Thursday, September 22, 2011

Why good works must exist

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Ephesians 2:10

It is God's design that Christians do good things on this earth... right here... right now. It is His purpose for us and a big part of what it means to be a Christian. But we must understand exactly WHY we do these things. And that has been a source of confusion for many. Scripture gives us clear guidance into understanding our motivations to do the good things we have been called to practice.

WE DON'T DO GOOD WORKS TO SAVE OUR SOULS. The Christian life is a life of practical theology. What I mean is that Christians believe and have received a life-changing faith. It shows in us and how we relate to other people. It must start with what we know. In the context of this passage about good works, Paul makes it clear that works in no way save us from our sinful selves. God acted in grace through Christ. Salvation is by Christ alone, through grace alone and by faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9). Nothing that I could do could save me. Works alone will never bring solutions to the sin problem. Only Jesus can do that through His atonement at the cross. So nobody can be called a Christian by thinking that doing good works made them worthy of relationship with Christ.

WE CAN'T EXPERIENCE SALVATION WITHOUT SUBSEQUENT GOOD WORKS. Good works do not bring us salvation, but they do naturally result from our salvation. We are saved FROM sin. We are saved TO do good works. AW Tozer liked to say it this way: "we are saved TO as well as FROM". We were created in Jesus to do good works. Jesus, our Lord and Master, cared for people in a way His world had not seen. He commissioned His followers to demonstrate a love for people that sought them out, even in their lostness, to proclaim and demonstrate "good news": the gospel. This gospel is about the saving grace that is in Christ. If we proclaim it we must also live out something new and good and transforming.

We must live out these two truths in balance. Christians must teach biblical doctrine with clarity and reach people with Christian charity. Emphasize one without the other and we miss our calling. It is that vital. Without this kind of Christian love actively reaching our world, Christianity will become a stale institution. We become either a theological fortress of imposing doctrinal walls, or we become just a powerless social institution bereft of eternal impact. But if we put them together...! WOW! The truth will set people free! That is why God created us to do good works. They validate the truth claims of the gospel, bringing a change that shows a new creation in Christ, one human life at a time.

- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13

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