The words, “Are you ready to order or do you need a minute?” have become a common phrase on my lips. In other words, I am a waitress. Last month I began my training, which lasted four days before I was assigned a section of my own. Intimidating? Yes. New and weird? Definitely. There always seems to be an hour where things get hectic. It’s then when, in the midst of the craziness I think, “What on earth am I doing here?!” But then things slow down, and I realize that despite the craziness…I like it.
Last week I had a table with two older women who had a boatload of questions about our menu and our food. Because of their numerous questions, I was under the impression that this was their first time dining at our restaurant. I did my best to answer their questions, but if I didn’t know, I found someone who did. Nevertheless, the whole process was very confusing. It didn’t help that the older of the two ladies was hard of hearing.
In addition to this, my other four tables were full of customers as well, keeping me busy with coffee refills, desserts, and check backs–“Can I get you anything else tonight?” I had just finished delivering another table’s order, onion rings and sandwiches, when the women, whose orders it had taken me several minutes to sort out, flagged me down.
“They’re getting their food already when they were seated after us?” she questioned, confusion and frustration on her face.
I froze. Oh no. I remembered using the computer to check prices for them, but never sending their order to the cooks. “I–I am so sorry,” I stumbled. “I forgot to punch your order in, but–but I’ll do that right now.”
Of course they were upset. I told my manager what had happened and he ended up comping the whole meal for them. “Apologize profusely,” he told me. “They’re not happy at all.” I felt horrible. If this was their first time eating there, I had ruined the experience.
I brought out their pie and no sooner had I set the plates down when the older of the two women pushed a folded $5 bill into my hand. I shook my head as I tried to give it back and tell them no, I didn’t deserve it–but they wouldn’t listen. She held her hand up as if to say, “the matter is closed and I don’t want to hear any more about it.” All I could do was mumble a thank you and move on. As I cleared my other tables, the word grace echoed in my heart, along with its definition:
An undeserved gift.
It got me to thinking. If I didn’t deserve the $5 tip because of my mistake, how much more do I not deserve the salvation Jesus bought for me at Calvary because of my sin? I’m the sinner, yet instead of giving me what I deserve, Jesus came to earth to atone for what I’ve done. He paid the death penalty for my sin even though He is holy and perfect. Yet that’s not the end. Christ defeated death when He rose from the grave three days later. He’s alive! And having paid the penalty for our sins, God gave us all a gift. Redemption. Salvation. New life.
He was delivered over to death for our sins, and raised to life for our justification. (Romans 4:25)
It humbled me, to be sure. Not only as a waitress, but as a child of God. The truth was renewed in my heart: He has freely given me what I don’t deserve. That’s just how good and loving God is! Because of this, I am brand new and whole, and I have a renewed relationship with Christ.
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has gone, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
God made an exchange: our sin for His righteousness. It’s not fair–it’s love. Pure, unconditional, full-of-grace love that never, ever fails.
God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved. (Ephesians 2:4-5)
I could try my best to fix the problem in order to be “good enough” for God, but even my best efforts are like “filthy rags”.
All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf and our sin blows us away. (Isaiah 64:6)
Not only do I not have to try to be “good enough”, God gives salvation as a gift. It’s not something we earn, it is something we are given out of God’s great love for me, for you, for everyone.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is a gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
If we could earn our salvation and our way into heaven, we would be the ones receiving the glory. “Hey, guess what guys! I was good enough for God! I did it!” That’s what Paul means when he says “not by works, so that no one can boast.” If we boast, we should boast in the Lord! “God saved me! God is so good!” The focus shifts from us in all our imperfection, whose best efforts are like “filthy rags” to the One Who is worthy to be praised. To the God Who spoke the universe into existence and used mud to heal a blind man’s eyes. To the God Whose love and faithfulness lasts forever and ever.
The thing about a gift is that, though it’s there for the taking, it’s not really yours until you accept it. You can stare at the person holding the present out to you all you want, but until you take hold of it and grasp it for yourself, it’s not doing you any good.
God is holding out a gift of grace to you. It’s a gift wrapped in new life, and once you accept it and open up the package, you will see everything that’s inside. There’s forgiveness, redemption, peace, love, freedom, joy…God’s Holy Spirit that comes to dwell within our hearts.
But that’s not even the best part. The best part of God’s free gift is that we will get to spend eternity with Him in the most beautiful place. Heaven. Where the streets are the purest form of gold, and a gate is made of a single pearl. Where we will be able to walk, hand in hand, side by side, with the most beautiful, loving, wonderful Man in the whole universe.
God won’t make you accept His gift, but He hopes with all His heart that you will. He loves you, wants to be with you, and is holding His arms open wide for you. No matter what you have done or do, God won’t withhold His forgiveness if you ask Him for it.
I promise you that any of the sinful things you say or do can be forgiven, no matter how terrible those things are. (Mark 3:28)
All it takes is surrendering. Admit you are a sinner in need of a Savior; lay it all down at Jesus’ feet. Believe in what Jesus did for you on the cross. Invite Him into your heart, and into every aspect of your life.
If you declare with your mouth “Jesus is Lord” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. (Romans 10:9-10)
That’s all it takes. To believe, and to act on that belief. And when you do, God sends the Holy Spirit to live in your heart where He changes you from the inside out. From there, you are adopted into God’s family. A precious and most definitely loved child of the King.
The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Jesus Christ from the dead, He will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you. (Romans 8:11)
God decided in advance to adopt us into His own family by bringing us to Himself through Jesus Christ. This is what He wanted to do, and it gave Him great pleasure. (Ephesians 1:5)
But to all who believed in Him and accepted Him, He gave the right to become children of God. (John 1:12)
God is willing to make each and every one of us new. He yearns to. And God, well, God doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve. He loves us more than that.
The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse nor will He harbor His anger forever; He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:8-12)
God wants us all to know how wide and long and high and deep His love is. So wide, so long, so high, so deep, that Christ died for each and every once of us so He could give us a life on earth, forgiven and in renewed relationship with the Father.
So He could give us a life forever, with Him in Heaven.
A gift of grace.