Ephesians 2:1-10As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature[a] and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.(NIV)
Sometime, in late 1996, I had just begun to work at a Christian counseling center in Lawton, Oklahoma. As I settled into my new career as a counselor, I began to feel some real challenges. One of the biggest came from my boss and supervisor, Glen Ryswyk. This was no minor challenge. He was challenging my theology. Not so much what I believed, but, how I applied that belief to my thoughts and actions. I believed that I was saved by grace, but, I didn’t really trust that grace. Therefore, I still had to make it through my own efforts.
The contradiction of this, belief without trust, hit me when I was praying. On this occasion I chose to pray by writing a letter to God. The very first line went something like this. “Dear God, Help me to EARN your GRACE.” No, I didn’t use all capitals as I wrote it, but when I read it, that’s what I saw. In black and white (actually yellow) sat what was possibly the granddaddy of all theological oxymoron’s. Earning Grace. The idea, that someone could be good enough to earn a free gift from God. Especially when you realize that the very reason you need that gift is because of you are not good enough.
That was the moment that the Holy Spirit both inspired me and slapped me upside the head. Inspired with awe of the amazing love of God. Slapped by the realization that I had trusted my own abilities more than God’s grace.
Since then, I’ve continued to realize how grace casts a new light on so many areas of life. I believe grace has much to say to my clients as they deal with the issues that brings them to me. I know its had a lot to say to me.