COLUMN: Not our own doing

Published 9:00 am Sunday, March 17, 2024

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At first, you just want to get situated and get ready for the day. You try the hammock, and then you move to the lounge chair. Okay, that’s going to be nice later. 

But right now, you just want to take it all in — one hundred eighty degrees of sun, sand, and water, with a touch of hardscape or landscape that might involve stone, bushes, and palm trees. 

Just off in the distance, there is a daybed. You may even get out there in due time. You’re at the beach. You’re glad to be there once again. For now, you’ve decided to be in the Adirondack chair, taking it all in. 

You are aware of your toes touching the sand, and almost without noticing, you are measuring its temperature and smoothness as you feel it. The waves are lapping, and a sailboat is passing on the horizon just in front of you. 

Water, sand, stones, air, and breath are elements that remind us of some of life’s basic provisions. They are elements that are part of life and our existence in this Creation. We have them, and none of them are of our own doing.

Now, come back with me because I don’t want to leave you there at the beach. Today, we are in Ephesians 2: 1-10. We come to some important words of perspective, and I hope we all have reached a stage of life where they are welcomed. 

Hear this again from that letter to the Ephesians by the apostle Paul. “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 so that we may walk in them.”

In her response to this second chapter in Ephesians, Nadia Bolz-Weber says this. 

“The sentence really could end with, ‘you were dead through sin.’ We were dead through sin, curved in on ourselves. Our desires, our needs, our pocketbooks, our own well-being, and thus unable to be turned to God.” 

She continues, “In this convex posture, we foolishly (albeit predictably) trust ourselves rather than God, and so can’t hear the beautiful, crazy ‘yes’ of God.”  

She’s right, you know. Rather than a more natural desire to claim the gift of God that is not of our own doing, we choose instead to live by ways that are precisely our own doing. 

The apostle makes a fair and certain point. You and I were dead through the trespasses and sin. Sin of our own self-centeredness. Seeing other people as less than us. Overindulging and depending on social and economic systems that are stacked in the favor of some, to the detriment of others who are powerless. 

You know, sin. The kinds the Bible actually talks about rather than the culturally influenced ones that other people struggle with, but we like to talk about. We tend to assume an inward-focusing posture where we trust ourselves rather than God. 

But the scripture today tells us more. That while we have all sinned, and that while we will all die, we must also hear that God is rich in mercy and kindness. 

Here may be the best part. Our good works have nothing to do with our being saved, except inasmuch as if we have been saved and transformed by God, then we WILL do good works. 

God has made a path for us to walk that would lead to life rather than to death. For God so loved the world. For by grace, you have been saved. For we are what God has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand so that we may walk in them. 

I wish I could hand out a little pocket-mirror to every one of you today. If I could, I would ask each of you to look deeply into the mirror. Because I want you to see what God sees.

Here is what God sees when God looks at you — a child of God who is so beloved. 

Sure as sand, sea, water and breath are good for us and yet we did not make them, this grace and purpose in Christ is certainly not of our own doing. But, what we do have to do is decide to accept them and commit to a life that also is not entirely our own doing.

Dr. Charles Qualls is senior pastor at Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 757-562-5135.