One of the things I miss, living in the Midwest, is time with my brother. We're from Colorado, and he stayed there. We used to have good - sometimes good and intense - conversations whenever we were together. Being separated by several states has left a hole in my life.
One conversation I remember was while driving through the mountains on our way home from a visit to our Dad, on the other side of the hill.
If you've read this blog much, you have likely read his statement before: "Christians talk about how we are saved by grace, but after that, they live their lives like it's all about works. No grace to it."
The statement disturbed me then, and it disturbs me now. Is it true? Do we talk grace, but live by our own efforts? Do we attempt to gain God's favor by doing things? Seems like there's something to what he says.
I was thinking about this when I ran across another "show-stopper," this one in Colossians 2:6. It seems related:
"As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving" (NKJV).
This verse is so rich, it's hard to know where to begin. "As you have received Christ, so walk in him...." How did I receive Jesus? How did I come to faith in him? Was it by working and doing good things? Of course not; I was an arrogant jerk. Did I reason myself to him, by the power of my intellect? Nope. Did I come because I had a godly mother or grandmother, who faithfully took me to church? Those are good things, but as they say, God doesn't have grandkids.
I came by only one thing: grace. God extended his grace to me, and when the Holy Spirit nudged me to respond, I did. Not well. Not wholeheartedly. But I responded. And as I responded, God responded in turn and made me one of his own. Paul put it this way: "...by one spirit we are all baptized into one body..." (I Corinthians 12:13). The Spirit baptized me - immersed me - into the body of Christ, which is the church.
I didn't have the power to do it myself, and I didn't know as much about God as I would like to have. But someone has correctly said, "The only thing God requires of you is that you say yes with as much of you as you control to as much of him as you know." That's pretty simple, and it's true. God holds us accountable only for what we know, and only for what we control.
So, here I am, a child of God, born again, bright and shiny new. Now what?
The what of now is that I have a life to live, and I need to get on with it...in the same manner in which I received Jesus. I need to live by grace, responding to his revelation and the Holy Spirit living and working within me. I need to live a resurrection life, choosing to live by the new nature, in the kingdom of God, and not in my old flesh.
God saved me. He chose me, called me, made a way for me to come to him, and keeps me in his love and grace. That's it. There is nothing I can do to make him love me more, or to gain more of his favor. Nothing.
So does that mean I should just sit on my "dead end," waiting to die so I can "go to heaven and be with Jesus"? I see too many people in churches doing just that. They consider that "me and Jesus got a good thing goin'," and they aren't interested in anything else. I fear, truth be told, that a lot of people who are planning to go to heaven are going to by surprised when they get there. They are not going to like what they find. If they get there.
I say if they get there because there is the matter of James. You remember James, the brother of Jesus, the leader of the Jerusalem church after Jesus. He left us a short New Testament book, and wrote about the kind of faith that lets grace work, the kind of faith that saves us. It's the kind of faith, says James, that produces action. If we have faith that results in nothing more than warming a pew, we are fooling ourselves. Says James.
So there's action-producing faith. Then there's something that we often overlook, and it's in that same Colossians verse: "...abounding in it with thanksgiving."
In my Spanish Bible (NVI), this is translated a little differently, as "abundando en gracias." Abounding in thanks. We should live a life overflowing with gratitude to God.
But how can I describe that? It occurs to me that gracias, which pretty much everyone understands as thanks, is also the plural form of grace. So to say abounding in thanks is also to say abounding in graces.
When I say thanks - to God or to someone else - I am saying, "Graces to you." Interesting thought. A new way to be a channel of God's grace to our world: Overflow with gratitude.