Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Working for Grace?

       Remember the fundamentalist Mormon cult in Texas which was raided a few years back? One of the things that stuck in my memory is hearing how hard they had to work to meet their cult's demands - sometimes up to 14 and 16 hour days! Local cops would find some of the men driving erratically at night, and pull them over thinking they were drunk, to find out that they were not drunk, just very sleep deprived.
       This is NOT Christianity. This is quite-literally works salvation
       When I was a teenager, I had a similiar works-salvation issue going on with pro-life ministry. I felt so concerned about the dying babies I thought that my friends and I had to save them all, or we would be very bad Christians. I also was taught at that time that my salvation could be lost, and I managed to mix these two ideas in such a crazy way that I thought not "saving" enough babies could affect my eternal destiny! Talk about pressure.
       Salvation is a free gift. It is not something we earn, or keep, through heavy manual labor, or saving enough babies from abortion, or doing enough homeless ministry, or sharing the gospel (what gospel?! if this is your paradigm) with enough people, or any other zealous effort. (If you don't believe me that salvation is a free gift, read the book of Romans and Ephesians in the New Testament. If they can't convince you, then there is nothing I can say that will!)
       One of my favorite hyms is "Rock of Ages".  And I love bluegrass. So this version, posted by my friend Heather on facebook,  http://redemptionhill.com/rock-of-ages/ , is one I can't get enough of! I love this stanza:
"Not the labor of my hands
Can fulfill Thy Laws demands
Would my zeal no respite know,
Would my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone,
Thou must save and Thou alone"
         You may be thinking that those two examples given above are pretty extreme and don't apply to most Christians who have their theology straight. That may be, but I think that many Christians struggle with "works salvation" at a more subtle, but still harmful level. We may not believe that we have to work for our salvation, or to keep our salvation, but what about our sanctification? Do we believe that it is God who makes us holy and produces good works in and through us, or do we think that we need to do this on our own? If we cannot make ourselves holy in the first place, what makes us (and I am including myself here) think that if we exhaust ourselves sharing the gospel enough times, or helping enough needy children, or standing up against enough social injustices, this can somehow make us more pleasing to God? This guilt-laden form of Christianity is bondage, people, that Christ died to set us free from!  Jesus says, "Apart from me you can do nothing......You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that remains" (John 15).
       Fruit that remains is fruit that God produces in us, in His time and in His way. Abide in Christ, and as you do, He will use you to share the gospel or help needy children or do whatever it is He has for you to do, in His strength and when He wants. Remember that if you have trusted in Christ you are "blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ" (Ephesians 1:3), and quit striving but rest in His completed work.
With these things on my mind, I painted this scarf for my etsy shop last night:

This week,  I am giving a 10% discount for any item in my etsy shop. The coupon code is "Grace" , which contrasts with God's grace that is completely free!
Here is the link to my shop:
     (20% of all proceeds from my shop this week with go to help starving children in the horn of Africa eat! The rest is going to a long-term goal Pete and I have.)

Are you striving or abiding?


  1. I do believe we are saved by grace and not works though I also believe we can lose our salvation through continual sinning and falling away from the teachings of God (1 Corin. 10-12 and many other verses).

    I don't feel guilty when I haven't done enough works though God's love in me and the gifts I think He has given me help me to want to do good works. I do feel guilty when I can't overcome certain sins because of the Bible's teachings that He will help us do it. I'm still working on some of it and I pray by God's grace, He will indeed help me to overcome.

  2. Joyful - I used to believe like you, and there are many Christians who do. After years of study, I did change my mind (mostly based on promises of Jesus, especially in John 10, and Paul's explanation of grace Ephesians 1), and for me this has brought me great peace. That being said, a lot of godly Christians agree with you.

    I totally agree that our motive for good works should be love - in fact, a close look at John 15 shows that this is the fruit God wants to produce in us! I feel guilty when I sin too, but the beautiful thing is, and I am sure that you agree, is that God's forgiveness is there to restore our fellowship each and every time we confess our sin, no longer how much we struggle - and we all do! (I Johm 1:9) A passage which brings me great comfort with my struggle with sin is I Thessalonians 5:23-24, "Now may the God of peace Himself make you completely holy and may your spirit and soul and body be kept entirely blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is trustworthy, and He in fact will do this." (NET Bible) He never gives up on us!

  3. I'm abiding in Christ .. but striving to get all the garden food stored away for winter. Humm .. the Lord's harvest ... my garden harvest ... humm .. I hope to rest peacefully in Him each and every day!

  4. Good luck with your harvesting! I just realized I may have sounded like work was bad - hard work glorifies God, and we are commanded to work hard. I just don't think that we should work for our salvation or sanctification, because that is futile - God is the one who produces holiness in us, including the discipline to work hard, as we abide in Him! Ministry is hard work too, and I think that we do have to actually labor in studying God's Word to teach it to others, and to actually share the gospel, and feeding the poor. But it is much less exhausting if we do it in God's power.

  5. Yes, I do agree that when we sin and we confess it no matter how much we struggle, that God is there to forgive us. Praise God for that.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...