I’ve been human long enough to notice that if there’s one characteristic we have that usually creeps in unnoticed, that would be
Nothing’s wrong with the word, really. In a competitive society you’ve always been encouraged to strive, compete, excel, and work, else you’d fall behind the billions who’ve been trying to make through life longer than you’ve been. And that’s true. You don’t sit around waiting for the fish to flip from the water and land on your lap. That does not happen in real life (unless you’re going boating on a river teeming with ADHD fish waiting to be fired up).
Many too often we find ourselves forgetting the essence of the good news we have received about God’s kingdom (we are saved by grace). Even Paul was perplexed with the Galatians who seemed to have forgotten how they were saved, going back to the law to “add justification” through works – and it had only been less than a century since Jesus Christ’s ascension! It’s human nature, isn’t it?
No matter the situation, we are constantly driven by our proud nature to do something about something, make it work, etc. We take things into our own hands. Perhaps you get back at that guy who cut in line. Maybe you do the whole job yourself when your team doesn’t do anything. Maybe you jump on a job offer without waiting for consultation because it might be too late because it’s a crazy world out there. Or, maybe, when you get (or don’t get) caught in sin, you try to patch things up yourself.
But of course, you won’t admit it. You most likely won’t even notice it.
My head says I was saved by grace – by the blood of Jesus Christ shed on the cross – but after deep thought I realized I don’t really practice what I say I knew. When I do a good deed, I feel more saved than I’ve been before. I feel closer to heaven the more I engage in service than when I haven’t. When I fail in the good deeds department or fall into sin, I don’t feel forgiven until I’ve done a greater good – more time in service, extended Bible studies, etc. And when the guilt makes it harder to believe God would not get tired of my apologies, I drift into a stagnant phase – not doing anything about it at all. Have you ever felt the same way?
Self-dependent reader, do not mistake joy in bearing fruits with salvation.
Peter, who was so sure he loved Jesus there was no way he’d deny Him, denied Jesus three times just as predicted! After Christ’s death, he went back to fishing, disheartened and discouraged at his denial and of the death of his Lord. This is normal; you’d probably run into this point a few times in your life. And that is fine. Just because you’re a Christian does not mean you would no longer disappoint God. This is no excuse to cling on to sin, however. In fact, this truth should motor us towards Jesus – in humility. For what are we but believers in our earth suits?
After Christ’s resurrection, He went to the disciples who were fishing all night and when John told Peter, “It is the Lord!” Peter wrapped his outer garment around him and jumped (threw himself) into the water. (John 21:7)
Imagine having denied your Lord and Friend three times after you swore you wouldn’t and He shows up in front of you, smiling – resurrected. Every time I read this portion of the passage I start tearing up, thinking how Peter must’ve felt when his Lord comes back after he denies their relationship. How he must have been so excited to fall to Christ’s feet. How he must have felt a little miserable inside, wondering what could happen next.
Peter was a leader, having leader-tendencies – leading, initiating, working with his hands, etc. But there really are things you could not do on your own. Peter’s own grace (or efforts) could not vindicate himself. Neither do yours.
You are not Christ. You could follow the thousands of religious rituals known to mankind and still be lost. Just because you feel better after doing something good does not mean you are forgiven through it. Grace is not earned. Why act like it is? Again, it goes unnoticed most of the time. After all, are not good deeds, well, good?
“Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?” Galatians 3:3
“Does God give you His Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?” Galatians 3:5
This strikes me hard and deep because my subconscious gets confused sometimes. Of course I knew good deeds are and should only be consequences of my faith and that’s what I tell people when I share the gospel. But the selfish in me still thinks there’s no such thing as free lunch; hence, it gets a little restless when not driven by effort.
“You mean, we can’t work for grace and mercy? Isn’t it too much to receive? What do we do?”
Isn’t that why we call it grace and mercy? Because no matter how much we try, our efforts could not afford the value of His Grace.But the good thing is this: the God we serve – the Great I AM – is good. He is full of grace and mercy – generous to those who seek His face.
Good deeds, fruits, are good, yes. But remember, independent reader, that they do not cause our righteousness. They are merely responses to it. The quantity of works does not add up to nor take away God’s love or your righteousness. One does not bear fruits apart from Christ.
It is a difficult battle with your sinful nature. It is tempting to think you had a share in this blessed life. It is tempting to think you are favored because you did good or because you spent more time serving or reading the Bible. But remember, independent reader, that there is nothing much better than depending on the Lord. His favors are at His disposal. His gift of salvation is not earned, and our efforts – big or small – could not discount its greatness.
Look to Him, my friend. Yes, look at Jesus. You are only a branch living off the living vine. You are not Christ.
Written By: Katherine CodasAine. Hand grasped by the Great I AM, she basks in love and mercy, and grace over grace.
On the trivial side, Aine has a recent weird attachment to green tea, and grainy films. Currently a freelance editor, she also writes regularly at Muted Rhapsodies.