Tag Archives: Good works

Real Faith ALIVE

There are two statements that have stuck in my heart this as I listened to Jesus Manifesto, a book I had previously read.

  • “Jesus didn’t come to make bad people good.  he came to make dead people live.” -Jesus Manifesto
  • “It’s possible to serve God without loving him, but it is impossible to love God without serving him.” -Anonymous

 Our lives are a testament to the God we love and serve.  But the world is not always seeing the true testament of God through his people.  They only see a mere picture of our hypocrisy. What happens when we say we love God, but are afraid of taking scripture too seriously? The nonbelievers around us might never pick up a Bible.  They have only our lives as a window to the greatness and glory of God.  What do they see?  How do our lives translate scripture to the world?

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit the orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. -James 1:27 ESV

Instead of seeing James 1:27 lived out in our lives, does the world see something else?  Do they this:

Religion in its’ purest form before my neighbor is this: Dress up on Sundays, smile pretty and convince everyone that your life is a dream.  Carry a big Bible, sing and clap (but not too enthusiastically or they’ll think something is wrong with you) and attend church at least three Sundays per month.

OUCH!

The two statements at the top of this article remind me of what James says about faith.

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?  Can that faith save him?  If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,”  without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not  have works, is dead. -James 2:14-17 ESV

Serving God and loving others, is the natural product of a living breathing faith.  Because God loved us first, (while we were still sinners) and we are filled with his love (in Christ), his love will overflow and touch everyone around us.  If we love him, we will love others.

I want to be clear.  I am NOT saying that we work hard and discipline ourselves in order to prove our love for God is real.  What I AM saying that the more we fall in love with God, the more we will naturally obey and keep his commands – the more natural it will be for us to love others.  The anonymous quote above could be rephrased like this; It is possible to do good works without a living faith, but there is no such thing a living faith that does not produce good works.

If you are feeling that your faith is dried up or you feel burned out, then it may be that you have been attempting to do the good works on your own.  Perhaps you have previously thought of good works as a penance.  Maybe you thought you had to prove your love to God by doing good things for him.  There is a better way.  Fall in love with Jesus again.  Discover again in scripture how much you are loved and treasured by God.  His word is a love letter to you, not a check list of good works to do.  Let the power of HIS LOVE change you.  Transformation is the work of the Holy Spirit.  Let him do it.  Just as we can not save ourselves, we also can not transform ourselves.  You are NOT the potter.  You are the clay.  It is Jesus who has brought you from death into life and Jesus who makes you new.

Trying to do good works without a living breathing faith is like manually tying ripened fruit to the branches of a dead tree.  The work is laborious and exhausting.  The fruit quickly perishes and the tree is incapable of producing more fruit to replace it.  So you begin the laborious and exhausting work all over again.  Burnout is inevitable!  Real living breathing faith that naturally produces good works is like a tree, healthy and beautiful, planted by streams of fresh water, whose roots run deep into soil rich with the essential minerals to nourish it.  It produces the best fruit season after season – fruit that is a blessing to all who encounter the tree.

Discipline is good.  A living breathing faith that reproduces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control is better!

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The Paradox Between Being Relational and Being Right

I see in my kids a reflection of myself.  We are caught in a paradox seeded in the blueprint of humanity.  An inner desire to be in relational conflicts with a passionate drive to be right.  For my kids, this comes out in epic sibling battles.

My kids love each other, and depend on that sibling relationship for encouragement.  Through their friendships with one another they gain an understanding of the world of High School and Middle School.  They share in common the burdens and blessings of being a child whose Dad is a Pastor of Worship.  They rely on each other to endure the German stubbornness and sometimes quick temper of their dad.

But, while they see their need for a sibling relationship, they are torn with a drive to be right.  Now, I don’t mean to say that they look for the right answer.  No, not at all.  They deeply desire to prove that the thoughts and opinions they start with are the right ones.  Scripture teaches that none of us, by nature, are right.  None of us, by nature, are even good.

Romans3:10 As the Scriptures say,
   “No one is righteous—
not even one.
11 No one is truly wise;
no one is seeking God.
12 All have turned away;
all have become useless.
No one does good,
not a single one.”
13 “Their talk is foul, like the stench from an open grave.
Their tongues are filled with lies.”
“Snake venom drips from their lips.”
14 “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”
15 “They rush to commit murder.
16 Destruction and misery always follow them.
17 They don’t know where to find peace.”
18 “They have no fear of God at all.”

We were made to live in intimate relationship with our Creator.  Because of our sin nature it is impossible for us to have this Father/son/daughter relationship with God here in this life or in eternity.  This sin nature is our inheritance (Thanks grandpa Adam and grandma Eve). We have also inherited the penalty, which is death.

That sounds so harsh. “But, I’m a nice person.”  “I do more good stuff than bad.”  “I help the poor.  I go to church.”

Let me ask you a question.  Where did you ever get the idea that God has a scale and weighs your good things against the bad?  That’s not how it works. If the imagery of a scale helps your understanding of the judgement, then you should think of it like this.  If you were born standing one the side of the scale and you needed to throw your good deeds to the other side of the scale, you would not be strong enough to throw them that far. No matter how good your deed is, your arm isn’t strong enough. It’s not about how good your deeds are.  It’s about you not being able to reach the other side of the scale with them.

Romans 3:19 Obviously, the law applies to those to whom it was given, for its purpose is to keep people from having excuses, and to show that the entire world is guilty before God. 20 For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are. 21 But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses[a] and the prophets long ago. 22 We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.

Jesus came and poured out His righteousness for us. He substituted Himself for us on the cross. He died in our place. Because we were helpless to do anything, He did it all.  Every ounce of our salvation is the work of Jesus.  You can’t do good enough works to earn it and you can’t do enough good works to prove it.  Try as you might, you can’t even live up to the laws we’ve been given.

 Romans2:23For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. 24 Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. 25 For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, 26 for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus.

Made in the image of God to live in intimate relationship with God under the righteousness of God.  That relationship was broken by Adam who passed on to us an inheritance of unrighteousness. This unrighteousness first inherited then fully embraced by our own sinfulness. Jesus came to cleanse us from Adams stain and forgive our sins.  His work on the cross did it ALL!

I recently saw this tweet – “Supplementing God’s grace with your works is like supplementing the Arctic Circle with your ice chip.  You Are You Kidding?” – Scotty Ward Smith via twitter.