Where are you when you get your best thoughts? I’ve heard some people do their best thinking in the shower. Or maybe perhaps… in another part of the bathroom that I won’t mention here.
I do some of my best thinking at church. I hope you won’t think of me as a heathen for admitting that occasionally, my mind wanders during the Sunday morning service. I wish I could say I was always 100 percent focused on worship, or on whatever the preacher is saying, but that’s not the case. Honestly, is there anyone like that? If you know such a person, please don’t tell me.
Anyway, if during a service, my thoughts are unrelated to the things of the Lord, such as, perhaps, going over my afternoon cleaning to-do list in my head, (not that I’ve ever done that, or anything) I try to push them from my mind and focus.
But other times, I find myself pondering song lyrics or additional interpretations of a scripture that’s been read, and the Lord speaks to me in those moments. Such was yesterday.
I don’t know what prompted my thoughts yesterday evening. I remember that we were singing, but for the sake of total transparency, I have to admit that I couldn’t tell you any of the songs from last’s nights service. But it doesn’t really matter; the specific song is unimportant to this story.
During whatever song it was we were singing, my thoughts turned to the struggle between works and grace. It’s a dilemma as old as the church itself, and no matter what else I say here, please don’t think I have this completely figured out.
Here’s the issue: We are saved by grace. We can do nothing to earn the favor God gives us. Paul makes that abundantly clear in many of his epistles, especially Romans and Galatians. And yet, time and time again in Scripture, we also see that a life surrendered to God produces fruit. Works aren’t the way to salvation, but it’s hard to picture a saved life without them. How in the world are we supposed to reconcile these two ideas?
This is what came to me: Picture, if you will, please, a young woman who is very interested in a man she just met. She desperately wants to attract his attention, in hopes that he’ll fall madly in love with her. She has heard that food is the way to a man’s stomach, and so to lure him into liking her, she bakes a big batch of chocolate chip cookies for him.
Now imagine her plan worked. One bite of those delicious cookies and the man falls madly in love. Fast forward ten years. The two are married. He loves her. She loves him. Do you think she still makes him cookies?
Think about how different it would be now if she did. On the surface it looks the same. It’s the same two people, and the same action. But her heart is so different! The first time she made cookies to earn something – the favor of the man she liked. But now, she makes cookies out of the overflow of love for her husband, and a desire to do something to please him.
Do you see the difference? How much the motivation behind an action matters?
I want to do loads of good things. I want to pray and read my Bible and give to the poor. But I don’t do those things to earn God’s love or forgiveness. I already have them. I’m simply doing good because I love God and it pleases him. At least I hope so.
But I have to go now because all this talk of chocolate chip cookies is making me hungry. And in case you’re craving a warm, buttery cookie now, too, here is my favorite recipe.