For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” (Roman 10:3-4 ESV)

I’m a writer, so I like words. I like the correct use of words, and the correct application of them, for they can become critically important to a subject, and especially with correct doctrine. Therefore in reading the above scripture today I can see how we can get our words mixed up with something as simple as the use of salvation by attempting to “attain it,” verses “obtaining it.” What is the difference? There is a big difference, for legalism is the attempt to attain salvation by works, by human effort, and by religious means. On the other hand, it is by grace and faith only that we obtain salvation. Look at this next scripture and see if you can spot the difference:

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 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.” (Ephesians 2:4-9 ESV)

If any of you do not understand and apply this correct connection with God through the work of Jesus Christ, then you may walk around with a major performance burden that He has removed from you.

As a writer I should know my audience. I think I have a pretty good idea who you are. I believe that the majority of you who are reading this blog are followers of Christ. Therefore there may be some of you asking why I am referencing the fundamentals of Christianity, things that you already know. But there is a reason, for if you are like I was at a time in my life, you may lack clarity with how salvation by grace and faith also filters into living our life as a follower of Christ. You see I came from a church experience in my childhood and young adult years that saw grace as our ticket to heaven but not our walk in life as a Christian. I’ve even heard it said by some of those church leaders that emphasizing grace too much in a church makes lazy church members who will not be proactive in evangelism, in serving, and with filling needed positions. As a young and ignorant church member I didn’t have much of an argument for this position. Because I was unsure of how my salvation was “obtained” I fell into performance Christianity thinking that in some way I needed to “attain” it. As I grew older and more familiar with key thoughts and scriptures that explained what I have mentioned above, I could then see that I was being manipulated for a church’s purpose rather than being empowered for Christ’s purpose. However the damage was done, and it has been a hard struggle to overcome the lingering effect of it even to this day. Therefore, I want to address this misconception and misrepresentation for the truth is, I have found that legalism in any form even within Christianity will not have God’s anointing on our work, and it will in fact negate our best efforts in serving Christ.

I am discovering more each day how the perfect love of God through His grace has given me a different motivation for serving Him. Legalism is driven by fear. We fear God so as a self defense effort we attempt to win His love by our works. This creates legalistic, performance driven activity that accomplishes very little. However God’s grace to us has created a love bridge from Him to us. He loves us first, not because we have done anything to deserve it. This is the amazing fact about grace. When we truly realize how this has connected us to God it overwhelms our fear and our misdirected motivation for serving Him. It is replaced with another motivation. Our motivation with serving our King then comes from our love for Him. When this connection is realized, the legalistic burdens, no matter how subtle they may be, comes to light and they are removed. When they are removed, our new motivation and desire to serve Him is then empowered by His anointing. The results is what Jesus described as “fruit.”

Several years ago I read one of the most liberating encouragements that a performance driven Christian could read when the author encouraged his readers to consider that we are justified by grace, we will be glorified by grace, and as long as we live in this life we will sanctified by God’s grace. Our joyful duty is to learn how to walk in God’s grace. This is my encouragement to you as well. Learn to walk in the grace God has given to you, and you will be directed with how to serve Him the best way possible. You will also be unburdened of the legalism that has kept you in fear, and you will find a better understanding of how amazing our Father’s grace is. There is nothing like it.

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2 comments on “Attain or Obtain? A Big Difference

  • Rocky, the other understanding that we, as people, need to understand is that as God gives us grace, we need to give grace to other people. The first grace given needs to be to our family, then our co-workers and then to everyone we encounter. Funny, but as you give grace to people you find yourself changing and in addition to grace you are also giving them love. So you change.

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