Scripture Reading: 2 Thessalonians 1:1-12, Isaiah 66:15-16, Romans 8:30
I am more of the abundant grace mindset, that all my sins, infractions, and struggles are covered by the spread of the gospel’s cloak. The idea that I must be made worthy of my calling as a child of God rubs raw against me. I don’t like it, if I’m honest. I know my soul, my sins, the weights that so easily entangle me and my proclivity for veering off the seemingly impossible bullseye of perfection. I will not be found worthy. I will be found wanting.
It seems I am always looking for loopholes in my Christian life. I am by nature lazy and despise boundaries and constraints unless they’re of my own making. I look for ways out and around and over or under, but rarely through because through is hard—and I don’t like hard. This is why I like the abundant grace theology: I can fail hard all my life, kick against the pleasant boundaries God has set for me, and I’m still in.
This is what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called cheap grace—dependance on a cosmic cloak with nothing of form beneath it: “Forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline. Communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ.” When I make the gospel simply about grace and not about the specific work of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, I have cheapened the work. It becomes another form of godlessness. All about me, my performance, and an automatic pass regardless.
Paul, in 2 Thessalonians, gives me the perfect “gospel catch-22.” I am caught up in a story written before the foundation of time that was written by God and not my own worthiness or sense of it. “To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power” (1:11, emphasis mine). Whose calling? Not mine, His. Whose power? Not mine, His. So whose work is this staying worthy? His work by His hand. I cannot wriggle out of this work even if I tried. I am caught in an endless loop of His calling and His power. Caught. Stayed. All in.
There are ways we usurp the gospel’s full work in us, by neglecting to acknowledge the One whose work all this is. It is His power to will and work in us, and any power we might have is a mere shadow, a substanceless trick of the light. He compels and pursues us, He guards us and guides us, He protects us and provides for us, He completes the work of salvation by the power of the Spirit, through the work of the Son and under the care of the Father. This work is by and for and with and about Him—not us. Even my wriggling out of the careful and pleasant boundaries He has laid for me point to His calling and His power (Psalm 16:5-6).
Where are you omitting God from the gospel today? How are you making it simply about grace and your own work? Where are you forgetting the wonderful catch-22 loop you’re bound by and set free within? His calling, His work, and by His power. This grace is not cheap; you were bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). But this grace is also entirely free—by the work and hand of God—for you.
Lore Ferguson Wilbert is a writer, thinker, and learner. She blogs at Sayable, and tweets and instagrams at @lorewilbert. She has a husband named Nate, a puppy named Harper Nelle, and too many books to read in one lifetime.