One passage that you've likely read, heard, even memorized is Ephesians 2:8-10:
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (NIV)
The first two verses describe the glorious good news of the gospel: Our salvation comes through faith, as a gift. And there's not one thing - not service, not "being good," not helping kittens and grannies - that we can do to earn or deserve God's salvation.
But if good works are not a part of our salvation, how do they fit into God's plan?
"For we are God's handiwork," Ephesians 2:10 begins. To describe the role of works, Paul first goes all the way back to our own creation. God made us, he says. We are, literally, "God's work" or "God's creation."
(Sometimes people claim this word - "creation" or "work" or "handiwork" or "workmanship" - means something more specific, like "masterpiece." That's not actually emphasized here - the Greek word just means "something that has been made." Although other parts of Scripture certainly make it clear that when God made us, He made a masterpiece - starting right in Genesis 1:26-31!)
So God created us, Paul says. But what's more, God designed us to do something.
When God created and then saved us who are believers, He planned for us to serve: We were "created in Christ Jesus to do good works," Paul writes.
Each one of us was designed to be a "worker of good," a servant of God and others. Part of the package that comes with salvation is this job description.
But what if we don't know where to start serving, or what "good works" we're supposed to be doing? It can be tough to find a fit (as we've written before). Or should we simply jump in to the first opportunity (or easiest opportunity) that comes along, just to "check the box" and fulfill our "good works" job description?
That's where the end of verse 10 comes in. Describing those good works that we're supposed to be doing, Paul says that God has "prepared" them "in advance for us to do."
This is good news! God didn't just create us. He created us AND created the good works. He made us, saved us, told us to do good, and set the wheels in motion Himself so we'd have personalized "good works" to do.
Just like any other area of spiritual growth, God not only commands but also supplies what we need to fulfill His command. (And if you've never thought of serving as a spiritual discipline that helps us grow, read this.) Just like God is willing to give us the energy to pray, the heart to read His word, the words to say as we share about Him, and so on, He WILL lead us to the good works He created just for us, if we're willing.
It may take some time. It may take some counsel. It will take prayer and patience, watching and waiting. But God made you AND made the good works for you to do - He's ready and able to connect the two. Are you willing?
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