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Does It Take Desire, Effort, or Mercy?

December 17, 2016


“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 yet 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. Hey Chris, good article. I also have had many questions about grace and works along with universal salvation. Obviously works do not earn our salvation, yet when the Holy Spirit lives within us I think good works are automatic to show the love of God to others. Certainly not as a legalistic thing or a ‘required for salvation’ thing but as a result of the love of God within us. I have also questioned and wondered about universal salvation. I can find verses that seemingly support both salvation through acceptance of Christ and salvation to all people through Christ. Either way it is through Christ just as through Adam all people became sinners. I am still questioning a lot of things I was taught in the institution and I am seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit rather than any man for guidance and answers from this point on.

    • Thanks for sharing with us Done with religion. It’s Mike, right? I feel it is a very good thing to wrestle with and investigate and consider various theological viewpoints. It helps us grow and it is always good to be stretched in our thinking.

  2. My understanding is whether we go to a building or not does not keep God’s love from us. If that were the case, then why would he say that his mercies are new every morning? I agree with you about acknowledging God. We do that with our prayers of thanksgiving. Our works and our effort are due to our love for our Father and His son Jesus because he has saved us.
    Yes, it does go against what most is taught, Like, you have to be in the church building on Sunday. It’s usually said through a sermon or when you talk to the head honcho.

    • Good points Peter! God loves us all no matter where or if we worship Him or not. I know we have sincere sisters and brothers still involved with the traditional “church” system. Jesus calls them by saying “Come out from her (Babylon) My people.”

  3. Good morning Brother!

    This is a topic I have wrestled with most of my 70 years. Relatively recently the following solution came to me from Ephesians 2:1-10.

    Here is the text from NASB:

    *1-*And you were dead in your trespasses and sins,**


    in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.

    3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.

    4But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,

    5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),

    6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,

    7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

    8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;

    9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.

    10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

    There is a division at the end of verse 3 which signals the transition from death into life. Verses 1-3 discuss the state into which all of Adam’s children are born–death. This is, seems to me, a spiritual death, not the physical toward which we are all progressing but have not yet achieved (well, at least I assume this!).

    Verse 4 begins Paul’s description of how this transition takes place.

    1. It is by His kindness and mercy (which connects nicely with the verse from Romans which you quote). (verse 4) 2. It takes place while we are still dead. (verse 5)A dead person cannot contribute anything to this coming into life. At least three examples of this are recorded among Jesus’ miracles: Tabitha, the synogogue ruler’s daughter, the widow of Nain’s son and Lazarus. None of the three contributed anything but death to their life. Jesus spoke to or touched them and they were alive. So too in this text. It is all God’s action to us.

    Two things happen when we are made alive:

    1. we are raised together with Christ; (verse 5) 2. In Christ we are seated at His right hand (verse 6)

    This transition and its results are called “grace.” (verse 5 and 8)

    In verses 8-10 he describes the process and its working:

    8 “By grace you have been saved through faith.

    Grace is the saving action of God. Faith is our response. But faith does not originate from us, it too, is a gift of God. So He saves us and we respond by means of the faith He has given us. This is all in the past tense to Paul–we “have been” saved, so it is not something any of us do. It is done, finished, accomplished at the cross. As Colossians 1:20 says, “…and through (Jesus) He reconciled (past tense) all things to Him through the blood of His cross; all things, I say, whether things in heaven or things on earth.” As a side note, the “all” of this verse follows several other “alls” earlier in chapter 1.

    Back to Ephesians 2. Finally, Paul makes it clear that there is nothing of us in the salvation process: “not of works, so that no one can boast.” (verse 9(

    Grace is the salvation, faith is the means and there is no place for our works at all.

    The capstone is in verse 10. For we are God’s workmanship (His artistry). We are a result of His skilled workmanship. Created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared for good works so that we would walk in them.

    Wow! Even our good works flow out of His creativity and all through Jesus and all from His own love and mercy.

    So, what about James? I think he was combating a heresy, a dostortion of Paul’s gospel of faith. Paul himself, in a couple of places in Romans ((6:1 and at least one other place) I think that some were saying that, “Because I am saved, because it is all of grace and of His faith given to me, I can continue in sin. Sinning is all forgiven, therefore I do not have to yield to the Spirit in His transforming work within me. This is not based on any study of James, but since most of the rest of the epistles were written in response to some distortion of Paul’s gospel, I think it is reasonable to draw this conclusion.

