Grace and work
At the end of my last study, I mentioned we have to work at loving others sacrificially like Jesus. A friend of mine added this: the work consists of learning to surrender and submit to it so the Lord can work it into our hearts (Rom. 5:5). When I asked him about submitting to “it,” he said our main work is prayerful submission so God can do the work in and through us. It’s true that prayerful submission to the Holy Spirit is the main work of a Christian, but laying our lives down for others won’t happen without effort, and sometimes blood, sweat and tears.
Ephesians 2:8 tells us we are saved by grace through faith. And as the song says, grace is pretty amazing, because among other things, it means we don’t have to do anything to be saved. But holy living, sacrificial love, living in peace with people and becoming like Christ don’t happen by osmosis. When it comes to the work of a Christian, three verses come immediately to mind: “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working ” (John 5:17); “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed-not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence-continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12, NIV) or “cultivate it, bring it to full effect, actively pursue spiritual maturity” (AMP); “Work (strive, pursue, follow) at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life” (Hebrews 12:14, NLT).
Dallas Willard said spiritual formation and transformation are like learning a language – we won’t become fluent without the hard work of practice, practice, practice. I have found this to be true in my life, as I’m still learning and yes, still struggling. In his book The Great Omission: Reclaiming Jesus’s Essential Teachings on Discipleship, he had this to say about grace: “Grace is not opposed to effort, it is opposed to earning. Earning is an attitude. Effort is an action. Grace, you know, does not just have to do with forgiveness of sins alone.”
Understanding the difference – that earning is an attitude and effort is an action – will keep us from becoming legalistic about the work of being a Christian. Praying, submitting, surrendering, keeping our focus on Jesus, choosing our thoughts and our words carefully, clothing ourselves with Christ and giving our lives away to others – this takes energy, effort and real work. Rather than earning points with God, this kind of work is the result of being loved, energized and motivated by having already attained salvation and eternal life through the grace of our loving Savior.
Study by Tammy Tkach
First published on 7 February 2023, at www.gemsofgodsgrace.wordpress.com
About the writer:
Tammy Tkach is the Assistant Pastor of the Eugene, Oregon, USA congregation. She is a speaker and writer, and publishes a blog at www.gemsofgodsgrace.wordpress.com
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