For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;
Isn’t that kind of a relief, then? It’s not by works of righteousness that we have done, because if we are honest, we will find few of them in our lives. And even if we could find a few, they would never be enough to undo the sins that we have committed. But thankfully it doesn’t work that way. Jesus died for us while we were yet sinners. He gave His life because we are sinners and can’t be righteous without Him. He comes to set us free from those sins, not to expect goodness from our unregenerate hearts. What grace and mercy He has shown to us. What love He has demonstrated in working it out His way.
Now we don’t have to fear to come and accept that gift, because it is not for perfect, sinless people. It is for exactly who we are—sinners who need God’s grace. He does the saving. He does the washing and the cleansing and the renewing. So we can leave that work to Him. It is only after we know Him and have received that gift and have His Spirit in us that we go out to do good works in His name. The hard work is finished, accomplished by Christ on His cross. The mountain of sin within us is not too much for His grace. A transformation enabled by His Spirit is possible. And then the work that comes after is joyful service to our Lord, works of righteousness that He works out through us to further His purposes and bring glory to Him.