What we’ve learned is this: God does not respond to what we do; we respond to what God does. We’ve finally figured it out. Our lives get in step with God and all others by letting him set the pace, not by proudly or anxiously trying to run the parade.
Romans 3: 27b-28 The Message
We live in a world which puts a strong emphasis on “doing”. This thinking even penetrates our religious life, so that the phrase “Protestant work ethic” is synonymous with “strong work ethic” for many people. Doing good things is not wrong. In fact, it is essential in our Christian walk. The Ten Commandments instruct us on what we should and should not do. The great command to love God with all of one’s heart, soul, mind, and strength is the ultimate guideline as what and how we should behave. Jesus even talked about this as the first and greatest commandment.
Yet there are several downsides to focusing so much on what we do for God, and for others. The Apostle Paul wanted to correct the thinking of some in the church in Rome. A few people in that congregation, especially those who came from Jewish backgrounds, believed that God only saved them because of their good works. While God loves our efforts, they are not a precondition for the Lord to save us. If salvation worked that way, we could save ourselves.
Instead, Paul introduces a new way of thinking about life to the Romans: God does not respond to what we do. No, just the opposite. We are to respond to what God does for us. What the Apostle Paul wants his Roman congregation to realize is the amazing gift and power of God’s grace and love. Even before we were born, Christ was born for us, lived and ministered, was crucified, died, and was buried, and rose again on the third day. We all are sinners, but our salvation has already been “earned” by the ultimate sacrifice of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ!
Whatever we do, good works or good deeds, we need to understand that we are doing such things as a response to what Jesus has already done for us. It is also essential that when following Christ’s direction, we do not focus more on the outcome than the process. In other words, the end doesn't justify the means. The Lord does not take joy solely in the end result. He also takes joy in the process. Out of great love for us, even though we did not deserve it, Jesus did all the hard work for us! That is grace. Another name for it might be forgiveness. Whatever you call Christ’s sacrificial gift, behind it all is unconditional love.
As you go about your day today, relax, enjoy and celebrate what God has already done for you. The gift of Jesus IS the gift of salvation. You do not have to earn it: it is a gift, freely given by God to you. The only thing left for you to do is to decide how you are going to respond to this incredible, amazing gift. As one theologian put it, “Jesus is God’s gift to us; how we decide to respond to Christ is our gift to God.”
Have a blessed, grace-filled day!
Heavenly Father, I thank You and praise You, for the free gift of salvation You offer me. Please forgive me when I overlook the process of walking with You in order to get to Your goal. Quiet my heart. Allow me to realize that You have the perfect plan, and not me. May my actions show others that You are in charge of all things.
With a thankful heart, I pray this prayer in the name of Your son, my Savior Jesus Christ, Amen