Grace and the Gold Star

“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.”

— Paul in his letter the Ephesians 2:8-10

I have been talking about the need to show up regularly by setting a Rule of Life at the heart of our spiritual lives. This can make it sound like the spiritual life is about doing a bunch of tasks every day. And that isn’t correct at all. What!!!??? Yes, that can be confusing. But we need to understand that we are not saved by the stuff we do, but by grace. What does that mean?

Here is the one big temptation around having a rule of life: once we have checked everything off our list, we can feel that we have achieved something and should get a gold star from God. That is to completely misunderstand what a Rule of Life is about. This is for two important reasons.

1) We don’t get gold stars from God.

With God, we have to get away from any calculations of earning and reward, worthiness and unworthiness, cleanness and uncleanness. God’s gifts are free and freely given. God loves us. Everything good in life flows from God: the air we breathe, the bodies we move, the love in our hearts, the beauty in the world, the forgiveness in Christ and on and on. It all comes from God, even the desire to be in relationship with God is from God. And God gives freely because that’s who God is.

This is grace. Grace is the realization AND the joy we find in the fact that we are completely dependent on God for everything. Over time, we come to realize that everything is grace.

2) A Rule of Life is to clear space for God

The real point of a Rule of Life is not to get a gold star from God, but to clear space in your life to be with God. It is analogous to having a daily plan to spend time with family. For instance, I am a parent with children. I can easily go from work in the daytime, to chores, to restful TV in the evening, without a lot of interaction with my children. But I try intentionally to kick the soccer ball with my son, to play card games with my daughters, to have movie nights as a family, to go for family walks, etc. I don’t get a gold star from my family. The reward IS growing closer with my family.

The intentional activities are just a way to promote and nurture the relationships. In an analogous way, this is what a Rule of Life is for us with God. It promotes and nurtures our central relationship with our Creator. God loves us and wants to walk with us daily. A Rule of Life is that walk. The “gold star” is the deeper relationship which changes us into deeper people.

Remember, the goal is not to accomplish anything. It is merely to become more of who you already are in Christ.

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