Exciting phrases, easy acronyms, and memorable lists formed from dense works of systematic theology can be helpful for the everyday Christian. While these reductions of God’s Word and His nature help us understand general frameworks, they are unable to help us understand everything the Bible teaches. It is one thing...
I was a young missionary and a young mom. My husband and I had just crossed the Pacific Ocean and arrived on the field with our six-month-old baby girl. I started hosting women’s Bible study right away, but I didn’t have the bandwidth yet to teach my own material, so we watched a recorded lesson on DVD.
The Bible teacher on the screen looked at us viewers and asked, “How do you know God is pleased with you?”
Immediately I began to justify myself and mentally list all the ways I was trying hard to please the Lord. We were missionaries after all. We had left teary-eyed grandparents back in Colorado and moved across the globe with our firstborn. We had taken a leap of faith and were giving it our all.
Because I’m trying so very hard, I thought to myself. That’s how I know God is pleased with me.
After a moment, the wise woman on the screen answered, “Because of Jesus. God will be pleased with you because of Jesus. If you are in Christ, he is pleased.”
I sat dumbstruck. The moment is so seared into my memory that I can remember what I was wearing, a pink t-shirt and khaki capris. It was 14 years ago. My Christian living paradigm was knocked off its axis. I knew it was all grace before—but now I knew.
Until that moment I had done what I think many of us believers do: I had subconsciously made my Christian walk primarily dependent on me and about me.
God Does Everything
The opening lines of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians open our eyes to the truth that our Christian walk has been both established and purposed by the Lord himself. While we easily drift toward spiritually pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps, Paul reminds us of what is true:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. (Ephesians 1:3-6)
We Did Nothing
Paul rejoices with the saints who are in Ephesus because God chose him and them before the foundation of the world. Before creation even was, we were chosen. Before we were, we were chosen. The Lord didn’t wait for us to be born and weigh our good deeds against our bad, choosing us accordingly—
No, we weren’t even alive when he predestined us to be adopted as his children. We did nothing to earn our sonship.
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This is wonderful news. Because we did nothing to earn it, we can’t do anything to lose it. Because our adoption is dependent on his perfection and not on our performance, we can rest easy. We don’t have to clamor to earn his approval and affection.
God’s choosing us is purely a gift of grace and has nothing to do with our best efforts.
This truth flies in the face of the way we operate. In all other spheres we seek to earn our status. We study hard in school to earn good grades. We try hard at work to earn a promotion. We train hard to win the race—
But salvation is free. May we receive this lavish gift of grace with gratitude and joy and rest.
It’s Not About Us
It’s clear from Paul’s letter that the foundation of our faith is a free gift from God. But that’s not all he provides. God has also given us our focus—the purpose or goal or point of our faith. He adopted us “according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace” (Ephesians 1:6).
When we receive God’s gift of faith, we don’t have to wonder why we exist. We aren’t responsible for conjuring up our purpose in life or our purpose for our faith. That purpose has been given—it’s to bring praise to God’s glorious grace.
Again, this is wonderful news. Because we didn’t earn our salvation, we don’t have to create a purpose for it. We aren’t left to flounder or wander or wonder. We simply praise him and bring him glory.
This, too, flies in the face of the way we operate. We brainstorm goals and write mission statements and draft purposes for our education, free time, careers, and workout regimens. We in the West tend to be driven, goal-oriented, self-sufficient, and self-realizing—
But when it comes to our faith, it’s not about us. It’s about bringing praise and glory to the One who saved us.
It’s All About Him
Both the foundation and the focus of our faith have been gifted to us by the Lord. May this good news lead us to rest and rejoice. May we stand secure in his grace and serve him and his people for his glory.
You and I don’t need to mentally tally the ways we are trying hard to please him. Our faith is not actually about us—
It’s from him and for him.