Well, I just arrived home from New Jersey, and I am exhausted. But it was an interesting trip – out yesterday, and back to Indy tonight. And as you may recall, my favorite store out there is Rock’n Joe’s – a local coffee house in Westfield, NJ that plays 60’s rock and roll – and has great coffee. I try to get there each time I am in New Jersey, and so last night, after dinner, I stopped by. I took my coffee to go and then headed out to take a quick walk around the corner to the luggage store. Because I can’t walk past a luggage shop – it’s like a hardware store – I just have to go in. And since it was already closed, I decided to go back this morning at 8 am, before I headed to the office to finish my work on this trip.
For the last several days, I was going to write a post about “faith”, but with the race, and then meeting Al Unser, I decided to delay my “faith” post. That is, until this morning. Because as I approached the luggage store, there on the sidewalk in front of the shop was Vinny Accardi. Now he is not a household name, but I recognized him. He was a contestant on Season 8 of Hell’s Kitchen – that show with Chef Gordon Ramsey. Vinny is the native New Yorker with the slicked back hair; a little swagger in his step. Well, there he was, big as life, in person, leaning against a car and talking to a friend. I almost stopped, but let’s face it, I already met Al Unser on this trip, and I was standing in front of a luggage store. So, no contest, I kept going.
But my friend Dave would be proud of me for noticing. Dave loves to meet celebrities, and frankly, is really connected. He loves the theatre and it is not unusual for him to find ways to get backstage and meet the people he admires. And I admire that about Dave – he is committed to living the dream, and yesterday, for perhaps the first time, I got it – I really got it when I met my own childhood hero.
But the chance encounter with Vinny got me thinking about Heaven and Hell. After all, on the show, people try to figure out how to stay in Hells’ Kitchen; and I have spent the better part of my life making sure that I stay as far away from Hell as I can! And I went to an awful lot of school to learn how to guide other people away from the dark side, and toward the Kingdom of God, as well. That prompted me to address a question tonight that I get asked quite often.
And that is, what do I have to do to receive God’s grace (salvation or eternal life)? The answer is a simple one; Faith + Nothing = Grace. That’s right – faith is all you need to receive God’s grace. Now herein lies the rub for many people. Because they think you have to work to get into heaven, and that is not the case, according to the Bible. Unfortunately, many people, when asked how they know they are going to heaven, answer something like, “I’m a good person”, or “I was baptized”, or “I work hard”. And while those are admirable things to do, they won’t get you to heaven. There is only one way to do that – and it is through Jesus Christ.
The complete answer is found in John 3:16, ” For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son; that whosoever believes in Him shall never die, but have everlasting life.” Period. Believe or, said another way, have faith that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and you will receive God’s grace.
Salvation is a gift – you can’t buy it, or earn it, or even work for it! That’s the beauty of grace – it is a free gift from God; just believe. Nothing more. So if there is never another mathematical equation you ever memorize, make sure you get this one right – it is the most important one ever. So why do we work hard? As a loving response to God – not out of obligation, but because we want to honor God with our work to advance His Kingdom here on earth. It’s nice to work hard for those people we love. Get it? No obligation; just desire.
So my encouragement tonight is that you will advance the notion that Faith + Nothing = Grace. We are told this by Paul numerous times, as in Ephesians 2:8, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” And my prayer is that if you think you have to work to demonstrate your worthiness to God, you will be convicted that this is not the case. None of us is worthy – that’s why God gave His people the law – so they could see for themselves that they could not obey all the commands of God. That’s when he sent his Son Jesus to allow us a way to be reconnected to Him; and with faith came grace. Praise God. Have a great week…