I find that the grace-versus-works paradigm is at work all the time. Even ways of living that held sway over us in our infancy in Christ have a way of becoming stale as we grow older in the Lord. Sometimes, even tried-and-true traditions must be sloughed-off in order to realize God in the now and follow Him into what He’d have us do, where He’d have us go. The point here, is anything that we do that misses out on a living interaction with our Heavenly Father, must go.
“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17, emphasis mine)
God ever lives in the now. The Now Eternal. He’s here, not moving through time like we are, but abiding without it’s flow. In some sense, He’s merely waiting for us to get to Heaven in order to be with us (He loves us so much)—though there are things He’d have us know, do and experience while we’re here. When Paul says to the Colossians (3:3), “For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” He’s seeking to introduce (and also inculcate) this idea that it’s all over. Jesus said “it is finished” on the cross (John 19:30) and while it means so much more than this one thing, that’s the main idea. So going back to the grace-versus-works thing, we would do well to take some time out of our grasping, busy lives and meditate on the fact that, every thing we think we can do for God—has already been done by Jesus.
“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost. Which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour.” (Titus 3:5-6)
Got it? It’s easy. And then James has to go and throw this in there:
“Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.” (James 2:17-18)
As an aside, I find it inspiring to have so many and varied writers make up this anthology we call ‘The Holy Bible’. It’s more than interesting to get different authors’ takes on something that is so eminently personal in spite of being universal. Like they were thrown together across the strata of time and told to work out something that requires many words and multiple viewpoints. I digress. What do we do? Nothing? Everything? How much nothing can I do for God before I’ll get God to do what I want? If this is in the back of my mind, this gnawing desire to do right by myself by doing what I think is required of me, then I’m looking at it from the wrong vantage point. How does God see it?
“I am the Lord: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images. Behold, the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare: before they spring forth I tell you of them.” (Isaiah 42:9)
God takes things personally. Jesus suffered through the mental and emotional as well as physical torments of His execution. And He also personally experienced all the highs and lows that led Him to Calvary. And He did it all for us—to share it with us. Not for us to then take the reins after salvation. The grace-versus-works thing is ultimately a question, then, of idolatry. Do we carry out our lives in the here-and-now, with reference to God? Or merely focused on our own self-righteousness? Because after accepting Jesus, there’s nothing more we can do to make things any right-er than they’ve already been made. The living God has been given a seat in our hearts. All else is false, an idol. It’s a worthwhile and lifetime endeavor, to realize this fact: it is finished. Let God live through you.
“For he that is entered into His rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from His.” (Hebrews 4:10)
“Once for all, then, a short precept is given thee: Love, and do what thou wilt.” Augustine of Hippo
The sky’s the limit.