Posts Tagged ‘ Works ’

VerseD: Colossians 3:23-24

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.
Colossians 3:23‭-‬24, ESV

Do you realize how central Jesus is to everything?

We not only serve for Christ, but in all we do we are serving Christ.

Whatever you did to the least of these you did to Me.” (Matthew 25:40)

VerseD: John 15:5

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
John 15:5, ESV

We can try doing all sorts of things for God, but if we are not first found in Christ it will all be useless.

In Escrow …

Winnow out wisdom over at Proverbial Thought.

Buying a House

My wife and I are in the process of getting a house.

There have been many issues to arise along the way.

Obviously there is a lot of paperwork. Our entire history is looked into, and a massive amount of money has to be spent.

One of the more amazing parts of the buying a house is the escrow account.

The escrow account holds funds to help with closing costs during the buying process, and it collects money throughout the year to help pay taxes, HOA fees, and insurance. The bank takes care of all of this for us.

However, we do not see anything on our investment until the end of the process. We have put in all of this money and time, and everyone already considers this house as ours. For the time being, we must eagerly wait to get all of the benefits of our work.

Already/Not Yet

There is an interesting part of theology known as the “Already/Not Yet” part of Christ’s work and the Kingdom of Heaven.

Christ has paid the closing costs of our redemption through His sacrifice on the cross and His resurrection from the grave.

We join with Him, through the power of the Holy Spirit, in the work of reaching out to our fallen world.

It is a lot of work that requires a lot of time and energy. The cost is high, at points costing a Christian everything.

Now, you see, we are already redeemed for Christ in anticipation of eternity and for His work in this life.

However, we wait for the final redemption.

The payment has been made, and we continue to do the work. Eternity with God is already considered ours.

While we work, we await the redemption of our fallen world and our physical bodies that is not yet come to us. Our work with and for God is God preparing us for a world we do not yet see.

18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
Romans 8:18-30, NIV

Engine Change

Firstly, here is your regular reminder to get some good ol wisdom from Proverbial Thought.

Perhaps you have heard the line – or even said it yourself – “I believe I can get to heaven, because I am basically a good person. I do a lot of good things, at least way more than the bad I do!”

There are a few reasons why this is wrong, and I will explain this some a little later.

First, a story:

Engine Change

You are a car. You were built with the modern combustion engine, and you run on gasoline. As you drive around, you occasionally speed or roll through a stop sign; but overall you follow the rules, let people merge ahead of you, let people take the closer parking spot at the store, and do your best to keep your engine running well.

One day, you realize that the way you are living is actually harming your surroundings and causing some issues within your engine, because it runs ever-so-hot and fills the air with corrosive and poisonous gases. You decide to clean up your act! You switch to a biofuel, like E-85. You still live much the same way, but now you have much less of an effect on your surroundings. Good for you! You are now the envy of so many other cars who wish to live the same way as you!

There is still one problem: No matter what kind of fuel you use or how well you drive, you are still polluting your environment even just a little. No matter how well you drive, even if you follow all of the rules of the road and let every one else get ahead of you on the road and in the parking areas, you still pollute your environment at least a little. Your good intentions will always stain your environment and hurt the air.

One day, you learn of the Master Mechanic. When you choose to let the Master Mechanic work in your life, he offers an upgrade you can not get on your own. He switches out your engine for a fuel cell and tells you to obey all traffic laws and offer your spot on the roads and in parking areas. He tells you that you have to come to Him regularly to ensure your engine is running smoothly. In the process, you will no longer pollute the air or run too hot. Instead, all you produce clean, pure water. You may still drip the occasional break fluid or wiper fluid when you forget to check in with the Master Mechanic, but He fixes you right up and helps you clean the spills when you remember to spend time with Him.

Did you get it?

Perhaps this was a little too straight-forward, but here is the explanation:

Our hearts are like the engines. While we eventually come to realize that our actions have consequences, that we can do many things to make our bodies run efficiently and healthy by changing habits or diet, we still have a problem. We may occasionally do truly selfless acts, but we all have selfish motives at one time or another. We all deny God in some way at one time or another. We all put ourselves in the place of God at one time or another.

