“By grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast. For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10). Everything we have, especially our faith, is pure gift from God. Nothing is from us, and certainly we could not have saved ourselves from the tyrannies of sin and death, forever. Our salvation, and all else, has come to us through God’s generous gift of grace.
The late 19th century philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, argued that “God is dead” and that it is up to us, through the sheer force of our wills, to become an “ubermensch,” or a kind of “superman.” We must save ourselves. His thinking produced the various theories of absolute individualism that plague us in our own time, like the philosophies of relativism and identity politics. Such boasting can come only from pride, and as we know, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). Even the ancient, pre-Christian, Greek playwrights, like Sophocles, knew this and wrote powerful plays, like Oedipus the King, revealing how such pride in the ignorant and powerful can cause so much destruction and suffering. Faith in human powers for salvation is foolishness par excellence.
Our salvation does not come from our good works. Rather, it is God’s gracious gift of faith that causes in us the desire and the wisdom to live in the good works he prepared for us to do in advance. It is our faith that makes us do good works. Indeed if our faith does not get revealed in and through our good works in the world, what we call faith, is dead (James 2:26). Therefore,Good works are the outward sign of our living faith. They are born from our faith in God who is love. This faith, like God’s love, is active, not passive. If we have, in all humility, opened ourselves up to receive God’s grace, we will, in that faith, begin to openly love others as he loved us. Our good works are our thanksgiving for the gift of faith that God has so generously given us. This is good works in its fullest sense.
The truth is that our lives find their fullest meaning and purpose in the faith that God has given to us. This grace from God is the product of his unsurpassable, unconditional love for us. It is our humble recognition and submission to God’s generosity that makes us more fully human in our own lives. Sometimes, because of our pride, it takes us a few falls from grace, a few painful lessons learned, to gain the humility that is necessary to be open to God’s graces. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psalm 51:17). Only when we turn to God in this way, willingly and humbly, will he be able to fill us with the graces we need to be his true sons and daughters.
Lord, Melt the pride that so often chokes our hearts and minds with foolishness. Give us humble and contrite hearts, so that we may receive the fullness of your grace and become your good and faithful servants in our daily lives. And let us give you thanks by living our lives in the manner that you have shown us. We pray these things in your name, Jesus. Amen!
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