News and Views

The Place For Works

Working to earn God’s favour or forgiveness or to earn the way to Heaven is, uniquely, not part of Christianity. Every other religion has a system of rituals, worship, good behaviours, and/or sacrifices that can supposedly earn favour and some form of afterlife for its adherents, but not Christianity. In other religions, one has to clean up one’s act and change in order to win acceptance, but not in Christianity. Paul wrote, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Eph. 2:8 NIV) Good works play no part  in becoming Christian, no part in coming into loving relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

Instead, we need only approach God with humility, recognizing that, “We all, like sheep, have gone astray; each of us has turned to his own way;” (Isaiah 53:6 NIV) acknowledging that, ”all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Rom. 3:23 NIV) We need to realize that doing things our own way is the opposite attitude to doing things God’s way. We need to accept that there is no way that we can bridge the gap between us and God by our own efforts, but we must want to cross that gap. We need to have a deep desire to give up on doing things our way and really want to change to God’s way, to repent so that we may be “justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came through Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 3:24 NIV) We must believe that Jesus died in our place and rose again, fulfilling His words, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 NIV) We must make it personal, perceiving Jesus on the cross holding out his arms to each of us, and saying to each one personally, “I’m doing this for you, you know.” When we accept what Jesus did for us personally, He accepts us as we are, we become children of God (see John 1:12; Rom. 8:16-17; 1 John 3:1), we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit (see Rom.8; 1 Cor. 6:19; 1 John 4:13-15), and we enter into eternal life (John 3:16). We become Christians living in personal, loving relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

This brings us to the proper places, the right motivations for good works in the Christian’s life. As Christians living in loving personal relationship with Almighty God, Father and Son and Holy Spirit, we have a strong desire to express our love and gratitude through prayer, thanksgiving, praise, searching His written Word in order to know His ways and His will, and through good works. Thus, good works are one appropriate way to express to God our love, gratitude and desire to please Him because He is so good to us.

Good works are also a result of growth in Christ. When we first become Christians, we are spiritually new born babes with all eternity ahead of us for learning and growing in God’s will and ways. We are in the process of being re-created into the image of God which He intended us to be from the beginning. We are very limited images, housing small portions of all His invisible likeness in physical bodies. As in original creation, we have God the Holy Spirit dwelling within us to help us, teach us, guide us, and enable us to develop the patterns of thought, attitude and action that make us more like Jesus, that reveal the development of the image of God in us, that helps us to align our wills with our good God’s will in good thoughts, attitudes and actions. As James wrote, “Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by actions, is dead.” (James 2:17 NIV) Good works are both the result of and the evidence of faith and new life in Christ.

It is important to note that, according to the Bible, good works include both doing good things that are in accord with God’s will and refraining from doing bad things that are contrary to God’s will. The Ten Commandments in Exodus 20 are a list of “you shall not” rules. When asked which was the greatest commandment, Jesus framed His answer in the positive, “The most important one is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31 NIV) In other words, put God first and really care about the wellbeing of the people around you. Paul’s list of characteristics of love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-6, and his list of “Fruits of the Spirit” in Galatians 5:22-23, clearly show the characteristics of good works.

In Christianity, good works flow from receiving the free gift of salvation through the finished work of Jesus Christ, God the Son. Living in right and loving relationship with God through Jesus Christ results in, and is evidenced by, the good works we are then empowered to do.

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