Ephesians 2:8-10 (The Message)
8 Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It's God's gift from start to finish! 9 We don't play the major role. If we did, we'd probably go around bragging that we'd done the whole thing! 10 No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.
Someone said that “a trace of grace works better than a pile of guilt.” Paul says that we need to trust enough to allow God’s gift of grace to work in our lives. Unfortunately, we often live out of what Christian counselors call an “anxiety based faith.” An anxiety based faith is caused by a culture and society where people claim to be Christian and say they know of God’s expansive love but spend most of their lives trying to prove their self-worth.
We have a deep seated fear of failure, measuring up, and fitting in. This fear drives us to find peace through achieving, winning, accumulating, and knowing rather than trusting in God’s love. Self-worth tied to the prevailing culture causes guilt, shame, stress, low-self-esteem, and poor health. These are just a few of the destructive results of our secular version of salvation by works.
I think it was Leonard Sweet who suggested that we stop trying to experience God’s grace through attainment and start trying attunement. It’s the difference between being a do-gooder (doing good) and a good-doer (good doing). It’s the difference between achieving a state of grace by good and becoming good by grace. It is only because of grace that we can become good and it is only out of grace that we can do good. I like how Frederick Buechner puts it in his book, Wishful Thinking. He writes:
Grace is something you can never get but only be given. The grace of God means something like: Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are because the party wouldn’t have been complete without you. Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid. I am with you. Nothing can ever separate us. It’s for you. I created the universes. I love you. There’s only one catch. Like any other gift, the gift of grace can be yours only if you reach out and take it. Maybe being able to reach out and take it is a gift too.
Think about it.
Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC (New York, NY: Harper & Row, 1973), 33-34.