Tag Archives: earning salvation

Getting God’s Attention

From my earliest childhood, I remember hearing the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel from I Kings 18. If you’re unfamiliar with it, Elijah was the sole prophet of God in the land, and the people were following false gods. He called out the prophets of Baal and challenged them to a public duel on top of the mountain. They each prepared a sacrifice and would pray to their god to see whose was real. The god who was real would answer by fire and burn the sacrifice up.

The prophets of Baal prayed hard for fire. When there was no answer, they started jumping around and stomping as they prayed. When there still wasn’t an answer, they prayed louder and then began to cut themselves to get their god’s attention. Verse 29 sums it up, “This went on until well past noon. They used every religious trick and strategy they knew to make something happen on the altar, but nothing happened—not so much as a whisper, not a flicker of response” (MSG). For hours they tried to earn their god’s attention and failed.

I always thought very poorly of those prophets and even laughed at the way Elijah mocked them. But now I wonder if we are any different than they were. We may serve the God who won that duel, but we have resorted to their tactics to get His attention. We seem to believe that there is something you and I can do to earn His favor or to get an answer to prayer. We pray loudly, we stomp, we circle and even put ourselves in danger to test God to get Him to answer. But God isn’t looking for that from us.

What He’s looking for is found in verse 37. In Elijah’s prayer, he said, “Answer me, Lord, answer me, so that this people will know that you, the Lord, are God, and that you are bringing them back to yourself” (GNB). The prayers God responds to are ones that bring Him glory and allow Him to do the work. They have nothing to do with bringing attention to ourselves. Religion is all about working to get a god’s attention to come to us, but Christianity is about letting God draw us to Him. It’s not about what we do; it’s about what He does.

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Dress Code Violation

Earlier this week, a man came to a business meeting in shorts and a t-shirt. I at first thought he was a hotel guest who walked into the banquet room we were in. I went over and asked where he worked. He named the company and a location. It was just odd that he would know our normal work attire is at minimum a shirt and tie, yet he was willing to show up to a work event dressed that way. As I thought about it all day, I was reminded of a parable Jesus taught in Matthew 22.

The king had prepared a feast for the wedding of his son. He invited friends, family and dignitaries to come to the event. They all refused the invitation. On the day of the event, he sent word to them again saying, “Look, everything is on the table. Come to the feast!” Many shrugged their shoulders and went back to what they were doing. Some beat up the servants and others killed them. Finally the king sent the remaining servants out to invite anyone they came across on the streets.

When the king entered the feast, he looked around and saw someone who wasn’t dressed for the wedding. They refused to put on the garments provided. In verse 12 of the Message, the king approached him and said, “How dare you come in here looking like that! Get him out of here – fast.” He was upset that he wanted the benefits of being at the feast, but wanted to do it his own way. He didn’t want to accept what the king provided. He wanted to provide his own covering.

Just like at the king’s feast, the guy in my meeting stood out. In a room full of shirts, ties and suits, he walked in wearing shorts and t-shirts. I think we do the same thing and look the same way to God when we try to enter His presence with self righteousness on. When we think we’re fine, we can do it on our own and earn our way to heaven without going through the cross, we appear to God, the king, like this person at the feast. We dress ourselves instead of wearing the garment provided by God.

Isaiah 61:10 says, “For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with a robe of righteousness.” Those garments are provided by God and are required to be worn at the great feast. It’s His righteousness that clothes us, not ours. Isaiah 64:6 says, “All our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” Our good deeds don’t get us to heaven. We think they’re good enough, but when compared to the righteousness that God provides, they look like filthy rags.

God’s righteousness and salvation are a free gift through the work that Jesus did on the cross. They cannot be earned through righteous acts or good deeds. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For it is by grace that you are saved, through faith…not by works, so that no one can boast.” The garment of salvation and entrance to heaven is only given to us through our faith in Jesus. If you’re trying to earn your way to heaven, you can stop trying today. You’ll stand out like the guy in my meeting or the person at the feast. Rely on God’s grace, accept what Jesus did through His resurrection and wear the robe of righteousness that He provides.

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