How many times have you heard someone tell you that they think that at the end of their life they will have some kind of experience where God will stand at the entrance of heaven with a great big scale and put all their life actions on either the good or bad side of the scale and the side to which the scale tips determines their eternal destiny? I know I've heard various renditions of this thought more times than I can count.
I'm so grateful for what I see when I read Ephesians 2:4-10 (NIV):
4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
When I read this I realize that God has done everything for me. He saved me, brought me into relationship with Himself, just because He chose to love me. He gave me the faith to believe in Him.
I've found in my life that the more I come to understand and believe this truth, in the deepest parts of my heart, the more I want to get closer to God. The more I long for the His Word, delight in praising and thanking Him, desire to linger in His presence. The more I stay connected to Him, the more I open up avenues for His Spirit to work in my life. The more He works in my life, the more I become others focused, not in the sense of judging them, but in the sense of wanting to let God use me in their lives to bless them.
I find it interesting that in verse 9 of the Bible passage above it says that God did all that He did because He has a purpose for the lives of each of His followers, a purpose for us to do good. In Galatians 5 it talks about the freedom we can experience in Christ and how our natural, sinful, nature is at odds with the work of God's spirit in us. In Galatians 5:22-23 it even describes what the product, or fruit, of God's spirit working in us will look like:
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
We absolutely don't come into relationship with God because of any good actions on our part. We can spend eternity with God simply because of His gift of faith in His son who died on our behalf. Yet, as I come into relationship with God He does change me. he does produce these 9 things described above. As Joyce pointed out earlier this week, the process by which God works is not always one that we would naturally think of as pleasurable. Just as pruning rose bushes allows them to produce more roses, so God's pruning in my life allows me to produce more fruit.
What are some ways God's worked in your life to make you fruitful?