“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” (Isaiah 55:1)
Empty handed. It is a staggering truth that all who truly come to God, come with empty hands. As one great hymn-writer captured it for the church, “Nothing in my hand I bring; simply to thy cross I cling.”
Emptying our hands of every shard of our pedigree and every sliver of our accomplishment is in itself a supernatural thing that goes against every sinful instinct in us. But when God makes his grace to break in on us, he opens our eyes to see that Jesus is everything, and whatever it is that we’ve been so ferociously holding onto is nothing. In newfound faith, we release our grasp, extend our fingers, let our trophies fall to the ground, and come to Jesus with empty hands.
Just As I Am
Wonder upon wonders, his grace really does find us just as we are. He really does bid that we come with empty hands, not mustering up any of our own righteousness (Romans 10:4), but receiving God’s abundance of grace and the free gift of his righteousness in Christ (Romans 5:17). His fullness is a perfect fit for our emptiness. His grace corresponds with our need. Our sentence of death is cleared with his giving of life. Our lowliness meets with his great majesty.
For centuries, Christians have called this “justification by faith alone” — that God’s grace finds us just as we are, as sinners, and that by faith alone, and nothing we do, God counts us to be righteous, even in all our unrighteousness, because of the righteousness of Christ. When we are joined to Jesus by faith, our empty hands are treated as if they were full because of the fullness of Christ. In Jesus, by faith alone, not by anything we do, God justifies the ungodly, as Romans 4:5 says, “To the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.”
Forever I Am Changed
And the grace goes on. He piles glory upon glory. It is one glory of his majesty that he takes us in with empty hands, and it is another glory that our encounter with his majesty forever changes us.
He embraces us when we are ungodly, and in his arms we begin to become more like him. We come in spiritual death with empty hands, but in his hands we’re given life. As we bask in the presence of his majesty, “beholding the glory of the Lord, [we] are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Christians have called this “sanctification,” which means that God progressively makes us more holy. God’s grace triumphs over our sin not just by accepting us freely, but then also by making us more holy. His flood of grace brings us into his full embrace without any condition but faith, and in the Father’s gracious hands, we are sanctified by glory and fire.
His glory, and our joy, is both his accepting us in our ungodliness and with our empty hands, and his restoring us to life and changing us by his love.
This is his majesty.