Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Outworking of Grace

In the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last. (Romans 1:17) God will give to each person according to what he has done. (Romans 2:6) It is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—  not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8–9) Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. (James 2:17)

It is a hard task for many of us to reconcile the duel realities presented in the Bible: 
  1. We are saved the grace of God, not by anything that we have done or will do; and, 
  2. We will be judged by what we do. 

On Sunday I asked folks if they had ever struggled with how to reconcile the seemingly  different messages found in these passages. The near universal nods indicated that most had. 

So, which is it? Do we need to do good deeds or works in order to be saved? Or, are we saved by Christ’s work alone, regardless of what we have done. The answer really is quite simple. We are saved by what Christ has done, period, end of discussion. And the things we do from a heart transformed by Christ are the evidence that we have appropriated what he has done, the evidence that we are indeed his. 

Let's go back to the basics: What is the goal of Christianity? It is not a trick question. The goal of Christianity is Chris. As we seek after him and get to know him more fully, we long to spend time with him, to do the things that bring us close to him and that reveal his heart in us. Jesus is not a means to an end, he is the means and the end. Jesus is not a ticket to go to heaven that we “accept” and then we hold until we need it for the afterlife. Rather he is the end, heaven is about Jesus our King and our life with him in his Kingdom, hear in the now, and forever when we die. Jesus is the means, he purchased our way into a restored relationship with him and he empowers a life that moves toward the way of his Kingdom, lived in and with him. This way of being, the things we do as citizens of his Kingdom, do not earn our status as citizens, but reveal that we are indeed citizens. 

On Sunday I mentioned the story in 1 Kings where two woman asked King Solomon to decide between them who was the true mother of a child. (Read 1 Kings 3:16–27 if you are not familiar with the story). When King Solomon threatened to take his sword and split the child in half, giving each woman a piece, the reaction of the true mother -- her action -- revealed to him the true relationship. It was not that the woman became the mother by her actions, but rather that her actions revealed that she was indeed the mother all along. It is like that with our works, deeds or behaviors. They do not make us fit for an eternity with Christ, they reveal whether such an eternity is really what we desire -- or, tragically, if we are just going through the motions.  So, what do you do with this? 
  • Do you see evidence in your life that indicate allegiance to God? 
  • Do you allow yourself to be shaped by him? 
  • Do you ever make decisions that but for the reality of Christ would not make sense? 

If the answer to these questions is no, the invitation is a simple one. It is not do do more, but to seek more. The solution is to draw near to Christ, to his ways, to his life in you. If you do not know how to go about that, let me know. We are all on the Journey with Jesus together, it is a journey toward life, and it was meant to be traveled together.

Peace, hope and love,