God takes me just as I am. Stop and think about that for a second, because it applies to you, too. Our God doesn’t expect us to do anything at all in order to gain an audience or approval from Him. Not at first. Not only is there nothing we need to do, but there is nothing we can do. God has done it all!
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. – Ephesians 2:8-9, NASB
The entire process of reconciliation with God the Father is solely through His own efforts. If He did not reach down to us, we could never reach up to Him. Other religions may teach that through a series of practices one may ascend/transcend/obtain favor in the spiritual realm, but that’s not the case with the One True God. Nothing we’ll ever do is good enough to approach His throne. We don’t deserve it. Yet, for our sakes He sent His Son to take away our sins and to allow us to enter into His presence like little children rushing to greet their beloved father. In the day to day course of things we often forget this powerful and liberating truth. God saved us by His own choice and by His own effort. We did nothing. We can do nothing. Praise be to the One who saved us and redeemed us!
But as much as we quote Ephesians 2:8-9, context is king. And therefore if we’re going to quote those two verses, we must not miss what follows:
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. – Ephesians 2:10, NASB
Paul is speaking here of an active faith. We have been prepared for good works. They were prepared beforehand for us. Now stop and think about that one for a minute. Even the good works we might claim that we’ve done aren’t ours to claim! God has already laid them out for us to do like we might lay out a set of clothes to put on after we shower. And just as we wouldn’t consider going out in public without those clothes (okay, maybe some would consider, but we know it wouldn’t be right), so, too, must we look at the good works that God has laid before us. We are called to serve. We are called to minister. We are called to do these good works not for our own sakes or for our own glory, but because Almighty God who gave up His Son for us has put them before us to do.
He may call us just as we are, but He doesn’t expect us to stay that way. We often mean that spiritually, but He means it with respect to the physical activity we’re engaged in – doing the good works He has prepared beforehand. The world does not see an active and giving Christian church. It did once, during the early years of the Church. Look at how the faith spread! If we lament how our churches are shrinking and the society is turning against the things of God and we’re losing our children and our youth to the secular world, we must remember that we were called for good works to show the world that our God is real and that He is alive and well and cares about it. If we’re not carrying out the good works laid before us, then we are not doing what we were created for. Some may say, “I’m saved, why should I do anything else?” To that I would answer: read the rest of Ephesians 2. It gives the answer. God accepted us just as we were, enabling us to come before the throne of God. We are the people of God. He is our Lord. And what He asks of us we must do if we want to be able to truthfully say we are His people.