Grace Works

An international student friend was trying to comprehend a relationship with God based on His love and grace instead of earning His approval through good deeds. Peggy asked her, “When you first arrived from your country and we picked you up at the airport, what if we had told you that we did it only because we were being paid to?” “I still would have appreciated the ride,” our friend replied, “but it wouldn’t have been the same.” Truth is, even believers in Christ wrestle with grace and works at times: we know we cannot earn salvation (so as to obligate God to pay us our due), but that we are freed from the penalty of our sins only in entrusting ourselves entirely to Jesus’ willing sacrifice for us. Yet Jesus himself said, “If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.”1 This may sound as though we must earn God’s love, so how do we reconcile grace and works?

We gain life not by trusting in ourselves, but by entrusting ourselves to Jesus. “A person is not justified by the works of the law,” wrote Paul, “but by faith in Jesus Christ.”2 As we believe, “the Spirit gives birth to [our] spirit.”3 Exclaimed Jesus to the crowd, “Whoever believes in me . . . rivers of living water will flow from within them.”4 “By this,” explained John, “he meant the Spirit . . .”5 For God had foretold through the prophet Ezekiel, “I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”6 Indeed, the Spirit’s presence in our life produces “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”7 The Spirit will never lead us in the ways of the world, but always in the good and right ways of God. We keep God’s commandments of love not to earn our way into His presence, but because He has graciously established His presence in us.

Which brings us to works. Paul wrote that we are “created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do,”8 which is to say our birth in Christ is not the end in itself, rather the beginning of a new, purposeful life. For God’s love is proactive love: He has warm, tender feelings of love, certainly, but God’s love acts and speaks. In Him there is no gap between loving feelings and loving deeds; there is no feeling without doing. “Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds,” argued James.9

What then do we do? Draw close to God, conversing with Him in prayer and receiving from Him through His Word. Listen to the voice of the Spirit, which speaks to our heart. Watch for God working in people around us, and accept His invitation to join Him. Act and speak. For grace works.

Father, thank You for saving me in Your grace. Lead me to the works You have prepared for me, and strengthen me in Your Spirit to do them. Be glorified through this life. In Christ I pray. Amen.

1 John 15:10
2 Galatians 2:16
3 John 3:6
4 John 7:38
5 John 7:40
6 Ezekiel 36:27
7 Galatians 5:22-23
8 Ephesians 2:10
9 James 2:18

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