-help sells. There are multitudes of them out there that promises you “your best life now”.
However, salvation is strictly a work of God’s grace in our hearts. Try as hard as we may, our best efforts in reforming ourselves will only produce “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). Our only hope of salvation is a divine work of grace that makes our hearts pliable to divine truth:
I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.(Ezekiel 36:25-27).
Here we see the regenerating power of God’s grace in our lives. He first removes our “heart of stone”; cold dead to divine truth, disobedient and unyeilding to Him and replaces it with a “heart of flesh”; alive to divine truth, obedient and yeilding to Him. This regenerating power of God’s Spirit in our heart leads us to repentance from sin and saving faith in Jesus Christ for remission of sins unto salvation. It is only then you can call yourself a christian and a member of God’s family.
No one is deserving of God’s grace. That’s why it is in fact called grace–unmerited, undeserved favour. We contributed nothing to it. It is a gift and rightly so, a gift must be accepted: “For what accords better and more aptly with faith than to acknowledge ourselves divested of all virtue that we may be clothed by God, devoid of all goodness that we may be filled by Him, the slaves of sin that he may give us freedom, blind that he may enlighten, lame that he may cure, and feeble that he may sustain us; to strip ourselves of all ground of glorying that he alone may shine forth glorious, and we be glorified in him? ~John Calvin
Try answering these questions: Are you a Christian? Is your heart regenerated? Are you born again? Have you come to saving faith putting your trust in Christ for the remission of sins? Do you recognise how helpless you are in trying to please God by your strength? Is your life showing fruits of one who has indeed encountered Christ? Is there a love for God and holiness in your heart? Or like many; you are just religious? Be certain with your answers. No self-deception; lest in eternity future you hear Jesus saying to you; “I never knew you; depart from me, you [worker] of lawlessness.’(Matthew 7:23).