I’ll be honest, I’m the most guilty party of this, but I’m recovering…
In fear of discounting the Grace of God, the conservative evangelical church often dismisses good works as anti-Christian, as something left for our catholic or liberal brothers and sisters to do.
Early on in my faith, I was just elated that God would love me so much that I couldn’t help, but to respond in worship. I would read my Bible, pray, serve others, & do as much as I could, because I was just utterly thankful for the Grace of God in my life. Somewhere down the road, I began to understand more of the intricacies of the faith and study more of the Bible. As my head started to grow, my hands seemed to have limped. I began to think that I couldn’t possibly earn the Grace of God, so therefore I need not to do anything for fear of discounting it. What resulted was a life that was completely devoid of any “doing”. I did absolutely nothing, in hopes that I might lift up the Grace of God. But in so doing, I’ve come to realize, I have ironically discounted God’s Grace in my life. For grace leads to good works. Works are a sign of faith, and not a credit in order to buy faith. They point to the very real and powerful work of transformation that is occurring in the invisible places of my soul. I had the arrows all jumbled for a long time. In pursuit of delight, I forgot about my duty… I was created to display the works of God in me, not just keep it hidden under a jar.
Lord, help me be a light.
It’s always refreshing when God fans the dying embers of your heart to renew your affections for Him. Apart from Him, my heart is so prone to wander. But I know that He upholds me and sustains me with His sovereign grace.
I’m glad my salvation is not up to what I do. If it were, I’d be in some trouble.
The Gospel is all about Grace, then Law. Religion is about do it, then I will love you. The Gospel is about I love you, so do it.
The Old Testament God is this way: God delivers His people from the grips of Egypt, then gives them the Law in the form of the Ten Commandments through Moses on Mt. Sinai.
The New Testament God is this way: God sends his only Son to this world only to send Him to the Cross to show His great love for us, then commissions us and calls us to be holy as He is holy.
God is consistent. He is the same then and now. The Gospel has always been good news. And I hope it always stays that way.
“And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.”
Jesus Christ according to Luke 15:20-24
Can God really be so good? We were slaves, but made sons. We are sinners, but made righteous. We were lost, but found. We were dead, but now alive!
Don’t you often get moments in your life when the proverbial light bulb turns on and immediately everything begins to click and make sense one more time? I love moments like that. Yes, admittedly, they are few and far between, but hey, at least I have them.
I sort of had a moment like that the other day. I’m here at a youth retreat this week hosted by Arise Youth Ministries and during one of the worship times, as I was singing an altogether too familiar song, the light bulb went off. It’s as if I had been transported back to when I was 18 years old, at a time when Christ devastated my soul and convicted me of my guilt and shame, yet pointed to the love and forgiveness of God, the Father. And there it was again, in full view, Grace. It’s truly amazing. It’s going to sound so elementary, but seriously think about it for longer than it takes you to read the rest of this sentence….
Grace finds us in our lost moments. Grace carries us when we stumble and fall. Grace rescues us from a wasted life. Grace awakens us to what is truly joyful in this life. Grace whets our appetite for more. Grace brings to life a soul that was once dead. Grace breaths new life into dry bones. Grace doesn’t ask for you to pay it back. Grace is God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.
I could go on an on about Grace. It’s truly amazing. I wish I could keep this light bulb on forever. But sad to say it’s not one of those energy saver light bulbs and inevitably it will soon flicker out. And when it does, I’m going to forget how amazing Grace really is. But for now, I want to remember how amazing it is. It’s truly amazing.
Another revelation to one of my favorite verses:
In the Letter to the Ephesians, second chapter, verses eight through nine reads, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” ESV
When I go on long drives, I often sky watch. Yes, that does mean that I spend less time watching the road, but that’s for another entry. On a recent drive, I was spying the sky and spotted one of those darned birds; you know the ones that seem to want to get stuck in the grill of a car? They fly at you furiously flapping their wings coming dangerously close to your windshield and at the very last second they pull up as if to mock you, showing off their skills in flying. I despise those kind of birds (well, I really don’t discriminate with my hatred of birds, because I think I hate all of them equally). Now, contrasting that type of bird, a little while later, I spot another bird higher up in the sky. It’s wings are magestically spread wide open, gliding effortlessly on the winds, high up, safe from any imminent dangers, almost as if it didn’t have a care in this world. It was an eagle (one of the few birds I love). Eagles just seem like they own the sky. Using a popular term these days, Eagles are fierce! So why am I talking birds? Precisely because I feel as though my recent sky watching excursion has led me to understand Paul’s encouragement to the Ephesians a little bit deeper.
I’m a doer by nature. It could just be the prideful Korean spirit in me or it could be the Protestant work ethic that I’ve adopted, but whichever way you look at it, I am a worker. This is even true in my relationship with God. And contrary to popular opinion, it doesn’t squeeze the joy out of my relationship with Him, because, sinfully, I love working hard at my relationship with God. Admit it, some of you are Christian masochists just like me. Sweat the most at a prayer meeting and you can be sure that you’ll feel like you’re that much closer to God. Go to the toughest areas of the world and come back the skinniest and no one can deny you of your blessings. Fast longer, read faster, sing louder, have more meetings at Church and of course you’re going to be on top of your relationship with God. Isn’t that how we are sometimes? We’re workaholics. We’re addicted to the religion of Christianity. At least, I know I am. No pain, no gain.
But all that work for what? Why does your work have to determine how “blessed” you feel? Paul says, “this is not your doing.” This work of salvation is solely by grace through faith…it doesn’t include you anywhere in the equation. It’s God’s gift. Naturally, I’m always rebuked when I read this passage in Paul’s letter. It cuts to the core and driving passion of who I am. I want to earn everything I get, because it just tastes sweeter that way. Free? That’s for bums and lottery winners. I want to know I’ve put my sweat and blood in it. Obviously, this is the exact opposite of Paul’s understanding of salvation. Our relationship with God is not dependent on ourselves, in fact, we are nowhere in the equation. It is simply, “by grace through faith”.
So why the birds? You know those annoying birds that fly dangerously low flapping as if to make a scene? Well, that’s me. From God’s perspective, I’m that bird that flies dangerously low, weaving through oncoming traffic, acting as if I have to flap harder just to get anywhere. And what’s my fate? I’m inevitably going to land in the chrome grill of a Nissan. So what does God want me to be? He wants me to soar on wings like eagles (Isaiah 40). He wants me to put out my wings and glide, as if to effortlessly navigate the skies, high above any dangers. You ever notice that? Eagles hardly ever flap their wings. Yes, they have to flap their wings to get started, but once they catch that wind current high in the sky, they can glide forever. But they not only glide through the sky, they can actually soar! Without flapping their wings, they can raise their elevation by merely manipulating the wind’s currents. Amazing.
In that same manner, God’s plan for salvation is not to trigger a life of working and doing in order for you to merit your salvation. But it’s for you to receive your salvation as a gift, and to employ it merely by spreading your wings. Open them up. Resist the urge to flap. Yes, you have to flap at times, but learn to glide. And not only glide, learn how to “soar on wings like eagles”. We’re not created to flap, we’re meant to soar. Wings are useful for flapping, but they’re created to be spread wide open. Let the winds of God’s grace take you.
I need to learn how to soar.
(maybe I should scrape myself off this grill first)