April 17, 2017

Ordinary stuff?

The question today is: Upon what do you rest your hope of acceptance before a holy God? The usually (wrong) answers are things like baptism, church attendance, a good life, etc. I nearly skipped this introduction because I rely on Jesus Christ for my salvation. But then I thought, it says “acceptance” not salvation, and there is a difference.

I grew up in a farm home with loving parents. The only complaint my father ever had was about the neighbors who were lazy. His work ethic was high and those who didn’t work hard came under condemnation. I and my siblings grew up with that value system. For years, I’ve recognized the problem called ‘workaholic’ in the four of us. My unsaved brother has the worst case.

Working hard is not wrong, but working hard to be accepted is not biblical and a definite problem. I woke up this morning not wanting to get up because I don’t have any meaningful work to do today. That is, who cares about cleaning the house and my self-imposed to-do list? Is God pleased with my non-essential activities? When I read this question, I realized how easily I slip into that old value system of having and accomplishing meaningful work, but is it important to God?

The Bible is clear that my salvation is not based upon my work, but on His grace:

“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. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.” (Ephesians 1:5–7)

This truth is echoed in many places, such as the next chapter in these familiar verses:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8–9)

I believe that with all my heart. However, the next verse says, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10) The question that bugs me is this: What if God only prepared a few things for me to do? Does that mean I’m not worthy of serving Him? Shouldn’t I just be glad for those few things? Is my ambition to do meaningful work God’s value system? Or is it a reflection of my upbringing and not at all about God’s thoughts?

The Galatians struggled with this. They were saved by grace, but they fell into the trap of trying to be ‘perfected’ by their works. Paul scolded them for their foolishness, first telling him that the source of any good work they were doing was not them but their Savior. He said this:

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.”

Then he added,

“O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?  . . . . Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”? (Galatians 2:20–3:6)

I don’t worry about my salvation; Jesus did it and does it. I am not supposed to be concerned about good works of service either because Jesus also does those — using my body, hands, feet, whatever He needs to accomplish whatever He wants done. I’m not to fret about that just as I don’t fret about my eternal destiny.

Yet it seems odd that God’s will includes ordinary chores like mine. As I think that, Titus 2 comes to mind:

“Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.” (Titus 2:3–5) Even older women need an exemplary life involving very ordinary things!

Jesus, my conclusion for this today is that perhaps I’m really not worried about being acceptable to you. I just want to be more significant than “ordinary” — and that is a reflection of my pride. You have given me enough challenges for this day without needing to be exceptional. I can live in awe of You no matter what chores are on my list. Loving spouse and family, self-control, purity, and those other items all require being filled with Your Spirit and living in utter obedience. Forgive my dissatisfaction and my arrogance. May Your will be done in me today.

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