Gospel of Works

Ephesians 2:4-8New International Version (NIV)

4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—

 

I grew up hearing Jesus died for your sins now do these things.  I heard that if I didn’t do these things then I wasn’t saved.   So naturally I took my salvation and walked a path of being good.  I once walked a life that I truly believed that everything depended on me and what I did.  It first started with believing that my actions kept me out of hell. Then I believed that my behavior earned me blessings.  These thoughts were reinforced and though they seem innocent,  mainly because this is how the world works, it was killing me.  By thinking that our deeds and behavior control hell or blessings/heaven gives us God status,  even if we would never say it out loud.  It also makes the true and living God,  weak and powerless.  This is what happens when you take grace out of the gospel.  It even makes faith a man made thing, which if you actually thought about what we are asked to have faith in, its humanly impossible.  The true gospel is a dream come true!  God knows that it takes a heart filled with a godly faith to believe that the God of all became a man, lived a perfect life according to the Ten commandments,  did the work of God, became sin, received the wrath of God on the cross, was buried then rose from the dead,  ascended to heaven, sits on the throne,  gives us the Holy Spirit which brought him out of the tomb to us, takes our sins and gives us his righteousness,  prayers for us constantly as a high priest,  rules over our lives completely like a King of all kings,  Commands the things around us as a Lord of Lords,  writes our names not on a quest list but chisels them permanently in the residents section of the kingdom of God phone book, and now when God looks at us all he sees is Jesus Christ.  But what truly makes this hard to believe is that he does this all while we are busy dirtying up our souls with the filth of the world and he did it while we are giving God not the slightest thought.  So the faith it takes to believe this; Jesus is the author and finisher, so what can’t this faith stand against?  It is only limited by what we try to keep Jesus out of but even that will not keep Him for keeping us.

When we try to be virtuous we say to ourselves; “if I do or don’t do what will be the outcome” or “I can’t be like those who are not”.  Out of fear and pride is our good deeds done. GOD opposes the proud and there is no fear in the love of God.  Anything not done out of faith is sin. Every time we sin it is because we either fear that God has ignored us or we have placed ourselves in pride over God because we know best. The minute we can’t obey or question to obey instead of walking in faith,  we sin.  Yes,  the scriptures are true when it says that our righteousness is as filthy rags.  We constantly have to restart our changes to the “new me” because it is based in fear and pride.  We are all alcoholics trying to stop our addiction by drinking less. By trying to save ourselves we will eventually lose everything but will we simply obey God in faith for the reason He is God? Not needing a reason to worship other than He is the living God is how to worship in Spirit and in truth.

But thinking this way makes us very self centered, self absorbed,  self reliant,  prideful, fearful, anxious, discontent, covetous,  jealous, envious, idolatrous,  but basically sinful.  Everything that is for God’s glory becomes ours to us for our sake.  We soon realize that to achieve our goals require perfection of ourselves and everything around us.  We soon see that our quest has separated us from the source and our sinfulness has quietly replaced our joy in exchange for fleeting happiness as our good deeds serve to help us avoid Jesus.  We avoid him because Satan has gotten us to believe that only sinners need to hear the Gospel.  This phenomenon reminds me of when Jesus feed the 5,000 in the gospel of Luke.  Jesus is the source of the miracle as the disciples had to return to Christ to get more fish and bread.  The disciples were not thinking about feeding themselves,  saving themselves,  how much better they were handing out, or if someone was given more to hand out.  They were focus on Jesus and God’s work, glory, love, and grace being poured out.  But in my case, I thought it depended on me; how fast I passed out good deeds, how much I could carry, if I was better than the next man, and what about me? I’m hungry too! Soon some of us start dealing between each other for the goods.  We become middle men, yet Jesus keeps blessing as what we meant for evil, he makes it good for those who love him.   Soon we start trying to get the fish ourselves in different ways to get the credit.  Yet, God continues to let us catch his fish.  So we do it all and say “I want to thank God” as we believe that saying a blessing before dinner is what it means to put God first.  We think that we are growing.

Growing as a Christian is not what we think it is.  We think of it as being able to take care of yourself without the help of parents.   Its more a person who hears the call to come near to Jesus.  We walk a path that we don’t where it’s leading us but we keep hearing the call.  The voice we hear sounds like home and we want to be near.  Along the way comes various distractions but no matter how many detours the call keeps us walking back to the path. As we get closer we see things clearer and clearer.  Eventually we our at the masters feet for eternity.  Growth is a constant moving closer to Jesus Christ with an increasing dependency on him alone for everything because by was everything made and everything is for him and in him everything is held together.   Knowing this and living this is what the gospel does. The gospel puts God not just first but center; just as in the feeding of the 5,000.  It is a constant, continuing of going back to Jesus who is not just the source but everything.  The snake oil salesman along the path will say that we need other things but God says he is God alone and there is no other way but by Jesus Christ.  To know that it doesn’t depend on me is a relief and freeing.  To know that my weakness is known by God and it doesn’t turn him off, is an acceptance we all yearn for.  There is none like him, there isn’t a love out there that can compare.  My powerlessness and dependence on Jesus makes me a humble beast, powerfully meek, graciously fearless because the Lord is my shepherd.

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