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November 27 -Riding the Coattails of Grace

You can make a lot of money on the internet. You don’t have to be brilliant; you don’t have to be original; you don’t have to be a pioneer. In fact, pioneers have a pretty high failure rate. The key to financial success on the internet is to find a way to ride the coattails of the successful pioneer. For instance, one of the best selling business books on Amazon is “A Dummy’s Guide to eBay.” The author of that book could not have been successful with that book were it not for the wild success of eBay. While they weren’t as financially successful as the creators of eBay, they also didn’t assume the risk that many did who had businesses that failed.

This same phenomenon happens in politics. The best candidates have a coattail effect, causing other candidates in their party to have a strong showing because of the strength at the top of the ticket. It may seem easy to criticize entrepreneurs or politicians who ride the coattails of others to success, but Paul reminds us that Christians do that in a religious sense. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” (Galatians 2:20-21 NIV)

Paul paints a graphic word picture of what it means to be a follower of Christ, here. He told the Galatians to imagine Jesus on the cross, and when they saw Jesus there, they’d also see Paul. Obviously, that isn’t literal truth. If Paul was in Jerusalem at the time of the crucifixion, I have no doubt that he’d have been part of the group clamoring for Jesus to be crucified. The spiritual truth behind Paul’s statement is an amazing statement of faith: “When Jesus died on the cross, He took my sinful nature and put it to death when He died. You see me alive now, but it’s only because of my faith in the Son of God who died on the cross for me.” That’s an amazing statement of faith if you really let it sink in. Even more astounding was his next conclusion. If righteousness, aright standing with God, could be achieved by living according to the law, Christ’s death was meaningless. Until Paul encountered Jesus on the Damascus Road, his whole life was based on achieving righteousness by following the law. Paul’s conversion to grace was complete and thus he was able to see that the Galatians were trying to gain God’s favor by following the law. He wanted to put a stop to that.

While we often make Galatians 2:20 a memory verse, we miss the impact of 2:21. We have our righteousness with God through grace and grace alone. Imagine getting to heaven and seeing a crowd around one man. When you ask why the crowd has gathered, someone tells you, “Oh, that’s John Smith. He’s the only one here who kept the law perfectly and didn’t need God’s grace to get to heaven.” If I experienced that, I can only imagine that everything I did in heaven would be tainted by the fact that John had earned his way into heaven, while I needed God’s grace. If anyone could get to heaven by their own works, then God should expect everyone to get to heaven that way, and the death of Jesus on the cross would be unnecessary. There would be no need for grace. There are some who might worry that if we take such an “extreme position” on grace, then we won’t care how we live, since God will forgive us anyway. While that may seem like a valid concern, perhaps it’s better to understand that since we’ve been given God’s grace we need to respond in gratitude by not only riding His coattails of grace to get to heaven, but to become living examples of His love and grace to others by living a changed life.

Oh Lord, it’s only by Your grace that I can claim a home in heaven and it’s only by Your grace that my life is changed to show others the joy of life in You.


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