Will God shred your adoption papers?

Did God wait to see a glimpse of goodness or a silver lining in our sinful hearts before He rushed toward us with saving grace?


Dead people can’t resurrect themselves.

His grace came rushing toward us when we were at our absolute worst to save us and it continues to come toward us to sustain, reform and preserve us.

“But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.” Acts 9:1-2

Saul’s dramatic conversion comes to him while he is at the pinnacle of his self righteousness. Ironically, Saul was exacting his judgement when God saved him from ultimate judgement. [1]

Before his conversion, Saul was an expert in the law. As such, he insisted that righteousness before God required a person to be active. He persecuted the people of “the Way” because they claimed that Christ was their righteousness – a word of gospel that was passive.

We are children of God by gracious, undeserved adoption.

We weren’t active participants in our adoption. We are blessed, passive recipients.[1b] Passive righteousness before God on the basis of Christ’s work has always been offensive to those who live under the premise that God holds their adoption papers over a divine shredder, evaluating how active they are before Him. The Pharisees resisted it and our inner Pharisee resists it.

God’s saving grace liberates us to enjoy our passive righteousness before God and produces the desire to live in active righteousness toward our neighbour.

If we believe our adoption papers are being held over a divine shredder, we will be constantly tormented by guilt and inner conversations about not doing “enough” for God or others.

If our righteousness is riding on our activity before God, then all our serving becomes self-serving. Instead of doing good works because we are accepted, we’re doing it in the hopes that we will be accepted.

Faith in Christ alone invites us to rest in passive righteousness before God and produces active righteousness toward our neighbour. Resting in our union with Christ frees us to live truly generous lives. I say “truly” because there’s nothing truly generous about good works motivated by keeping your adoption papers out of a shredder. Those works are anything but good.

Saul’s conversion shows us that God is in the business of saving sinners. Even self-righteous ones who are convinced that human contribution somehow adds to divine achievement.

I have good news, friend. In Christ, your righteousness is actual – it’s not pending. The cross is a finished work, not an incomplete work you are left to complete with your work. Though our substance continually struggles with being sinful, our status is irreversibly righteous. Being righteous in Christ is the jaw-dropping scandalous truth of what it means to be united with Him. In and of ourselves, we are anything but righteous. Though Christians live increasingly less sinful lives, we all die actual sinners needing actual grace from an actual sinless Saviour.

Christ. Alone.

Nothing propels the desire to live for God like knowing You can’t earn anything from God that hasn’t already been given to you in grace by God.

You didn’t do anything to earn your adoption papers and you’re not going to do anything to make God shred them. Enjoy your freedom by living to the glory of the One who saved you. [2]

Press on,


[1] “And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” Acts 9:4-7

[1b] Ephesians 1, John 1:12 – on adoption, becoming children of God

[2] 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
    we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. [Romans 8:35-39]

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