"For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient
led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures,
passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.
But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared,
he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness,
but according to his own mercy,
by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,
whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,
so that being justified by his grace,
we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life."
So, at this point, we know that God has decided to appear and save man. The Hero has arrived to save wicked man from their sin. But Why? Why would God do this? What's the motivation?
If I'm being honest, I am hardwired with a 'pick yourself up by the boot straps' mentality. If something is wrong, its on me to fix it. I'm that guy who never asks other people for help. I am disciplined and committed enough to get it done myself. That being said, I'd naturally be expecting this verse to read something a little more like this:
"He saved you, because you were strong, smart and wise enough
to pick yourself up and turn to him. You aren't actually that bad, you just
needed a little help from God. God saved those who help themselves!"
And this is why I need to pick up my cross daily and die to myself. My old self keeps telling me God loves me, and saved me because I'm good enough or strong enough. The Gospel tells me God loves me and saved me because HE IS MERCIFUL. This is a contrast I need to hear everyday. It changes everything. It turns self-boasting into humble worship. It turns pride in performance to pure amazement at God's grace. It turns self-righteous bitterness into contagious joy. The great motivation of God saving us is based on His mercy, not our merit. Thanks be to God!