Dear Brothers and Sisters, I want to tell you the story of the Fisk Jubilee Singers. They were a remarkable group of individuals who used their God-given talents to overcome tremendous adversity to build a legacy that has burned bright for more than a hundred and fifty years.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I’ve been thinking again about one of my favorite verses, Ephesians 2:8-9. In it, Paul reminds us “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” (NIV). Many of us know this verse well–perhaps some of us even have it memorized. It truly expresses the great hope of the gospel: we are saved solely by God’s abundant grace and not by any merit of our own! However, it can be easy to forget that this isn’t the end of the story. Thankfully, the very next verse is there to remind us.
Verse 10 of the same chapter reads, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” In a way, it’s surprising that Paul turns to talk about “good works” so soon after he states that our works had nothing to do with our salvation! But there’s a big difference between good works we undertake within God’s grace and those good works that legalism tells us are necessary to make us “worthy.”
We know that Jesus’ death and resurrection have already atoned for us, and that we are welcomed as beloved children by God the Father and indwelt by the Holy Spirit–but, miraculously, the good news doesn’t stop there! We are also welcomed into the life of the Triune God, and are called to live out God’s grace by participating in his eternal good work. God loves us so much, he wants us to join with him and mature along the way.
Maybe the best example of this–of the big difference between these two very different kinds of good works–is Paul himself. At first, he was someone who fulfilled every law he believed would make him righteous, including persecuting Christians! But then Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus, and his life was transformed. He became an apostle of grace. But that grace wasn’t passive, something Paul just accepted. Instead, he took up God’s call to spread the gospel all over the known world. He was transformed by the unconditional love and grace of the Lord.
Of course, this all might seem a little grand. Paul, a hero of the faith, had a clear calling to shape history. Meanwhile, we have mortgages and bills and families that need us. I know it can be hard to believe that Ephesians 2:10 is really directed at us–can God really have good work for me to do? This is one of the great things about the gospel: no one is excluded. There is no action too small to be touched by God’s grace. In fact, God glories in working through the humble. A shepherd boy’s slingshot, a widow’s mite, and a few loaves and fish were all used in God’s plan. God sees even our smallest moments of kindness, and he chooses to use them. In fact, Ephesians tells us he prepared them ahead of time! This is truly a life-changing statement, that we get to participate, to join in God’s good work in the world.
This participation will look different for each one of us. It might be as simple as bringing a neighbor’s paper to their door, or shoveling the snow off of their walk. It could be striking up a conversation with the person next to you in line at the local coffee shop, or giving your spare change to someone who asks. When you love your neighbor, when you serve at church, when you brighten a stranger’s day, you are taking part in God’s larger story for the world. What an amazing thought!
We at Grace Communion International are well situated to tell this story. In our history, we felt the draw of legalism, of belief that good works were necessary to be acceptable to God. But now we celebrate the gospel that flips this idea on its head: God has welcomed us with a grace we never could have earned. And we know firsthand that the good news doesn’t end there. Instead, we get to become avenues of God’s grace, players on his team, and a part of his master plan. The good works we do in Christ can be small, but when we love, give, and serve, we can trust that God uses our smallest actions to point people to the triune God, to his present rule and coming kingdom.
This verse also applies to what you’re doing when you give to GCI. Your gifts, of whatever size, become part of God’s story. Your generosity enables us to fulfill God’s call to active participation in the new life he has given us in all kinds of ways. We host summer camp opportunities for youth, provide disaster relief in crisis, and host ministry interns and pastors in education and training, to name a few. We work to meet ministry needs large and small across the globe, directing resources toward different expressions of God’s good work in the world. Your donations, in a very tangible way, help us participate in the “good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
A grateful participant in God’s grace,
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Grace Communion International is dedicated to helping people everywhere understand the truth about God and the gospel. Because of your generous support, we can share the good news of who God really is for us with many more around the world. We appreciate your support.