Or, more accurately: Letting God do now what he did in the beginning.
Only now I get to partner with him with more intentionality.
Let’s look at the classic verse on salvation by grace:
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.
This is a grammatically complicated verse, so let’s break it down.
It’s actually a simple contrast between two elements, grace and works. Everything in between (and after) is an explanation of those elements.
Let’s leave out everything but these two elements for a minute (we don’t want to forget them because, as we’ll see shortly, they have something powerful to say about how to live our lives out in the here and now).
This is what you have left:
For it is by grace you have been saved, not by works.
So, first of all, salvation is by grace. It is a gift. It’s not something you can earn and it’s not something you can achieve (see Romans 6:23 and Titus 3:5).
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, not by works.
Second, this grace is appropriated by faith, by taking God at his word and trusting him apart from what you may sense or otherwise think, apart from him (see John 1:12 and John 5:24).
Faith is the key that unlocks God’s grace in our lives.
So now we have to work up some faith, right? Keep giving ourselves pep talks. Keep thinking bigger and bigger, bolder and bolder.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works.
Faith is the key that unlocks grace, but it is God who hands you the key (and, not to put too fine a point on it, puts it in your hand, points to the lock, and then guides the key in your hand into the lock and turns it).
But why, you may ask, are these distinctions so important? Why is God so finicky about all this?
That’s in the last phrase:
…so that no one can boast.
Back at the beginning, in the Garden of Eden, the serpent tempted Eve with the forbidden fruit and claimed that God didn’t want her eating it because he didn’t want her to be like him.
“For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
The truth is that God created Eve and her husband in his own image and gave them incredible authority over the rest of creation:
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
But in order to have this authority they needed to be under authority.
So they were given freedom (“any tree of the garden”) and boundaries (except “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil”).
And everything would have been incredibly cool, if they’d just believed God instead of the serpent. If they’d been grateful for all the trees they could eat from instead of obsessing on the one tree that was off limits.
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.
We have the same choices before us today as Adam and Eve did then.
Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.
1 John 2:15-16
“The boastful pride of life.”
“…so that no one can boast.”
This is where so many people who do not yet know Christ struggle. It seems we have been hardwired to want unfettered freedom—and credit.
Those of us who do have a relationship with God through Christ struggle this way as well, often just as much as we did before we knew him at all.
Here’s the key: Go back to the beginning.
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
Thankfulness. It’s the very opposite of boasting, isn’t it?
Let God show you the lock, hand you the key, and gently guide you as you unlock his grace and release its healing power into your circumstances. And be grateful.
Practice what he showed you when he first began his good work in you (Philippians 1:6).