1-3 So how do we fit what we know of Abraham, our first father in the faith, into this new way of looking at things? If Abraham, by what he did for God, got God to approve him, he could certainly have taken credit for it. But the story we're given is a God-story, not an Abraham-story. What we read in Scripture is, "Abraham entered into what God was doing for him, and that was the turning point. He trusted God to set him right instead of trying to be right on his own."
None of us are ever accepted or made "right" by our own deeds. The Israelite struggled wit this fact - coming to a belief that it was in the "keeping of the letter of the law" that they were "made righteous". They missed the boat as it applied to seeing God's provision for our holiness in his Son. Abraham was pointed to as one of the exceptions to that general belief - he "entered into" what God was doing - and was thereby made righteous.
There is something liberating about "entering into what God is doing for us" vs. us always trying to "do for ourselves" what is impossible for us to accomplish. God never intended for us to "fix ourselves up" so that we could present ourselves as holy before him. We are not "made acceptable" by our actions - our actions follow the change that occurs in our heart. God is after our heart - the place within us that fellowships with him. It is the "instigator" of either our right actions, or our self-centered actions.
God wants us to understand first and foremost that it is nothing we do ourselves that makes us "clean" - we are in a process of being transformed - and that "work" is his. The "turning point" for us is in realizing that fact. Abraham came to a place where he "trusted God" to set him right instead of trying to constantly do it on his own. If there is one thing I have learned, it is that the beginning point of any change is crucial. If we begin wrong, we usually end wrong. If the starting point is correct, we reach the end result we were aiming for in the first place.
The starting point for most change in our lives is at the point of repentance. The point of repentance is a time of recognizing that we have "started wrong" and as a result, we are on a wrong course. There is nothing more liberating than recognizing that we are on the wrong path - simply because it causes us to search for the right one! I have been lost before - traveling blindly down a course I "thought" would end where I wanted to be. Along the way, some things did not look familiar - I questioned my surroundings. It is in that "questioning moment" that we often are awakened to the danger of continuing on the path we have chosen. That is the moment of "turning" - our turning point.
The way out of anywhere is usually the same way you came to be where you are at - you turn around and go back to where you began. Most of us find that when we do this, we can see clearly where we "went wrong" in our journey. The nice thing about God is that he never focuses on the negative turns we have taken in our lives - he simply points us toward what is right and holy. Sure, he wants us to know "where we went wrong" - but those things don't become a focusing point for him. He sees us through the eyes of forgiveness and restoration - no longer remembering the "wrong turns", but focusing on moving us forward.
In this same passage from Romans, it goes on to say:
4-5If you're a hard worker and do a good job, you deserve your pay; we don't call your wages a gift. But if you see that the job is too big for you, that it's something only God can do, and you trust him to do it—you could never do it for yourself no matter how hard and long you worked—well, that trusting-him-to-do-it is what gets you set right with God, by God. Sheer gift.
The thing about forgiveness is that it is a job that is "too big for us". We simply need to trust God to do what we are incapable of doing ourselves. Try as we might, we struggle with always seeing the "wrong turns" in our lives. What we need to do is be asking God how he sees us. When we do this, we are always greeted with the perfect image of his Son, Jesus Christ. That is the ONLY way God sees us!