So in my last post The Simplicity of Salvation, I asked the following question: Do we have to do anything once we decide to accept Jesus’ free gift of salvation?
After all, if it’s a free gift, then we shouldn’t really have to do anything to get it or to pay for it, right? If we do, then it’s not really free. You can see the truth of that, as far as it goes.
But it doesn’t go far enough.
The reality is that once I accepted the free gift of salvation, it unleashed something powerful in me. When God’s Holy Spirit comes upon a person who has been saved by God’s grace, that person is unable to hold back some kind of response to that wonderful saving act. Whole lives are changed, and people find that they have a deep need to respond. Those responses are as different as the people that make up this world, and as exciting.
Now don’t get me wrong. The world does all it can to suck the desire to respond out of our hearts. The world tells us that what we want to do for God can’t possibly be done. The world convinces us that salvation wasn’t really such a great and special thing. If we let it change our lives and hearts, we will be freaks and people will think we’re crazy. So a lot of people seem on the outside like nothing much has changed, and may even feel that way on the inside too. I have felt that way lots of times, like what my heart desires to do is impossible and can’t be done. I’ve felt like I should just act like a normal person and keep this whole faith thing to myself.
It shows how much influence Satan, the father of lies and the world’s keeper, has on believers that so many of them put their faith into a little box and convince themselves that it needs to stay there. That’s exactly what he wants to see happen.
But that’s not the way it’s supposed to be. The natural response to salvation is to praise God and to serve Him, to let his grace permeate every inch of our minds and hearts until we are a new creation in Christ. It is by just this method that God uses His people to do His work in the world, and He chooses not to do it without us. We really are important to His plans and His work, which is exciting!
So when James says that faith without works is dead, it doesn’t mean we are required to do something to earn our way into Heaven. It simply means that if one’s life doesn’t show any response to God, is there really a relationship there? And that’s something I can’t look at you and determine. I can only determine it for myself and my own life.
Am I where I want to be yet? No. I Probably never will be. I can only set as my goal–no, as my heart’s desire–to take one more step closer to God today. To find one more way to show Him how grateful I am for what Jesus did for me. To walk away from the wrong choice this time after I was unable to walk away so many other times.
The ultimate answer to the question is to stop thinking of it in terms of what we must do and start realizing what Jesus’ sacrifice enables us to do. We have so many opportunities to extend love and grace to others. Let us remember that as we celebrate Holy Week and Easter, the ultimate expressions of God’s love and grace.