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Does It Take Desire, Effort, or Mercy?

August 2, 2015


“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 fully 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 Jesus, 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. janet fowler permalink

    For me, in my limited understanding, it boils down to the relationship. Like our relationships with our children. They love us, and hopefully trust us, but if they don’t follow our directions when they are young we train gently but as they mature we expect more from them, but still love them despite the . Maybe it’s not as simple as that but it makes sense to me. I think HE desires us to be REAL with Him, to not pretend but let our works be an extension of our love for and faith in HIM. I have made a HUGE mistake lately, and I can feel the tear in my relationship with Him. I know if I continue my behavior I will be deadening my ability to hear His voice. So anyway, not sure what would happen to my eternity if I never turned around.

    • freeoneindeed permalink

      Janet, your eternity was not conditional to your behavior. In fact, recognizing our sin was first step in realizing we were not capable of saving ourselves. Whatever your mistake is, cannot outdo God’s forgiveness. None of our works, whether in our flesh or not can outdo God’s amazing grace. What matters is to keep Christ. He knows how to deal with your situation and how to turn it around once you are willing to surrender it at His feet. Blessings!

  2. "BK" permalink

    I think you did a good job expressing your heart. Interestingly, I just finished an excellent read called ‘the end of religion’ by bruxy cavey in Ontario. I just told Ken this morning one of the finest points I believe he made is that religion (any religion) is the path men have built TO God (or nirvana, etc)….including the religion of Christianity. But Jesus brought God TO man. No formula; no works, just knocking on the door with flowers in hand. That is so right on. It is this relationship that PRODUCES works of righteousness. A human ACTS like a human from its birth; a son of God the same. Granted, as you say, how healthy and happy we are will depend on how we respond but God was in Christ conciliating the world to Himself. Conciliating…that is a one way re-joining and it was God Himself Who initiated it. Aren’t there rewards? Crowns? Kudos for those who do it so well here? Maybe, but recently as I pondered that the Lord reminded me the ones who ‘earn’ them will simply throw them back at the feet of the One Who gave the ability to carry out those good choices we made. So, that’s my bit. Good post, Chris. Love, “BK”

  3. I think of the parable of the sheep and the goats. Most people focus on the “goats” and how they missed the opportunities to do good works. I am more fascinated by the “sheep” who were so devoted to just doing the right thing that they took no accounting of their actions. They too when confronted with the good works they had done said, “When, Lord?”
    I want to live in such a way that I am not consciously aware that I am doing the right thing or a good work – I just do it.

  4. freeoneindeed permalink

    I have looked at James and found that, although translators say works, James may have referred to only one work. Proof of this are his two examples: Abraham and Rahab. Abe’s only work was laying Isaac on the altar, while Rahab’s only one was turning the knob. Both showed in only one response their unwavering trust in God’s declaration about Himself. That’s what gained them their righteousness. It was a gift for their faith, while their work, deed or response only revealed it.

    I struggle myself to be able to convey this truth. It is easy to see it within. But Christ is too great and unfathomable to express Him mere words. Whatever you have in your heart, express it, we also have Christ within to be able to spiritually discern it.

    About being misunderstood, we don’t stand a chance. They will misinterpret no matter how clear we say it. Fear not!

    Keep it up!

  5. Awesome sharing by everyone here. How honest, how real, how precious! NO matter what our shortcomings may be HIS Mercy and Grace covers us in EVERY instance. Thanks everybody!

  6. daryl permalink

    In context,when James speaks of faith without works being dead,it was in reference to dishonoring the poor(James 2:1-9),and not helping someone in need but giving them lip service(vs.15-16).When our faith in God does not result in care and concern for the poor and meeting basic needs,that kind of “faith” is dead and is a terrible representation of the grace of God. I really liked your comment on. Our flesh often gets in the way,wants a pat on the back, people to notice what WE are doing,etc.,and i think our greatest works are done as you say,unconsciously.When we focus on works,it gets ugly,and a lot of churches fall into that trap,turning our walk with Christ into a burdensome thing,a contest we don’t want to compete in,but are compelled to by fruit inspectors(self-proclaimed),and our own flesh giving in to that to gain “approval”. When we just focus on Jesus it gets beautiful,and TRULY good works just naturally flow from us with no effort at all.

    • "BK" permalink

      A wise old brother had a saying, “There is no end to the good one can do if they don’t hang around to see who gets the credit!” 🙂 A baby does baby things and grows up to be an adult human by the very nature of his dna. As we just walk in the Spirit of the One Whose nature our new man has we will by nature do ‘good’ works….not by taking thought, but by nature.To focus on the works usually brings with it pride and disdain for those who aren’t doing ‘enough’ good works. An apple tree produces apples….just because it is an apple tree; not because it has to focus on producing fruit.
      And, Janet, I agree with freeoneindeed….walk on in Him, sister. He’s God and He can handle it. Your eternity is already determined. In the here and now, the closer you walk with Him, the more peace and life you will experience. Love, “BK”

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