This is called sin. One sin is enough to taint every part of our lives. No matter how good our intentions, we all will fail in the end to live perfectly pure and clean lives. A car that runs on biofuels will still require oil to help the engine run smoothly. A person doing good works will still do many things with selfish intentions, or make something (including their good works) more important than God, or they may think they might have the control that God alone has to decide who suffers and who does not or who lives or dies.

Good Intentions

What a person like this fails to realize is that even good intentions can lead to horrible results. I know of someone who once was told by his dad not to let anyone touch the car in the driveway. It seems like a simple enough request. His friend called and said, “I need a ride to the store, can you help?” He thought, “Sure. What could be the harm of a quick five-minute drive?”

His friend came over, and they pulled out of the driveway. At the stop sign at the end of the block, they rolled through the stop sign and were struck by another car. His friend was killed almost instantly.

You see, his dad wanted no one to use the car, because his dad had gone to find new brakes having taken the ones from the car to match.

This young man had good intentions, but his desire to do something good at the sake of disobeying his father led to drastic repercussions.

It must be remembered that even our good intentions may have unintended consequences. Think of the age-old cliché “Be careful what you wish for!” As the show Once Upon a Time … puts it, “Magic comes at a price.” There are countless ways to express this.

The Whole Point

Here is what it all means:

Apart from the work of Messiah Jesus through the Holy Spirit living in us, we can do nothing on our own to get us to Heaven. While we are capable of good works on our own, they are meaningless without God. We must believe in the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus, that He brought us grace, forgiveness, and peace for our sins.

All of us have become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;
we all shrivel up like a leaf,
and like the wind our sins sweep us away.
Isaiah 64:6

As it is written:

“There is no one righteous, not even one;
there is no one who understands,
no one who seeks God. All have turned away,
they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good,
not even one.”
“Their throats are open graves;
their tongues practice deceit.”“The poison of vipers is on their lips.”
     “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”“Their feet are swift to shed blood;
ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know.”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

. . . for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God . . .
Romans 3:10-18, 23

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

2 Corinthians 5:17, 14-15

Love Is An Act of Faith

Love is an act of faith, and whoever is of little faith is also of little  love. — Erich Fromm (1900-1980)

There are so many things in my life which I could have achieved up to this point. There are so many things in my life which I could have done up to this point. There are so many things in my life which I could have experienced up to this point.

I have not achieved many of the things which may have been achievable. I have not done many of the things which I might have done. I have not experienced many of the things which I could have experienced.

And I would not change a thing.

For starters, I may yet achieve, do, and experience many of those things. I do not know, and frankly I do not much care. I am aware of some of these things, but there is no point dwelling on them longer than a moment or two. (“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34)

The things most cherished in my life are those for which I had to sacrifice. I gave up time, resources, and possessions to help others because I love them.

As James said:

What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.

In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

James 2:14-26

Jesus explained that “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.” (John 14:21) In Matthew 25:31-46, He explained what this looks like. It is those who put their faith and professed love into action by feeding the hungry, caring for the stranger and needy, and visiting the lonely and imprisoned.

The great thing about our Lord is that He teaches by example. God sent promises throughout the Hebrew scriptures to send a Savior. We were told that “God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.” (1 Corinthians 1:9, only slightly out of context!) He demonstrated this faithfulness and love through a miraculous birth, preparing others to hear Him by raising up a faithful witness (John, the baptizer), throughout His ministry by doing all of the things He said those who love Him would do, and going to a crucifix to die to take the punishment for our unfaithfulness. A few days later, He even conquered death and the grave by rising again and offering a hope for everlasting life to those who believe in Him. This is the gospel message. This is the good news. This is the good word. This is the truth.

As Paul said:

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

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 according to his good purpose.

