For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.
Ephesians 2:8-10 (NRSV)
When I was younger, the churches I attended made it clear about how to begin a relationship with God. We had to repent of our sin and ask Jesus to save us so we could go to heaven when we died instead of being condemned to hell. In other words, salvation was a transaction. It was simple, clear and understandable, but it was only a transaction.
I have come to realize that the salvation God offers us is so much more than a mere transaction it is a covenant of allegiance that brings about transformation.
GODS GRACE TRANSFORMS
Grace is God’s unmerited favor granted to us even before we know him and extending through our lives. That same grace helps us begin our relationship with God and a life of ongoing transformation. I have defined grace as God’s unmerited, undeserved kindly regard for us. That grace, God’s disposition toward us, enables us to respond to God’s offer of a relationship.
WE BEGIN WITH REPENTANCE
We begin our relationship with God by responding with repentance and faith. John Wesley said that repentance involved knowing that we are sinners, hopelessly separated from God and unable to do anything about our condition. This self-knowledge prepares us to hear the good news that God has done something about our condition and invites us to as new relationship.
SECONDLY, WE RESPOND WITH FAITH
Our second response to is faith, faith in Jesus Christ. When we know our true selves as sinners and hear God’s invitation, we respond with trust in what God has done through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
The passage of Scripture cited above reminds us of several important aspects of this relationship. First, it was not our idea; neither is it accomplished by our power, but only through the grace of God. God’s grace conceived the plan, offered it to us and then enabled us to respond to the invitation. Second, as I said earlier our response is faith, trust in what God has done in and through Jesus Christ.
NEW LIFE, A COVENANT
Finally, beginning this relationship calls us to a new life, a life of “good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life” (verse 10). Beginning our relationship with God through Jesus is not a mere transaction, but a real relationship – a covenant. The point of this covenant is not to help us avoid hell and gain heaven, but to enable us to take up our calling to as bearers of God’s image in this world and work with God to bring redemption to the whole creation.
God desires this real relationship, and so God has taken the initiative to create the path and enable us to walk it. And that changes everything.
Alan Cassady serves as Senior Pastor at Navarre UMC, and has been at the church since 2011. When he's not preaching and teaching, he enjoys sci-fi movies and FSU Football. Read more about Alan here.