The grace-plus mistake 

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Sometime in the late ‘00s I attended a leadership conference in the city of Sydney. It was advertised as a live event with a great line-up of speakers. And while today I can’t recall many of those presenting, I do remember that one of the keynote speakers was a Donald J Trump. 

Now this was before he was a politician. This was in the days when he was still a property developer and without all of the hype and so-called “fake news”. This was not long after the global financial collapse of 2007/8 that saw many businesses devastated and ending in bankruptcy. And his message resonated. In essence, he told his story of being an average student at university and how he had to work hard to achieve success. It was learning to work hard that helped him to negotiate the tough times. There were many talented classmates who found study easy, but after the GFC, where were they? Most, he claimed, had failed. They were no longer in business. And why? According to Trump, “Success is a combination of talent and effort.” And that was the take-home message.

I think the reason this made an impact on me at the time was because my son was in high school and he was trying to coast through on mere talent. The effort part was lacking. Assignments were not getting completed. Preparation for tests was poorly done. And success was eluding him. And so it was a timely message. Success is a combination of talent and effort. 

It wasn’t until his third attempt at university that he finally learned this secret and achieved the success he was seeking. But how well does this work in other areas of life? 

Bruce Manners, in his recent book, The Command, talks about his early misunderstanding of grace and how he had a “grace-plus” approach, where his achievements were also important for getting into the kingdom. He says, “There was no assurance in this because it came back to my performance, or my performance compared to others.” 

Too often we get confused because “ . . . we live in a reward for effort world that goes like this: study hard and you’ll get the grade; work hard and you’ll get the position or the raise; practice and you’ll make the team; work out and you’ll get strong. That makes it easier for us to say, ‘Do good and you’ll be part of God’s kingdom’.” 

But when it comes to our salvation, success is not a combination of talent and effort. In fact, it has nothing to do with either. It is wholly of God. Here is what the apostle Paul says about our salvation: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith­—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God­, not by works, so that no-one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8,9).

There is no grace-plus. There is no talent plus effort. It is entirely God-given. And this is life changing. Grace is not about you and how good or bad you are. It’s about Jesus and what He has done. And that is something worth sharing. 

At Adventist Media, we are committed to sharing the good news of Jesus and letting others know that salvation is a free gift to all who believe in Him. We are developing tools and resources you can use to share Jesus with your friends, colleagues and family in a way that is easy and makes sense. 

One of these resources is Signs of the Times magazine. First published in 1886, Signs has a rich history, which has seen it serve the needs of the Church as a sharing magazine. Signs looks at current issues and trends, and provides practical insights into living a healthier, more ethical and more meaningful life. Signs applies a Christian worldview and, drawing from Bible inspiration, offers hope for tomorrow to those who are searching for meaning today. Signs is made specifically for sharing. 

However, it only exists through the generous support of subscribers and donors like you and me. There are many frontline ministries that need your financial support to continue sharing Signs: community food pantries, ADRA stores, mission-focused cafes. Or, you can become a disciple-maker yourself by purchasing a subscription and sharing Signs with your friends.

We have something incredible to share with others. So why not share a Signs? 

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