I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. -Psalm 119:11
"But by the grace of God, I am what I am..." ( 1 Corinthians 15:10)
Today we celebrate Labor Day in the United States. We take the time to recognize the work people have done to contribute to the success and strength of their families and communities.
Working is noble. God calls us to work (Proverbs 12:11,13:4, Genesis 2:15). But it seems like with most things God commands of us, we somehow turn into an idol that God never intended. And as the writer Jackie Hill Perry said, “your idols don’t love you.”
This world has idolized a work-based identity, making it harder to differentiate between who we are and what we do.
“I’m a doctor. I’m a teacher. I’m a mom. I’m a wife. I’m a lawyer. I’m a businesswoman. I’m a singer. I’m a writer. I’m a poet. I’m a [fill in the blank].”
In and of themselves, these titles aren’t wrong. Praise God for the ways in which we can glorify Him. However, our fallen nature is susceptible to making these titles identify our being. We are prone to see our existence through the filter of what we do rather than who we are.
With this proclivity in mind, it’s no wonder that we struggle to grasp the truth that the salvation, the grace, the mercy, and the kindness we receive through Christ Jesus has nothing to do with our works, our merits, or our morality.
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. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
It’s the nature of the flesh to want to pride ourselves in our works before God. There is something satisfying about us having a part in the outcome of whatever it may be. But the Kingdom of God operates differently.
Our identity in Christ operates completely opposite of what the world we live in tells us.
We see this truth displayed through the life of Paul. If any person had reason to boast in his works, it was him.
He tells us himself in Phil 3:4
“…circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless.”
However, what Paul encountered when Jesus called him to Himself in Acts 9 changed everything – including his perspective about his own identity. That encounter radically transformed his views on the works of his hands and what it amounted to. Hear Paul’s own testimony written to the Church at Corinth:
“But by the GRACE of God, I am what I am…” (1 Corinthians 15:10)
He could no longer go back to thinking that his merits had any standing towards the mercy shown towards him by Jesus. He counted them rubbish He saw the vanity in them because he knew that it was only for his own pride.
He was no longer a product of his works & merits, but of God’s grace.
What a convicting truth to behold.
What if we let this truth sink so deep into us that we would no longer sink into confusion about where our identity comes from and how it is anchored?
Even Paul’s labor for the Lord wasn’t his. He went on to say,
“… I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.” (1 Corinthians 15:10)
It took the Lord opening his eyes to see that powerful truth. It takes the Lord opening our eyes to see this truth. The world screams the importance of identity but does a horrible job of helping us find it because it has reinforced our identity through that which can’t be sustained in and of ourselves. The world only leaves us unsatisfied.
We are what we are by being a product of God’s grace. A being that doesn’t have to strive to be accepted. A being that is not in vain because Christ's grace towards us is not in vain. A being that rests in Christ’s finished work on the cross. And In that finished work, we are justified, no longer having to re-justify ourselves before God. In that finished work, we have Christ’s righteousness, no longer having to earn it. In that finished work we are free, no longer having to be overcome by the defeat of sin. In that finished work, we are His, no longer having to doubt His love for us.
This grace doesn’t leave us without work. This grace actually enables us to do good work, free from the bondage of a merit-based salvation. Free from the bondage of being identified by our work. This grace quickens us to remember that we are “God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10).
Beloved, may you cling to this life-changing truth. Your identity is secured in Christ. Cease striving for it and rejoice in living.
The weekly devotionals seek to encourage you to dig deeper into Scripture as you take the time to daily read, meditate, and internalize the verses in the devotional along with the passages provided below to give greater context. Take the time to read them throughout the week (repetition is important) and ask the Holy Spirit to help you grasp what God is showing you about Himself, about you, and how to live in light of these truths.
Passages to read/meditate/memorize:
1 Corinthians 15
Questions to reflect on: