I know how God works. Or perhaps I should say I know what the Bible says about how God works.
The Folly of the Law
Trying your best to follow the rules alienates you from God.
You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. (Galatians 5:4.)
In fact, it will kill you.
… for the letter [that is, the law of the Old Covenant] kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2 Corinthians 3:6.)
That doesn’t mean there is no room for obedience in your life in Christ. Rather, it means that your relationship with God relies entirely on God’s grace, and it is to be marked by obedience to him. The work that comes out of you is because of the work God does in you.
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. (Philippians 2:12-13.)
This is nothing new for those who belong to God. It’s the way he has always worked through his people.
I have chosen [Abraham], so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him. (Genesis 18:19.)
There are two actors in this passage, but note who is the one responsible for accomplishing God’s purpose: Abraham was chosen so he would direct his affairs in a godly way, yet God himself is the one who brings about the fulfillment of his promises.
Just like Abraham, God chose you for himself so that he will bring about for you what he has promised. And just like Abraham, you are to direct your life in a Godly way.
Grace Brings Obedience
How can you do this? Again, it is all by God’s grace working in and through you. Following the way of Christ does not bring the grace, but rather his grace makes obedience possible.
For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. (Titus 2:11-14.)
Not only does God’s grace teach you to say no to “ungodliness and worldly passions,” according to this passage; it also teaches you to live a godly life. But look at what else the passage says: living the right way is not what makes you righteous or pure; Jesus has already purified you by redeeming you “from all wickedness.” This work of Christ – not your own will – is what makes you “eager to do what is good.”
The practical effect of pursuing the work of the kingdom of God can be described like this:
How we act does not save us, to be sure. But how we live as God’s people is the vital link between our calling and our mission. There is no biblical mission without biblical ethics. God wants to use us to bless the world. (Christopher J. H. Wright, Good Behavior Matters After All.)
Your actions do not achieve your salvation. Your actions bless those God has put in your life.
That is the kingdom work God has always had for his people.
… all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you. (Genesis 12:3.)
Bless the lives of others as you live in God’s grace.