Read Ephesians 2:8-10
8 For it is by grace you have been saved,through faith-and this is not from yourselves,it is the gift of God- 9 not by works,so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork,created in Christ Jesus to do good works,which God prepared in advance for us to do. (NIV)
In some Christian circles,’good works’ is a phrase to bring a frown to the forehead. We don’t want to be part of that general misunderstanding that identifies being a Christian with being ‘good’. And yet,’good works’ are ‘good’. God has even made them part of our destiny as his people. They become a menace when they are used as ‘brownie points’,trying to get into God’s good books.
Paul is well aware of the tension. No one can get right with God through sheer effort. For one thing,our goodness can never be good enough. For another thing,we would become quietly or loudly boastful. Friendship with God would become a reward and we could pat ourselves on the back for it. Truth is,it is in the nature of a gift. True,we have to take hold of God’s merciful kindness (this is called faith). But our faith is in no way anything to boast about. Does a drowning person boast of their taking hold of a lifebelt thrown to them? Faith is only a response to what God has already done in offering us forgiveness and friendship.
But it doesn’t stop there. God doesn’t just ‘save’ us so we can go to heaven when we die. We are destined to do good as long as we live. This is part of our being in relationship with Jesus. Good works won’t get us to heaven,but good works are part of our journey to heaven. Good works won’t save us but they are evidence we are saved. We don’t become Christians by doing good,but a Christian who doesn’t do good is a contradiction in terms.
And these good works are prepared for us by God. Each day,it is helpful to consider what good works God has ready for us that very day. God is a God who goes before us. He prepares the way. It is for us to have our eyes,ears,and hearts open to whatever opportunities for good present themselves. Beware of aiming at grandiose good works,things which may hit the headlines or get us credit. Most good works are hidden and ordinary. God has scattered them around like a runner in a paper chase. It is for us to follow where he is going and spy out the works he has crafted for us to do. Self-absorption,apathy,fear,all may cause us to miss out on the opportunities.
Entering into those ready-made good works shows we are his workmanship,his masterpieces. We were made to do good,to make a difference. Not to win the favour of God but to show we have embraced and been changed by that favour.