Hopefully this blog will reach some that have been confused about works vs. grace, because I was sitting in confusion for much too long. And its time to rest in grace.
^God says that. What does "sufficient" mean?
Well, I can tell you what it doesn’t mean: inadequate, unreal.
I have been living my life with a perfectionist attitude. And to my biggest joy, God has spent the last month intensely teaching me what it means to live in his grace. Has anyone else read the Ephesians 2:8-9 verse and not fully believed it? Hopefully I am the only one, but I’m writing this because I don’t think I am."It is by grace you have been saved, through faith...and this not from yourselves. It is a gift from God. Not by works, so that no one can boast."
If we dismiss this verse, we basically tell Jesus that His sacrifice was not enough (when He said that it was). That’s the best way I can phrase it. Who are we to think that our deeds can somehow outweigh His ultimate sacrifice? Do we trust this verse for what it says?
Maybe like me, you want to trust this verse but as you head towards accepting full grace, you hit road blocks. After all, there are also many verses that talk about deeds.
I’ve been reading and rereading Luke 10, which says that men will not be disciples unless they hate the world and everyone in it and take up their cross. I’ve been stuck on the verse about sheep hearing His voice, and another about knowing sheep by how they love others.
When I read, my mind wanders and I think of all kinds of lies:
I have to hate the world/others to earn discipleship.
I have to hear His voice (perfectly) to be a sheep.
And if I don’t love others perfectly, God will not claim me.
Another part of my brain screamed grace, but there was always a constant voice telling me that I was not DOING enough. That I was not his disciple, not His sheep, and not His kid in general.
When you have that voice speaking those things to you, really nothing and no one can change your mind. Many told me that those things were lies, but I could not let them go. I saw those verses in scripture, and as much as I felt trapped, obligated, striving, and hopeless, I held true to the only explanation I could come up with:
I was not enough.
Mind you, these performance thoughts weren’t told to others. I KNEW His grace was enough for other people (and I told them so), but I still had an inner conflict that was costing me way too much of my security and confidence in the Lord.
A few things happened this month that rocked my world.
For one, I went to a prayer meeting where they identified my performance-based perfectionism (which I was completely unaware of before). When I got home, I spoke all of the lies that I had been suppressing while my two friends spoke the truth. (Power of genuine, vulnerable community right there!)
I said, “I’m not His daughter because I keep mishearing Him.”
They said that salvation is not based on works.
I brought up the verse that says His sheep hear Him (furthering my weak argument that it had to be about works.) I hoped with all of my heart that they could show me I was wrong. Life didn’t make sense if salvation depended on works. If life were about confessing a certain amount of times, doing things perfectly, going to a place, seeing a person, sacrificing everything, etc to EARN God’s love…we would forever be doing works for ourselves and for our salvation. Thats dangerous.That’s what happens in other religions: work-based salvation. You DO, and then you GET.
My friends sat with me with the most intensity (and care) on their faces. I now see that they were just as determined as I was -if not more determined - to squash these performance-based lies. I sat on my chair in my room with tears pouring down my face. I felt so weak. I knew nothing about nothing. I heard so many different voices telling me different things and I was tired of it. One by one, they addressed my doubts. They addressed my fear of not hearing well enough by going to the verse and praying. Earlier, I had done the same thing with another lovely lady concerning my fear of having committed the unforgivable sin. Now, I read the passage about sacrificing it all to be a disciple and I can pray and declare truth myself (Praise Him)!
With all of these examples, (after much research and heartache), I realized:
I had gotten the order wrong. It sounds simple, but its very important.
I thought that to be a sheep, one must hear Him, serve others, hate the world (by the way, God often uses “hate” as a comparative word… so in that verse, He demanded hating anything/anyone IN COMPARISON to God).
Now I realized that by declaring Jesus my savior, believing that He (and not my works) saves me completely, and loving Him….. many of those works I had been stressing about come with being His kid. There may be times that God will ask me to act/ do something…but the reason I do it is not to earn salvation. Its because I already have His salvation and I trust His judgment.
In regards to getting salvation and doing good works:
You DO, then you GET (NO)
You GET, then you DO (YES)
And there’s no “enough” involved. There may be something inside of you tempted to ask “Am I believing enough? Loving enough?” Do not worry about anything. There’s a big chance you would not be asking if you did not believe. Also, God can help. He is not trying to trap you. He wants to free you from all traps. Ask Him to give you more faith and love-- I've always seen those things as gifts anyways.
So, in conclusion, doing good things isn’t a bad idea. But its not saving you. Jesus is :) Jesus changes everything and makes it pretty darn desirable to follow His lead. Now I know that striving to be perfect does not result in salvation…but for me, having salvation resulted in striving to be the most like Him that I can be. (not in a perfectionist way of earning, but in a receiving, joyful posture).
I am His child, fully loved. My identity in Him is secure and so is my salvation. I don’t have it all figured out…but that’s ok!! For now, I can rest in the fact that salvation is really “not from (myself), it is a gift from God. Not by works so that no one can boast.”
YOU ARE ENOUGH. LIVE AS HIS SON/ DAUGHTER. YOU ARE NOT JUST HIS SERVANT- YOU ARE HIS BRIDE, HIS LOVE. HE CLAIMS YOU. WE DON'T HAVE TO WORK FOR IT; JUST TRUST AND ACCEPT. I'm glad that He has taught me how to fully belive this. REST.