    So the answer, in my current thinking, is that it is all from Him. We play no part at all in our own salvation or even in the works we do which are the result of our salvation. Incredible thought, but that is the only way in which our salvation and its outflow does not lead to our boasting in ourselves. This is the topic of Romans 1-8 and of Ephesians 1. Here is Ephesians 1:4: In Him (Christ Jesus) He chose us before the foundation of the world to be holy an dblameless before Him. In love, He predestined us to the adoption of sons through Jesus Christ, in harmony with His kind intention. No wonder Paul breaks out into a song of praise: “To the praise of His glorious grace which He lavished upon us in His Beloved.” (paraphrased)

    Blessings to us all as He continues to pour Himself out upon us, Win

    • Wow! What an exposition Win. Thanks for taking the time to express that here. Grace, all is grace!

  4. Judy Baker permalink

    Did not Timothy say Show me your faith and I will show you my faith by my works. If you truly believe you will want to share with others with Holy Spirit as your joy cannot be contained!! I thought sharing what I learned would change all those listening but it only made them want to read their bible more. Many are tired of super gigantic churches with ATM machines. My sister said they passed the BUCKET around 5 times when she went! For this preacher and that preacher and on n on. She watched it on TV free. Faith without works is dead if you believe and deliberately sin. Different from commercialized religion where all you have to do is pay your dues. Jesus judges us by our hearts . He is the One we need to follow, the Great Teacher and He sends His Holy Spirit to be with us..recall things to mind so He is actually with you in spirit. Amazing to see what He can do ! If you have faith, you will work ( share ) with others at every opportunity.

    • Thank you for that wonderful exhortation Judy. When we are planted, rooted and watered by HIM we WILL bear good fruit. Spiritual fruit is simply the by-product of abiding in Christ.

  5. Here is my two cents on this, Chris. The following is a quote from book 4 in our Four-in-One book, titled At-His-Feet, in a section titled, “Two Sides of the Same Coin”.

    There is a question that is commonly asked by people who are new in their relationship with God:

    “I committed my life to God and received His finished work on the cross so that I could be forgiven and enter into a relationship with Him. And I thought it was only through this completed work of Jesus on the cross that I am in relationship with God and will go to heaven someday. Yet in this chapter, you seem to imply that we can’t be in relationship with God (and eventually enter heaven) unless we pick up our cross and follow Jesus daily. Are these contradictory concepts, or do they work together somehow?”

    What we are actually looking at are two sides of the same coin. On one side of the coin, we are not worthy to be God’s disciples, and we will not make it to heaven unless, by His grace and enabling, we:

    ~ Daily pick up our cross and follow Him (Luke 14:27).

    ~ Wholeheartedly follow God’s best for us (Romans 6:17).

    ~ Refuse to forsake our first love of God (Revelation 2:4-7).

    ~ Overcome any temptations that try to keep us from God’s best for us (Revelation 3:4-6).

    ~ Prove ourselves faithful to God (1 Corinthians 4:2).

    Side Note: I have listed the Scripture references in the parentheses above in case you were interested in reading in the Bible where these concepts are explicitly discussed.

    On the other side of the coin is Jesus’ payment for us on the cross and His conquest of death by His resurrection. Only because of Jesus’ payment for our sins are we made acceptable before God. We do not deserve this at all, but because we have received God’s amazing gift of love, we are adopted into God’s family and become heirs of His promises. Without Jesus’ work on our behalf, none of us would ever be good enough to enter into a relationship with God or to go to heaven. Also on this side of the coin are God’s promises for our own lives. As we daily commit our lives to Him and wholeheartedly follow Him in His best for us, He is faithful to bring about good things in our lives and eventually bring us to heaven.

    Peter wrote about both sides of the coin in the following passage:

    As we know Jesus better, his divine power gives us everything we need for living a godly life. He has called us to receive his own glory and goodness! And by that same mighty power, he has given us all of his rich and wonderful promises. He has promised that you will escape the decadence all around you caused by evil desires and that you will share in his divine nature. So make every effort to apply the benefits of these promises to your life. Then your faith will produce a life of moral excellence. A life of moral excellence leads to knowing God better.

    Knowing God leads to self-control. Self-control leads to patient endurance, and patient endurance leads to godliness. Godliness leads to love for other Christians, and finally you will grow to have genuine love for everyone. The more you grow like this, the more you will become productive and useful in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But those who fail to develop these virtues are blind or, at least, very shortsighted. They have already forgotten that God has cleansed them from their old life of sin. So, dear brothers and sisters, work hard to prove that you really are among those God has called and chosen. Doing this, you will never stumble or fall away. And God will open wide the gates of heaven for you to enter into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:3-11).

    • Thank you for sharing Scott. Life and all it’s troubles are much easier to face and overcome when I cooperate with Jesus and follow what HE taught.

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