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Desire, Effort, or Mercy?

August 20, 2012


“What then shall we say?  Is God unjust?  Not at all!  For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”  It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.”  Romans 9: 14-16

Wow?  God’s favor and mercy towards us does not depend on our desire or effort?  That is a huge relief, but it seems to go against much of what the traditional/institutional “church” has been telling us about ourselves since it all began.  The powers that be have said for ages that the way we tithe or give money to the church results in God’s blessing or lack thereof.  They have even implied that our attendance in “church” services somehow helps determine how God views us.  They also proclaim that how much we read and study our bibles somehow affects our status in God’s economy.

Most “churches” say upfront that our relationship with God is supposed to be about faith and not works, but in practice they demand works from us in order to remain members in good standing.  I hate mixed messages, but they abound from pulpits every single week.

So is it mercy and grace or works and effort that maintain our relationship with God?  Or is it a mixture of both faith and works?  I say it is much more about God than it is about us.  However, I do believe that how we respond to God’s grace and mercy does play a role in our ongoing salvation and current state of being.  I have looked at Universal Reconciliation, but I am not ready to say that all are saved regardless of our actions and choices quite yet.  I do feel that God’s forgiveness and grace is much, much, bigger than what most current day “churches” teach and practice.  To me, it is all about God, but at some point we need to acknowledge and cooperate with what God has freely set before us.  The grace of God gives us unmerited favor, but we also need to walk within the parameters of HIS grace.

I know what I want to say on this topic, but I just can’t seem to find sufficient words to say what is on my heart and mind.  I feel that no matter how I say it..I will be misunderstood.  Theologians have pondered the tension between grace and works for centuries.  The truth is that it is hard to balance the notion of unmerited favor with “faith without works is dead.” (James 2)  The way Martin Luther wanted to deal with it was to leave the book of James out of the bible altogether.  I just can’t do that.  However, my understanding is that the fruit of the Spirit comes through faith that God is working within you, and not at all by self discipline or works.   

Well, I threw my thoughts out there on the subject.  Anyone else dare to weigh in?  Today I am as clear as mud it seems LOL.

Love and……

Kirk Out !


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  1. DanG permalink

    Sounds like clear mud to me – keep saying stuff this way and maybe someone will hear what you are saying. Of course, speaking and hearing often times goes past each other and we need to carefully listen and speak… but we don’t do that very often. I am totally with you on the reality that it is God who is at work in us Ph2:13 – that seems a great deal more essential in our lives than we ever give room. Now I will begin to muddle things up a bit. I think we value choice too much and that to our detriment. We can disagree on this but… I think I am learning to let God be and do rather than think I have choice or responsibility or opportunity. My value is less of me, more of God in all ways, in all things. Does that make me robot? – not really, because it is God who is at work, not some created being that is thrown off to space to operate independent of God. I am dependent.

    Good agreeable writing – keep things muddy, please.

  2. "BK" Zimmer permalink

    Smiling here and enjoying the read very much. As I read your list of works the church demands of us, I was adding ‘say “I’m sorry” or you’re not forgiven”.

    What you state below about universalism is exactly why I don’t want the label. It really is hard to be any ‘clearer than mud’ on this subject (even though so many on both sides of this issue think they are). I believe the Lord did it this way on purpose… when we are persuaded one way or another it is because we have sought the Lord until we feel He has made it clear (which I do one way and others the other 🙂 I do believe the key then is to just leave it to Him. I find it just as distasteful when people try to force others to believe Jesus IS the Saviour of all, as those who want to send the unbelievers to hell. Nico (forced submission) is Nico no matter how you dress him up.

    Where I guess I start disliking the label is the impression given that universalism means live any way you want to and go to heaven. It matters not what you believe. It’s not quite that simple for me 🙂 I DO believe all mankind is saved, and all will bow their knee in adoration to Him…..I just don’t believe it has to happen on this side of the grave. I have said before I don’t pretend to know how it is going to happen after one passes from here; but I do know the acknowledging of Him will happen. Like the ones outside the City in Revelation 22…..the gates are open, never shut and the Spirit and Bride are calling “Hey! If you’re thirsty come on in and drink of the water of the River of Life”. Jesus is the door; He said so Himself, so it will be through Him one enters.

    One brother once said, “We can’t do it all and God won’t do it all, so we cooperate together and it all gets done.” I don’t really think it’s less of me and more of God; I see it as His blending together with the essence of who I am and in that blending I become eternal.

    So that’s a few thoughts. I sure did enjoy your post, Chris. Love, “BK”

  3. timbushong permalink


    Chris- you wrote: “God’s favor and mercy towards us does not depend on our desire or effort? That is a huge relief, but it seems to go against much of what the traditional/institutional “church” has been telling us about ourselves since it all began.”

    I don’t know- it seems that all I ever heard from most Churches was that “God has already done His part, and now you must do yours”.

    Paul’s argument in Romans 9 is a continuation of chapter 8, and stresses the electing grace and self-glorification of God over and against what we think is “fair” or “just”.

    “So is it mercy and grace or works and effort that maintain our relationship with God? Or is it a mixture of both faith and works?”

    I’ll be honest- if my relationship with God is dependent upon MY efforts- then I’m sunk, lost, gone… it’s actually dependent upon Christ, Who I am united to by faith, and Who kept the law and paid the ransom price perfectly, and for His people, right?

    Maybe you’re thinking about the doctrine of sanctification- the ongoing growth in maturity and wisdom that is indeed a cooperative venture between God and His adopted children. I’d hate for my justification to hinge upon my sanctification, because it hasn’t been perfect.

    James was misunderstood by Luther (as was the Lord’s Supper), because James asks the rhetorical question “Can SUCH faith save him?” regarding false faith that has no fruit or evidence of its veracity.

    Hope you’re doing well, brother.

  4. "BK" Zimmer permalink

    Well said, Tim.

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