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The Grace Project

Who is Responsible for our Salvation

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 The one crucial diagnostic question telling us if we are ready to graduate from the “Little Children” phase is this: “Who is responsible for our salvation?” Our response to this question will reveal a great deal because it will reveal to us who or in what we are trusting for our salvation.  


 I would like to emphasise that when I speak of salvation, I mean it in the 100% sense: “I am saved, I am being saved and I will be saved.” In the book of Isaiah, the Lord set out the counter‐intuitive way of grace and the Prophet Isaiah gave us Natural Man’s response.

“For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, ‘In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.’ But you were unwilling, and you said, ‘No! ....’”

(Isaiah 30:15)
Israel’s rebelliousness had made her choose not to hear the Lord’s instruction and, much like today, tell her seers not to see, and had instructed her prophets to not prophesy what was right. With Israel turning aside from the path while trusting in herself, the Prophet Isaiah prescriptively set out the restorative way of grace.
“In returning [in retirement or withdrawal from our works] and [in] rest [in perfect stillness, even a death] shall you be saved ....”
(Isaiah 30:15a)
It is the Sabbath rest which David urges us to strive to enter into and that can only be experienced by pilgrims who have rested from their works as God did from His (Hebrews 4:7‐10). The Prophet Isaiah said that this salvation, this liberation and deliver‐ ance, was accomplished by a retirement from works and a dying to self‐effort. It is in quietness (meaning “in tranquillity, utterly undisturbed”) and in trust that we shall find our might and our valour to execute the mighty deeds of God. Yet, in an act of eccentric defiance, Israel’s emphatic response was, “No, that is not how we will live the spiritual life! We will not retire, will not rest, will not be quiet and will not place our confidence in God.” Instead, Israel proposed an alternative strategy, i.e., rather than dressing herself in the riches of grace, she chose to outfit herself in the rags of religion.
Israel: “We will flee upon horses.” Consequence: “Therefore, you shall flee away!”
Israel: “We will ride upon swift steeds.” Consequence: “Therefore, your pursuers shall be swift!”
“A thousand shall flee at the threat of one; at the threat of five you shall flee, till you are left like a flagstaff on the top of a mountain, like a signal on a hill.”
(Isaiah 30:17)
who is responsible for our Salvation?
In the Prophet Isaiah’s allusion, Israel’s obstinacy had left her desolate like a flagstaff on the top of a mountain, defeated and deflated, and herein lies the great lesson of the way of grace. Not only did the Lord oversee Israel’s defeat, He watched and waited patiently for her so as to show her mercy. The Prophet Isaiah tells us,
“Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and there- fore He exalts Himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice [good judgement and full of grace]; blessed are all those who wait for Him”
(Isaiah 30:18)
Of all the grace lessons I have ever had to come to terms with, this is certainly among the most difficult. I was so wedded to self-effort and self‐authentication that it was necessary for Him to allow me to be swallowed up with the pain of trying to make my life work apart from Him before I would turn to Him.
As a parent, I accept that there are moments in the raising of children which call for harsh discipline. Incidentally, do not think that a life of grace means that we are exempt from discipline. On the contrary. Just as Law and punishment go together, so are grace and discipline synonymous. Moreover, although punish‐ ment and discipline, when administered, may both feel the same, they are not. The Law is punitive whilst all actions of grace are restorative. In any event, this discipline is often more painful to administer than to receive and I suspect that there have been many times over the years when it has grieved the heart of God to have to discipline me but the gain (i.e., obedience to faith) is worth the pain. The blunt and frank truth is that the principal drivers of change are pain and remedy. The reason why people change what they do is due less to their being given analysis which shifts their thinking but rather, that they are shown a truth which influences their feelings.
”People change when they hurt enough to be willing to, when they learn enough to want to and when they are affirmed enough to be empowered to.”
So says the Prophet Isaiah, “Blessed are all those who wait for Him.” It is an axiom which the prophet will reiterate in his vivid imagery in chapter 40. There, he depicts the youths fainting and growing weary from self‐effort and the young men falling exhausted; all in contrast to those who wait upon the Lord exchanging their strength for God’s and in so doing, “mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” This prospect is open to all who will simply allow themselves to be mastered by the way of grace and cease from their labours. The only desire of the Lord is to bless us, but He blesses on His own terms and herein lies the conundrum – what He calls a blessing, we often think of being accursed and vice versa. Typically, we will go to Him with our wants and invariably, He will meet our needs. At first, this is perplexing because often, what we want is not what we need and what we need is not what we want. Be that as it may, as we grow spiritually, our needs and our wants are integrated. Thus, there must be an aligning of hearts and minds – ours with His – and this alignment invariably involves encouraging us to stop relying on ourselves (2 Corinthi‐ ans 1:8‐10), a goal which He is ruthless in His pursuit of.
However, the divine consolation is that ...
“For a people shall dwell in Zion, in Jerusalem; you shall weep no more. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry. As soon as He hears it, He answers you.”
(Isaiah 30:19)
Is this not the anguished lament of the Apostle Paul, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me ...?” (Romans 7:24). Surely it is. Then, at that moment,
Who is Responsible for our Salvation?
“Though the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide Himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. Then you will defile your carved idols overlaid with silver and your gold-plated metal images. You will scatter them as unclean things. You will say to them, ‘Be gone!’”
(Isaiah 30:20‐22)
However, to reach that point, we must end our fatal love affair with self‐effort. So, here is a question for you to ponder – is salvation a work of God for Man, a work of Man for God or a joint‐venture between both parties?
Salvation is the work of ... ...God, not me – all of God and none of me. ...Me, not God – all of me and none of God. ...God and Me – some of God and some of me.
There is a great deal at stake in our answer. I am firmly of the view that the character of God (i.e., agapé) and the nature of salva‐ tion (viz. a free gift of grace [Eph. 2:8]) insist that salvation is an absurd, extravagant, display of God’s love, is all of God and none of Man and once given, this gift cannot be rescinded.
If you would like to read more on this subject may I refer you to my book review