fruitage of the spirit's journal

Expressions from the Heart

Boasting in God’s handiwork

Boasting in God’s handiwork by Julie McAllen

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. (Eph 2:8-9)

Notice that our salvation is by grace. In other words, there is no work to be performed. As it says, it is the gift of God. And it is past tense, not “God will save me if…” but rather “you have been saved.” Why did God choose to do it this way as a free gift? The reason given is that we don’t have any cause to boast. You know, like “well God chose me because I shovel snow off that elderly woman’s porch every winter” or… “I don’t smoke, drink or cuss, that’s why God loves me.” We come up with all kinds of them. It’s all very self-directed when you think about it. Glory to self, not glory to God.

Without grace, we might have reason to boast.

1 What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, discovered in this matter? 2 If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. 3 What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” (Ro 4:1-3)

God gets the glory even in the fact that someone announces they’re saved. “I am saved.” No boasting there, only in the fact that God gave it as a free gift.

Who gets upset? The people who are working hard to gain it! Isn’t that the nature of us all? Don’t we get a little jealous when someone receives for FREE what we’re working hard for?

That’s the drama of Ishmael who persecuted Isaac. It still happens today. An approach to God is either one way or the other. A person severely retards their growth in the Spirit by clinging to a religion that encourages salvation through works. God’s word clearly tells us they are at odds and one must get out of the way.

28 Now you, brothers and sisters, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29 At that time the son born according to the flesh persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit. It is the same now. 30 But what does Scripture say? “Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman’s son.” (Gal 4:28-30)

So, if saved by grace, we are as Isaac was, a child of the promise born of the Spirit. We ought to expect some persecution from those who practice religion according to their flesh by following rules for their salvation. They can boast about their works, we can boast in the cross and the grace given us there. How can the two be yoked together? When a religion puts a yoke on it’s people to all do the same thing in order to gain salvation, it shuts out the voice of the Spirit in their lives. And Paul advised the Galatians to “drive out the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman’s son.”

We have an inheritance. It’s not going to be realized however if we cling to a mindset of works. We are God’s handiwork, not our own. Are there works at all? Indeed. But no work is performed in order to receive God’s grace, as noted it was ALREADY poured out on us. So Ephesians 2:8-9 follows with verse 10….

10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do

Once saved, we become a “new creation” (2 Cor 5:17) and now can rightly be called “God’s handiwork” as He molds us into the people He originally intended us to be for His glory. When He knitted us together in our mother’s wombs, He had in mind the work He wanted us to do. Would he knit someone together with a gift of music and then expect them to build houses for salvation? No, He SAVES them so they can now sing songs for Him! It glorifies God and makes us happy when we use the gift that comes most natural to us. God PREPARED each of us with something unique. He gave it to us in advance, before He even called us to salvation.

We are a delightful new creation of His, not worms groveling at the throne of the Almighty. So give Him glory by boasting in His handiwork! Accepting the gifts He bestows is not self-directed glory when you recognize them as received by grace. So go ahead, display your beauty, the boast belongs to God.

For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not? (1 Co 4:7)

Keep yourself in God’s love,
Julie

July 31, 2011 Posted by | According to Scripture, Expressions | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Live by law, I dare ya!

 Live by law, I dare ya! by Julie McAllen

Has not Moses given you the law? Yet not one of you keeps the law. Why are you trying to kill me? (John 7:19)

Jesus addressed a group of Jews familiar with the Old Law covenant. They were religious people, but not perfect. As Jesus said, “not one of you keeps the law.” Do you know any religious people like this today? Don’t start pointing fingers, three of them will be aimed back at you. For the law was given that it might prove what sin is, and we are all sinners. But not everyone reacts the same to the exposure of their sin. In this case, Jesus had to ask, “why are you trying to kill me?”

You might think it’s only hardcore atheists determined not to open a Bible who are trying to kill Jesus, but like the group being addressed in the above passage, religious people today do a pretty good job of it also. I know, I was one of them.

