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)

These few short verses have long been a favorite passage for me. They sum up my core beliefs, passion, and perspective. God, our Heavenly Father, freely offers His Grace to us in order to have the relationship with us that He desires. There is no other way for this relationship to occur and to be experienced. Our self-effort, striving to sin less and/or do good things, always falls short. We are incapable of controlling sin and all of the negative effects of it in our lives. Therefore, we need a Savior, Jesus Christ, to rely upon to handle this problem and make a way for us to continually connect with an awesome Father who can handle all the things what we cannot manage ourselves. We embrace and experience that relationship with Him when we trust Him.

As followers of Christ, His love for us is unconditional. We can neither increase nor decrease the love and acceptance He has for us with our behavioral performance. He is fully pleased with us in Christ, who perfectly trusted the love of His (our) Father. As Believers, we are now identified as “Christ in Us”. In other words, when God looks at us, He sees Christ instead of the failures we often see in ourselves.

When we get caught up in being focused on trying to manage sin and behaviors, we fail to trust Him to handle those things in and through us. Sin- and behavior-management becomes all self-effort, which leads to failure and frustration. On that path, we fail to experience the love and all that comes with the blessing of the relationship we have with Him...and each other. However, despite our failures, He never lets go of us. He never quits showering us with His love and grace. He is determined to woo us into more intimacy with Him, no matter what we do.

God has created each one of us. We are uniquely and wonderfully made. He has prepared a destiny for us…good works for us to enjoy. We don't HAVE to do them...we WANT to do them! These good works are never carried out because we strive to do them in some valiant effort to please Him. He is already pleased with us in Christ! These good works are not things we condition ourselves to “do for Him”. Instead, these good works are natural outflows of who we are now as His children. When we learn to trust the new identity that He has given us in Christ, we are able to receive and experience the love He has for us. Then we can do the thing we now desire to do. It is the ultimate good work and expression of who we are now. It is the act of loving each other.

-Neil

Be still and know that I am God…” (Psalm 46:10, ESV)

This is one of my favorite verses of scripture and it describes the foundation of my beliefs. The depth of its meaning has continued to grow more and more for me. The Message version says it like this, “Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God, above politics, above everything.”

God wants a relationship with us. He wants us to know the real Him. This is foundational to living in the freedom of God’s grace. Our view of Him can become altered through various ways. We start to see God and others through the lens of our shame and guilt. We start to see God only as what others have told us.

Bondage and performance are the byproducts of these false beliefs. We see God as scary and never satisfied. We see ourselves as failures and unworthy. We not only think we have to perform to earn God’s love, we think we have to perform to earn love from others. We think we have to fake our way through life and we think we must control our sin.

Through all of this, God continues to love on us and cover us with his grace as he pursues a relationship with us. He wants us to see Him “outside of the traffic”. He wants us to see Him for who He really is, a loving Father that wants a relationship with us. As we begin to trust God for who He truly is, we can accept the love He has for us. This leads to love flowing out of us because we now can believe what He says about us as believers is true.

-Melissa