Our spiritual lives can be compared to sailboats and in our journey with Jesus we will encounter concepts that seem like contradictions until we learn to navigate through them. They include the understanding of the roll of grace and the roll of works, being free from the law yet being obedient to God, being intentionally active in pursuing the Holy Spirit while remaining surrendered to Him.
These concepts won’t be reconciled simply by reading an article or even a passage of scripture. In fact, I believe that most of the answers to our deep spiritual issues happen while out at sea, not while we are tied to the dock reading the manual. Don’t get me wrong, God gave us the greatest seafarer’s manual known to man; the Bible but the Bible is only maximized by those willing to sail their ship. In fact, we have to constantly stay on guard that we don’t use the Bible and our favorite teachers as excuses to justify spending a lifetime tied to the dock.
It is only while navigating the perils at sea does the Bible come alive as the Holy Spirit fills our sails with principals and direction and guides us through the subtleties of the spiritual life. The seeming contradictions appear as storms and then resolve as we sail through them under the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit.
For instance, when we come to faith in Jesus and understand that grace is given to us freely through Him we start to experience freedom in our souls from guilt and shame and fear. Salvation is where we are given our ship but there is a danger in being lulled into tying our boat to the dock of grace and spending the rest of our lives reading about it but not fully experiencing it.
Will we be loved by God and be guaranteed eternity with Him if we do nothing more than sit tied to the dock and study grace? Absolutely, but in doing so we will stunt our spiritual growth and forfeit the experience of abundant living and fail to live out the full purpose and calling God has on our lives. Our spiritual lives and grace are only fully experienced and realized at sea.
We are saved by grace and we are to abide in Jesus by grace or we won’t be able to accomplish anything of value to God. But we are also supposed to intentionally function in good works that God has created for each one of us to specifically do. If we haven’t sailed our ship we will perceive any challenge from friends, teachers or even the Bible as putting us under a performance-based relationship with God and we will reject it as we sit comfortably tied to the dock while growing barnacles on our boats.
The genius of Paul in addressing this issue is found in the following passages. We all quote Ephesians 2:8-9 to understand the roll of grace in our salvation and lives.
Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
The problem is when we stop with verse 9 and don’t read verse 10 as a continuation of the thought. Paul wants us to continue with his thought in the very next verse so that we will launch our ships to sail the seas that God has called us to.
10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
Grace has follow through and that follow through is good works done in the power of the Holy Spirit. The grace part of our works is that we accomplish them only through dependence on the power of the Holy Spirit but we have to show up and do our part. We have to set our sails to catch the wind of the Holy Spirit. A boat sitting tied to the dock with sails lowered will never experience God on the level He desires and Christianity will become just a theory we discuss instead of a life that we experience.
My good friend Kyle Martin describes the dichotomy between grace and works and defining our role in the midst of it with a profound statement; “It’s one hundred percent God and one hundred percent me”. In other words, I have to be one hundred percent surrendered to God but I have to one hundred percent show up and participate.
There is a great danger in pursuing works to get God to approve of us. That is a performance-based relationship with God and it will make our lives a living hell on earth even though we are saved. But failure to launch out to sea and pursue the works God has for us for fear of falling into performance is just as self-destructive and lacking in faith.
Just remember God made us for the rigors of the sea; we can handle it with Jesus on board. But we will never fully function tied to the dock.
Sailboats were meant to sail.