God saved you by His grace when you believed. And you can’t
take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the
good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it (vv.8-9).
Wildlife officials in my town tried in vain to save
a duck that had an arrow sticking through
its breast. She flew away whenever their
nets came close. It’s hard to blame the frightened fowl.
She didn’t understand that the same self-reliance that
normally kept her alive was now preventing her from
receiving the help she needed.
We are that duck. Crippled by the self-inflicted wound
of our sin, we stubbornly think we can survive by trying
harder. But every flap of our wings sucks the arrow in
deeper, and if we don’t get the help we need we will die
in our sin.
The first step to being a Christian is admitting that we
can’t fix ourselves. John Calvin observed, “The one who
has been completely reduced to nothing and has given
up . . . is fitly prepared to receive the fruits of God’s
mercy. For in proportion as someone relies on himself, by
so much he puts obstacles to God’s grace.”
Salvation is for “quitters.” Only those who give up on
their ability to please God are ready to embrace the
gospel. The gospel is not about what we can do for
God but what God has done for us. It’s the good news
that “Christ died for our sins . . . was buried, and . . .
was raised from the dead” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). But
we won’t trust this work of Jesus unless we concede that
we’re spiritually bankrupt, hopelessly “dead because of
our sins” (Ephesians 2:5). We won’t give ourselves to Christ until we first give up
The gospel is counter-intuitive. What serves us well in most areas of life can be
a disaster in our walk with Jesus. The normal secret to success is to try harder.
The secret of salvation is to stop trying to do it by ourselves. —Mike Wittmer
Read psalm 38 to learn how David responded to the piercing arrows of his sin.
Why is it hard to depend on Christ alone? What can you do to internalize
the gospel—to feel in your heart that your salvation rests entirely on
what Jesus has already done?