When salvation is based upon performance, a person may be completely immersed in religious activity and even possess an above average knowledge of scripture and yet feel separated from God. Separated from God? Isn’t that what sin is? This is what’s so confusing for religious people “in good standing.”

I was very proud of being in “good standing,” but felt the separation. I would remind God in my anger “didn’t you see me do all those things? How good do I have to be!!?” I was working, but upset that I could not sense His approval of me. A salvation based on my works was not only wearing me out, it was embittering me toward God. And as I was trying to live up to law, I was trampling on the grace He had poured out. I was “killing Jesus” in favor or my own path to righteousness. I could not see at the time how the sin of PRIDE led me to be a religious person. Had I heard of grace? Yes, but I chose law. And I believe God knew what He was doing when He allowed that to run its course.

17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’”

20 “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”

21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.

Mark 10:17-22 describes Jesus’ approach to a rich man who, like me, believed that he had to “do” something to earn God’s favor. Jesus’ response to his question of: “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (verse 17) is perceptive. He did not give him the simple Gospel of grace, but rather, challenged him with obedience to God’s commandments (verse 19). The pride of this man was seen in his response to Jesus when he said: “Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up.” (verse 20) Was this statement true? Of course not! Scripture explains that: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8) This man’s pride had deceived him into thinking he was righteous enough for eternal life. He was not ready for the Gospel of grace. So, Jesus broke him with the law by saying:

” ‘One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess, and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.’ But at these words his face fell, and he went away grieved, for he was one who owned much property.” —Mark 10:21-22

Jesus put His finger on the rich man’s pride by emphasizing the essence of the law — that of loving God and others by denying self and surrendering all to God. The rich man’s “face fell, and he went away grieved” because he wasn’t ready to give up his pride in his accomplishments and possessions. I find it interesting that in this passage Jesus does not emphasize grace to this man. He gives him more from the law in order to grieve him. I too went away grieved when I heard only more law from the Word. In the same way that Jesus broke the rich man with the law, my religious pride was broken by the impossible notion that I was capable of living up to the standards imposed by my religion. Only by being challenged by law was I humbled into hearing the true Gospel of grace.

What must you do to inherit everlasting life? C’mon, you know. Is it to sell all you have and give to the poor? Jesus knew the hairs on this young man’s head, that’s why he told him to do that. He knows you too. You know what it is. How hard do you have to work? How perfect do you have to be?

Tired yet?

I was. The more I tried to gain life through my own ability to keep the law, the more tired I got. I kept asking “what must I do?” in my heart. I couldn’t hear grace — only more law. Isn’t this what the young man heard too? He went away grieved. I did too. And it was good for me. I was humbled to the point of hearing another way. One day I noticed Jesus did it all and there was nothing I could add to it. There was nothing I could “do.” That left me helpless. I realize now that God allowed me to live a life under law to show me I was in fact “the worst sinner.” God led me to repent of my pride in being a religious person like this young man who had the audacity to say he kept all the commandments from his youth on. What human could ever do this? Only one man I know was perfect. His name is Jesus Christ and he is my righteousness now. I am a sinner, but he paid my debt. I couldn’t do it, could you? Are you still trying to?

If you live a basically good life but still feel separated from God, let me ask you this: Have you ever thought to repent of your “good works?” Maybe you’re like I was asking “what did I do wrong?” because you got tricked into thinking “sin” just meant the bad things we do. Have you repented of your pride? Do you know you will NEVER be good enough? NEVER!! To think we as humans could somehow obtain perfection through our own efforts is a denial of Christ. We “kill Jesus” rather than accept the life he gave us.
And if the idea of one man dying for your sins is ridiculous and unnecessary, then go ahead, live by the law. I wish you luck.

For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (John 1:17)

Keep yourself in God’s love, Julie

July 1, 2011 Posted by | According to Scripture, Expressions | , , , , , | Comments Off on Live by law, I dare ya!

   

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