Philippians 2:5-13

If you truly have faith, you will love others. It is not only commanded, but it is a direct outgrowth of a connection with God. Christians should be the most loving people on the planet. A failure to love is a failure to walk with God. Fortunately, God came to help all of us who fail constantly!

The Lovable Jerk

I know. A corvette and mention of a jerk. It must be that I have a corvette and you love me for it!

No, actually this is a dear friend and his first corvette. Trust me. It applies. You probably have a good question, though.

What is a lovable jerk?

To help you understand this, I have a couple of stories.

This past weekend was the monthly mens breakfast for my church. We had a great time at Denny’s with stories, life updates, and a great challenge about finishing strong. The pastor ducked out a little early. I jokingly thought to myself “He did not really finish! He left early!” When the rest of us walked to the front to pay our bills, there was some confusion at the register. It took a minute to figure out that “That one man with the glasses” (the pastor) “paid for it all.” I sent him a text message (do not get too mad at me, because I will explain myself):

“You are a jerk, but a lovable jerk who is greatly loved! May the Lord bless you and keep you, brother!”

(He loves me, too. And if you know about whom I am speaking, just praise God for his love.)

Another person is a lovable jerk. I put the same disclaimer here as for the pastor: praise God.

This man is that dear friend who, quite honestly, deserves a corvette. If you know this man, you agree. The story about him takes place when I was first allowed to see this man in action. Our car was having some issues, and (as has happened many times since) he offered to fix it. He fixed the car and paid for the parts he needed. I was at work when he did this, and I remember thinking “He better not have topped off the gas tank.” He did. He is still floored to this day that when I saw the gas gauge jump to “F” I looked at him and said “You jerk!” He asked his son later, “Was he mad at me?”
“No, dad,” he said. “He was saying thank you!”
Again, he still is amazed by this.

He has learned, though, what I really mean when I say it.

“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”
Matthew 5:14-16

When I call you a jerk, it usually means “You are jerking on my heart-strings, right now.”

When I call you a jerk, it usually means “You have done quite well!”

When I call you a jerk, it usually means “God, I praise You for this blessing through this person.”

You lovable jerks make me praise God.

Go be a lovable jerk for God. (See the related Philippians 2:12-13)

Go on! Do it!

(On a side note, today I was hired to work with 1st and 2nd grade autistic children in the same school district as my wonderful wife! Praise God! No, seriously … PRAISE HIM!)

Used goods

I once prayed “Father, use me for Your will.” When I say “once,” what I really mean is that I did not understand exactly what I was asking for when I first prayed that prayer.

Most of us would like to do something great for God. We have those dreams of leading thousands at a time to Christ or performing amazing miracles which lead many to investigate the claims of the Gospel message. Some of us want to write that devotional, Bible study curriculum, or song that changes the way people think about God.

We take Ephesians 2:10, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do,” and use it as evidence that we are to do great things.

I must point out that it merely says “to do good works” (and is also referring to our inability to gain God’s favor or salvation through works, but only by God’s grace). Jesus told us to do good works, as well.

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.

“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

Matthew 5:13-16

We must remember, however, that on our own “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6), which means our good works are worthless. It is only when we are used by God that our works mean anything, are in fact “good.”

“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 according to his good purpose.”

Philippians 2:12-13

 My simple prayer led me through many trials and tests. I was forced in many ways to re-examine all that I believe and think.

What have I learned?

Two things:
1) That I still have a lot to learn!
2) While we may be able to do things with good intentions, we can only truly do good things when used by God.

When we are God’s “used goods,” He will use us to accomplish His will, not only for us individually but for the all of Creation. We must remember that much of the time this means our good works may be doing the dishes, paying bills, and helping our neighbor. Sometimes it means scrubbing toilets, washing people, and feeding mean-spirited, smelly hungry people. Sometimes it means sharing the Gospel, preaching the Gospel, and leading ministries.

We must be open to God to know what to do. We must remember that much of our being used by God means faithfully living our lives in the day-t0-day routines of life. It also means faithfully following His leading if and when He uses us for “the greater things.”