Hello, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray With Me”.
In Ephesians 2, Paul says, “You are saved by God’s grace through faith, not by anything you do. It’s a gift, not something you worked for” (Eph 2:8-9).
Then Paul says, “[God] created each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the work he has prepared for us to do” (Eph 2:10, Message Bible, paraphrased).
What is Paul saying about faith and works? Is his message, “Right. We got the saved bit out of the way. The next step is to get busy! From now on, it’s the work you do that counts!”
A classic evangelical formula is that we are saved by grace, then we work from a motive of love to express thanks for salvation. I find this a daunting standard, because it requires me to have pure motives. Mine are anything but!
It’s a long time since I was saved. I continue to be thankful, but the euphoria of first love is past. God leads me through darkness as well as light. Sometimes life is ice cream and joy, sometimes it’s sandpaper and discipline. Jesus calls me to an abundant life.He also calls me to to lose my life, to carry a cross. If you put a meter on how thankful and how motivated I am each day, that’s not a reliable indicator of anything!
Another problem with my motives is that they are not always clear. Proverbs asks, “Who can say, ‘I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin’” (20:9). When I work for God, is my motive thankfulness? Is it half-hearted duty? Am I trying to manipulate God into answering my prayers? Proverbs’ says to me, Unanswerable question. Who can understand their motives?
Paul says, “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph 2:10). I have a lingering sense that I’ll never get it all done. As Calvin, of Calvin and Hobbes, puts it, “God put me on this earth to accomplish a certain number of things. Right now I am so far behind I will never die” (Bill Watterson).
I need to discern which good works God has prepared for me to do, and which should be done by others. It’s not always easy to tell! Like Calvin, I’ll never catch up, so I choose instead to live into my uncertainty. To make choices about what to do. I hope that God who saved me by grace will also view the work I do, and the work I don’t do, with grace.
My motives are obscure, even to myself. But God works in that obscurity to purify my motives and set me in the right direction. Hebrews tells us that God’s word is a two-edged sword, piercing to divide joints and marrow, soul and spirit; it exposes the thoughts and motives of the heart (Heb 4:12).
Our father, as Paul said to those who are saved by grace, Work out your salvation with fear and trembling for it is God who works in you (Phil 2:12). When we were experiencing the joy of first love, we had no idea how much our motives needed sorting and cleansing and healing.
We thought we were working for you, but we were working for ourselves! We were trying to build your kingdom, but we were building our own. We thought our work was transforming us into your image, but we discovered our goal was to transform you into our image.
O father, sort out our confused lives. Unmix the motives. Discard the rubbish. Strengthen what comes from faith, until all our work is in your vineyard, and none in our own.
I’m Daniel, on the channel “Pray with Me”.
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