Ephesians 2:8-10 contains maybe the most concise description of salvation in the entire New Testament:
For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift—not from works, so that no one can boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time for us to do.
There is it in a couple of sentences. Salvation is…
For good works. And it’s this third component we often forget. That we are not only saved from something, and not only saved by someone, but we are saved for something. We are saved by grace, through faith, and for good works.
This is the means, the avenue, and the result of salvation. These are the pillars upon which life in Christ balances, each of which is necessary for that life to stand. In further reflecting on those pillars, it’s great to see that these good works – the result of what comes by grace through faith – are not random. They are not haphazard. Instead, these are intentionally chosen, fashioned, and set apart good works for us to live inside by God Himself.
They are your good works; and they are my good works. And yours are not mine and mine are not yours. Thus is the nature of God setting them out for us as individuals. Sure, they intersect, and sure, they might look similar, in that you might give or serve in a similar way that I would. But yours are still yours. And mine are still mine.
It strikes me that I have the tendency to look at this and think, “That’s awesome! God has a wonderful plan for my life! And yours, too!” And just stop there. But if God has intentionally chosen and set apart these good works for you and me shouldn’t there be some kind of intentionality we bring to the process as well? In other words, what if instead of simply assuming that these good works are out there, that assumption became a belief powerful enough to reorder how we see our daily activities?
Imagine the difference. In one scenario, you’ve got you daily schedule in front of you, often times so similar to the one from the day before that you could do it almost blindfolded. But in the other one, you roll out of bed with the thought ringing in your ears that there is good out there for you – you – today, and therefore you must plan accordingly. If we lived in scenario 2, then I would propose it would greatly affect at least three areas of our lives every day:
We have the tendency to jam as much as possible into every day. We are, after all, very busy and important people, so we run from appointment to appointment and phone call to phone call, trying to squeeze in as much as we possibly can. But if we started to believe that there are intentionally planned good works for us, then we must also start to believe that we might not be aware of when those opportunities will present themselves. So the effect is that we build in intentional margin into our schedules. We don’t plan those appointments back to back; we assume that some chance for us to do good will come up, and that opportunity is going to take time. Time that now we have appropriately planned for.
If we assume that there are good works for us that God has planned, then many of those good works are going to take money as well as time, especially if we find ourselves in affluent areas. We’ve got to, then, plan to be intentionally generous. This goes beyond regular giving to the local church and other ministries (though it certainly includes that). What if we set aside a certain amount each month, beyond these regular givings, for “random” generosity? This is money to fund the mission trip or the adoption. It’s money to give to the young couple who live on Totino’s pizzas a night out. It’s specifically there to leave in an envelope in someone’s mailbox when a need comes up.
Beyond time and money, we can be proactive relationally as well. In doing so, we assume that the conversations we are going to have are an opportunity to do good. That might mean doing something as crazy as keeping a conversation log on your computer so you can ask specific questions about a situation in someone’s life when you talk to them next. It might mean scheduling a conversation so that it doesn’t have to be a quick phone call. Or it might mean walking into a conversation first as a listener, then as a talker. The point is that we assume that in that conversation there is good for us to do, and so we have a plan walking into it.
Again, the point is that we do something more than assuming. We put feet and words to our thoughts. We come up with a plan that we enact every single day, and that plan is fueled by an unshakable belief in a God who has already planned. A God who knows the end before the beginning. That’s the plan I want to join. On purpose.