I’ve been enjoying reading in the New Testament book Ephesians over the past week. This is such an amazing gift to us to understand God’s totally one-sided, grace-filled work to save broken and messed-up people like you and me and build something beautiful, powerful, global and awesome out of our combined lives.
What is startlingly clear in the opening chapter and a half is that God works for our salvation on his own without our help. Repeated over and again are statements about the plan to save us that is according to God’s will, love, mercy, grace, purposes, plan, power, and Spirit. To be clear– we find God, but God saves us. What’s more He doesn’t chose to save us because we’re amazing, but because He is.
Our reality is defined for us:
“You were dead in your sins”
This is the harsh reality stated for us in Ephesians 2:1. The hope of religion– that we can do the right things and therefore be accepted by God is a hoax. The good news about Jesus is that God forgives sinners and brings spiritually dead people to life. He does not do this because we’re good, but because He is.
What God graciously gives us is so much better than good advice; you don’t give advice to someone who is dead. God didn’t give us rules to follow since we are spiritually dead. Instead, He gave us spiritual life.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— (Ephesians 2:4-5 ESV)
In case it wasn’t already clear, Paul (the human author of Ephesians) continues to drive home the point:
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 ESV)
Our salvation is a gift from God. Period. We don’t earn it. We don’t win it. We also don’t fail too big and lose it. It’s a gift. The best that can be said of us when it comes to the part we play in the gift is that we accept it. That’s faith. We see the gift and trust Jesus to save us. We trust His righteousness instead of our own. That is the most freeing realization I have ever had and that I re-have in my life.
This leads to the verse pictured at the top about the works we do. This is critical to catch: only after you accept that your salvation is a gift from God can you follow Jesus. If you’re trying to prove yourself to God by your good deeds you’re trying to be the savior instead of following the Savior.
Once we receive salvation as a gift, we’re invited to follow Jesus into a life of good works that God has lovingly prepared for us to “walk in.” How fun is that? It’s like God says, “now that you know you have nothing to prove and nothing you can loose, follow me in doing good.”
Do you live with anticipation that God is inviting you into good works which He has already prepared for you? If you believe the truth of this amazing passage of scripture, then following Jesus might just be as easy as “listen and do.” So, what has God been telling you lately? And what are you going to do about it?