“What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!”
James 2:14-19 NKJV
On the surface, one might surmise that the times we are living in are irreligious, almost corporately atheist. There seems to be a wholesale turning away from the idea of a Creator God, Omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, in which everything consists.
But if one digs a little deeper, one comes to the truth: humanity is truly wired to seek after eternal things, as we have set up a multitude of religions in which we heartily worship. Whether we worship science, or identity politics of whatever flavor, conservatism, liberalism, progressivism, environmentalism, there is an adherence to a set of principles set apart for a given way of thinking and living.
In almost every religious system, whether ecclesiastical or secular, there are commonly held values that set the standards for the adherents to which people are expected to live. People cite the meeting of the standards as evidences of salvation, or the attainment of the higher state.
For the follower of Jesus, the work has been done for us at the cross. Jesus paid it all and we are not saved by works, but saved to do good works. Further more, we have received everything we need to live lives as godly man and women at the point of salvation. We have been saved due to no effort of our own, nor any prior condition or characteristic. It is strictly by the grace of God.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”
Ephesians 2:8-10 NKJV
This morning I read one of the most controversial passages in the New Testament, as it has been a place of division between Catholic and Protestant, and Baptists. One group thinks that works are part of the salvation equation and the other believes that we are saved by grace alone.
When I consider the issue, I can’t help but think of Jesus going to the cross to die for our sins, how He was tortured, bled and died. If mere works could save us, He would not have had to go the cross.
The history of God, laid out in the Scriptures proves over and over that man is desperately wicked and cannot help but sin. Even when we do good things from our fleshly state, we do so with selfish motivation, with a long goal of getting what we want.
Followers of Christ receive a heart transplant upon salvation, as the Holy Spirit comes to reside in us, superseding our motivations and desires, with the mission God has set before us. We do good as ambassadors of God, representing Him faithfully. By our works, we glorify God before an unbelieving world, drawing those who are of the elect to respond to the message of the Gospel.
I have found that those in the world are experts on how we should behave. I have myself had the dubious distinction of having been called out by someone for exhibiting ungodly behavior. It was a great reminder that I was being watched.
The works that we do are a tangible reflection of the work of God being done inside, and are related the fruit of the Spirit. The good works that we do are done motivated by the love of God, and are accompanied by the characteristics that reflect the heart of God.
“I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.”
Galatians 5:16 NKJV
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.”
Galatians 5:22-23 NKJV
These are the characteristics of one doing good works to the glory of God, and consistently present in one walking in the Spirit, which is only possible for one who has been saved by the grace of God.
Brothers and sisters, we who have been born again, have the love of God in us that should motivate us to good works. It is easy to do things for each other in the household of faith, but it is yet another to go out beyond our comfort zones and serve those who have lives and beliefs that run counter to our own.
I believe that life for the follower of Jesus will become difficult in the future, and it will be easy to raise the walls of fortification around our hearts, thus separating ourselves. But we are called to take the Gospel no matter what. Let us call upon the Lord to demonstrate the love of God to friend and foe alike.
““You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
Matthew 5:43-48 NKJV
May the fruit of the Spirit abound and infuse your good works, that many see the glory of God.
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