There is no response that we can make to God's grace, except to trust that it's for us, without charge or gratis. God has forgiven all sinners in Jesus' death and resurrection. That does not mean that the Spirit will not produce fruit in and through us. But, just as fruit cannot grow if a tree has no roots, our salvation is not contingent on our working ourselves up to some sort of spiritual readiness for the Gospel to have its way with us.

That's why God's grace can never be cheapened by us because it's free. God's Word opens our ears to hear the good news about Jesus, and that creates faith in us, trust in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. Otherwise, if that isn't the testimony of Scripture, then what Jesus said about his yoke being easy and his burden being light was a bait and switch tactic to make things happen between God and us.

What's more, Jesus has told us how we should do the works of God. He said, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one whom he sent” (John 6:29). Further, “God did not send his Son into the world to judge the world, but so that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not judged” (John 3:17). Trust, and nothing else, is what God asks of us. Trust that the work of salvation is already done in full for us by Jesus.

God's Word did not become incarnate to establish a baseline for us for godly living. The Word who is God became flesh so he could step into the ring, not so he could coach us from the judge's table. He takes our place in the arena, fighting against sin, death, and Satan. And even though they land several brutal strikes in the final round that pick Jesus up off his feet and send him crashing to the canvas with a world-shattering thud, he gets back up before the count of ten and pummels them into submission. After the fight, when asked for comment, Jesus declares that there was never any reason to doubt he would win. Sin, death, and Satan may have had more than a puncher's chance to beat us, but when God stepped into the ring, they should have admitted defeat and thrown in the towel.

God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:4). Before the fight was even announced, the victory was a foregone conclusion. There was never a time in all of history (or before history) when God did not choose to be God for us in Christ. That means we have been known by God all along, since before the beginning of anything. It also means, more importantly, that God has always been incarnate for us in Christ.

Sin, death, and Satan may have had more than a puncher's chance to beat us, but when God stepped into the ring, they should have admitted defeat and thrown in the towel.

God's faithful, loving-kindness toward us has been present since before the foundation of the world. That's why God's grace is free. It's why faith and hearing are a direct consequence of the Holy Spirit preaching the Gospel to us. It's why, no matter how much we want to make oranges grow from the branches of God's beloved apple trees, we will produce good fruit. It's God's effort alone that wins the day over sin, death, and Satan for us. It's God's choosing of us that's at work in Jesus' reconciling death and resurrection.

So we can throw out the idea that there's something we need to do to win the fight against sin, death, and Satan. Jesus defeated them. Now, to us, they're little more than sparring partners. We can also give up trying to come up with a proper response to God's grace other than to say, "Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!"

The New Testament spells out, time and again, that salvation is a free gift that we believe. We don't earn it. God makes us righteous and good in Jesus. As the apostle Paul writes:

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Rom 3:21-26).

God's grace is all for free, costing us nothing, filled to overflowing with forgiveness and peace. The work is done. The fight is over. Jesus wins.