I had the opportunity to revisit my favorite passage of Scripture with a friend this week. I love it when God helps me to strip away all the extra “stuff” in life that seems to confuse and bog me down, as He holds me at a certain place in order for me to calm down and remember what’s most important. Here is the passage:
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. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10, ESV)
It’s all about grace. God’s amazing grace.
It is by grace…nothing other than grace that we are saved. By His grace, we are set free from the bondage of sin. Sin does so much damage. We commit sin, hurt others, and then experience the horrid guilt and eventual shame that comes with it. Other people in our lives commit sins that hurt us, leading to disappointment, broken relationships, and…again…more shame. It is by His grace that sin and all the issues it causes for us are resolved. Our relationship with Him and others thrives on grace alone. Gifts of grace, such as forgiveness, repentance, and love allow the opportunity for the hurt, guilt, and shame to be washed away.
We get to experience His grace when we trust Him.
His awesome grace is always there. He woos us into it by his expressions of love…the biggest having been Christ coming to earth, living on earth, dying, and then being resurrected. But to experience His grace, we must trust Him. Without trust, we fail to engage the relationship He has created with us through Christ. He doesn’t move or go anywhere, but it feels like we are miles away from Him when we aren’t trusting Him. Humility, true humility, is trusting Him and others around us with who we really are. If we allow our shame to cause us to hold back anything, we begin hiding from Him…just like Adam and Eve did in the garden.
Our hard work and striving does not result in us having changed hearts.
It is tempting for us to get into the pattern of trying to earn our way into a deeper relationship with God. We might think, “I really messed up and that is why I am stuck right now. God is waiting for me to get some things right in my life before He is okay with me.” Nothing could be farther from the truth. It saddens Him when we take control of our lives and attempt to earn our way back to Him. He knows we will wind up frustrated, anxious, and perhaps even feeling hopeless. That’s not how relationship works with Him, or anyone. Genuine relationship is about trust, not striving to follow rules to impress someone. We cannot fix not one sin or even the effects of that sin in our lives. When we trust Him, we essentially say, “God, I know I cannot handle this. I need you and the unconditional love you have for me to cover, heal, and resolve this. I need you to remind me that what sin and shame tells me is a lie. There is not something inherently wrong with me, although I may feel that way. I am in Christ, and He is in me. I am what I am because of you. I am loved, accepted, significant, and secure in your grace and love.” By His grace, NOT our works, we are set free to live out of who He created us to be. Grace through faith changes, restores, and matures us.
Living by grace through faith leads us into what God has destined for us.
As we trust Him and experience His grace in our lives and relationships with others, we begin to follow the path of good works He has planned for us. These good works are our destiny. It’s what God wanted for us all along! We get to discover and do the very things that fit who He created us to be. We do not conjure up these acts ourselves. He surprises us along the way, one step of faith at a time, with gifts/opportunities to act out of who we are in Christ. These gifts may include an opportunity to listen, help, serve, give, teach, encourage, or offer other acts of love. We can actually enjoy those things, instead of just striving to make a way for ourselves, doing day-to-day things that never satisfy us. By His grace, while we continually mature in loving and trusting others with ourselves, we get to embrace and experience more and more the acts of love God offers to us through others.
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