The last few of my ‘thoughtful Thursday’ posts were created in advance and well thought out. At least, for the most part. Well, it’s Wednesday night and here I am under the gun. I already chose this verse to share and some great point I had when reading in Ephesians this week for devotional time. But guess what – I have no idea what that point was (note to self – take notes). So here is the start of what one can only assume will be a rambling-on-post about what one can only hope will be a relevant point by the end…
Works. A topic I used to avoid like the plague (but like the plaque, it’s hard to avoid). Mostly because it confused me. Faith without works is dead (aka, non existent), but we can’t ‘get to heaven’ on our works. So how do we find a balance?
Well, apparently while I was tripping all over the verses in James about faith and works, I completely missed a similar discussion in Ephesians. In recent years though, this idea of ‘faith based works’ has become normal for me. But it took a long time before I understood (REALLY understood) what it meant.
Think of it this way. Christ provides a way for us to be saved. Through the Holy Spirits’ prompting, we are given an opportunity to accept that Christ is our perfect provision, our atonement, and has saved us from our sin. This belief by an individual is what provides a pathway between the sacrifice Christ made for us, and for that individual’s personal salvation. Given to us with no expectations of anything in return. A gift! However, if we do not show the world through our life that we have received this gift, it’s like we actually have NOT received it.
Does that make sense? It’s sort of like if you were given a billion dollars and instead of spending it, you dug a hole in the ground and buried it. And went on with your life as if nothing changed. And in some ways, nothing did. But if you spent the money, hopefully in fiscally responsible ways, people around you would know that you came into some money. While all analogies ultimately break down, it’s similar with faith and works. Christ has given us salvation and our faith in the salvation. We must have works, aka – how we live our life and glorify God through our actions, hearts, words, etc, if we are truly saved. Otherwise… we are ‘following’ Christ in appearance only. It’s a heart thing. Praying the sinner’s prayer isn’t ‘legit’ unless you are open and available to God changing you (and sometimes in very painful ways!). This is the idea of justification and sanctification. They always go together. Justification always leads to sanctification (which is as far as we will achieve in this life), and if you are not daily being sanctified (becoming more and more like Christ through His refinement of you), then maybe your justification never really happened.
I’ve also been thinking on verse 9 recently, in light of ‘not boasting’. I doubt many of us go around boasting that we are saved, directly to people’s faces. Many of us are on the opposite end of this. We’d rather not talk to anyone about it lest we feel weird or not cool enough around unbelievers (or CHRISTIANS! I find this the saddest. I have been in situations where I am surrounded by Christians and have felt awkward after expressing my joy in Christ because of the long pause and change of topic immediately following. I digress.). The point here is that maybe we’re not looking in the right spot for this boasting. I know that I have an arrogance in my heart I need to watch out for. Maybe you do too. Probably not unlike the Jews in the time of Christ or Paul – sort of a sense of entitlement and then irritation (or anger and rioting) when those ‘unworthy’ (gentiles) were also allowed to be saved. Do we have a true heart for the unsaved? Or do we look down on them? I’m afraid it’s true for a lot of Christians, but the crazy part is – we are no better than the very people we are looking down on. The ONLY thing we can boast in is Christ! We were the same way – living in sin!
I often consider myself ill-qualified to share the gospel with those who are closest to me, especially who have been closest to me through the majority of my life. Why? Because they have seen my sin, my bad choices, and my black heart, both as a believer and before I was a believer. So why would they listen to me? But I’m starting to realize… I may be the ONLY person they will listen to. And for good reason! Because they have seen the before and the after (Christ indwelling). I pray that my life will be an example that will draw the unbelievers in my life to Christ – because they see in me a change (a hope!) where before there was nothing but fear, anxiety, and anger. Like 1 Peter 3:15 says, always be ready to give an account for the hope that is in you. AKA, share Christ! Show that you love Christ through your actions. In how your prioritize your life and what’s important to you. Share what He has done for you! He is the only reason we can boast.
And that’s probably enough rambling for one night… :)
Does any of this resonate with you? Have you ever struggled with the concept of faith vs works, faith plus works, etc?
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. Ephesians 2:8-9