Insights: Being Cut is not the Issue

Professional status in sports is very difficult to attain and then maintain. Very few aspiring athletes make the cut and then last very long. There are some athletes like Peyton Manning or Brett Favre who have been playing football for many years and make it look like anyone who tried hard could make the cut and then last as long as they wanted. But that is not true. Continue reading

Q&A: Salvation Fruit – Titus 2:11-14

This material was presented on Oct 12, 2014 as part of a special message on Salvation and Works. The suggested answers to the Message Based Discussion Questions below are designed to stimulate thinking not replace it. Use these to spur one another to love and good works.

James 2:14-24

How important are works? Can a Christian produce dead works? Continue reading

MSG: Salvation Fruit Titus 2:11-14

This message was presented on October 12, 2014 as part of a special on salvation and works.

Last Sunday, we saw that Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. There is nothing before or after faith in Christ that can or needs to be added. You cannot earn or deserve salvation. You cannot maintain your salvation. It was completed on the cross. You willingly accept it, that is trust in Jesus Christ as your Substitute for the payment of the penalty for your sins. But what happens when people take a gift for granted? They become complacent, lethargic, and lazy. They think they have salvation, their fire insurance, so they’re waiting for the rapture! And confusion has permeated the church and in the last 60 years. People reacted saying, “People should be working for the Lord Jesus!” And I agree with that, but not with the change of doctrine. Continue reading

Question: Is a Faith a Work?

Recently, I was in a conversation with a person who held to a strict Calvinistic position. That is, he believed in the five point TULIP principles. During the conversation, we discussed Ephesians 2:8 and how the word “that” cannot refer to faith because of the Greek grammatical construction, but it must refer to “salvation,” which is elliptical (which means it is implied by the verb “saved”). As the discussion continued, I stated that faith was a non-meritorious decision.  There is no merit before God. Then he commented that a decision or faith is an action and salvation is not obtained by a work or an action. Continue reading

Life Insight: Why do people help others?

Life Insight: Why do people help others?

The world cries out for help and there are often people who are very willing to provide service and soul care.   What motivates them?  Is God’s Spirit behind every good deed?  Are altruistic acts always sourced in God? Certainly, the Lord directs many to act on behalf of His mercy, but there are other reasons why people will help others.

Dale Larson, in his book “The Helper’s Journey” gives a secular perspective on why people purpose to help others.1 He writes, “Your helping motivations and the encounters that led you into this work define who you are both as a person and as a helper.” (p. 4)  Larson describes “great moments” that help people define their goal or mission as caregivers or helpers.  Some experience helps them determine, “This is it” or “This is why I’m doing this.” Yet this kind of thinking has nothing to do with seeking to please God.  What can it have to do with anything besides feeling good about self or some kind of emotional do-goodism?

Larson goes on to ask the question if man is basically selfish or naturally altruistic. He attempts to paint the picture that helping tendencies are not unique to man.  Elephants care for each other, monkeys pick at each other’s fur for cleanliness and even rats care for each other.  He writes there is “an almost universal tendency to become aroused in the presence of a distressed member of one’s own species and to act in ways to reduce this other’s distress.” (p. 13)  He claims that even when paid for the service, the motivation for helping usually comes from within. You care.” (p. 11)  He reports that 26. 8% of the population volunteered in 2009. He said that 30.1% of women and 21.1% of men volunteered.2 

Larson highlights several benefits of caring to the caregiver.  Health benefits have been reported, but are speculative. There are social benefits and relationships that are formed and often healthy. There are reportedly physical benefits of less aches and pains, psychological help in feeling of strength, self-worth and even immunity to illness and spiritual help in providing a basis for living that transcends self.  He says,

All societies and religions have understood this relation between social connectedness, altruism, and immunity, and thus have emphasized the importance of caring for others, generosity, and service.  Although barriers of they-ness can disrupt this connectedness, our collective health may ultimately depend on our ability to see ourselves in others.” (p. 26)

            But isn’t all of this self-oriented? Whether I help others because “it makes me feel good” or “there are health or social benefits from helping,” is it not still about what “I” as the helper gets out of it?  That is not necessarily bad, because it is good for society.  However, it has no intrinsic or eternal value before God. Unless what I am doing is for the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31), because of my love for the Lord Jesus (Matt. 22:37-39) and I am dependent on the filling of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18), it is merely human works and as Paul describes it, “…wood, hay and straw.” (1 Cor. 3:12)  It will be burned up at the judgment seat of Christ. 

            Do I want people to help others?  Absolutely, yes, I do.  However, do it to please the Lord, because you know you are complete in Jesus and you have a relation with God through Him.  Do it because you believe it is part of the good works to which God designed you after salvation (Eph. 2:10).  Anything man does is filthy rags, at best (Is. 64:6), unless it is done in His power.

            Paul made this principle very clear as he wrote to Titus.  He said,

·         11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men,
·         12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age,
·         13 looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,
·         14 who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. (Titus 2:11-14)

Do good works.  Do help others.  Yet, do it for the Lord, not for self-exalting reasons, no matter how subtle they may be.  Learn some practical lessons from this book about grief, loss and illness, but look to the Lord for blessing.

1Larson, Dale G., The Helper’s Journey.

 

 

 

Question: Are rewards in heaven based on "works" in life?

 

Are rewards in heaven based on “works” in life? 

It is interesting that rewards are already “on the eternal shelf” and waiting for us to secure them.  Paul states in Ephesians 1:3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. The phrase, “has blessed us” grammatically occurs before the action of the main verb, which is found in Ephesians 1:4, “just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world.”  The main verb occurred in eternity past as God’s sovereign choice of the believer.  Therefore, the blessings were set aside on the eternal shelf BEFORE God chose the person.  Those blessings are  just waiting to be given to the believer who accomplishes divine works.

There are two kinds of works. There are human and divine works.  Human works may be good for humanity, but are worthless for eternity sake.  Divine works are always good for earthly and eternal value.  What is the difference between human and divine works and how do these relate to eternal rewards?

Paul makes it clear that we are not saved by works, but after salvation, God designed us for works,

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,
 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.
 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. (Eph. 2:8-10)

Paul clearly states that salvation is a gift from God (Eph. 2:8), which is not based on works or what man can become related to goodness or character.  On the one hand, because of the sin nature inherited at physical birth (Rom. 5:12), man can never be good enough to be accepted by God on his own merits.  On the other hand, man can never do enough good works in order to please God.  There are not enough good works a man can do to offset the sin he inherits at physical birth and the sins which are seen in his experience. God will allow no boasting in heaven.  Only Jesus is righteous before God.

            There are only two kinds of religions in the world.  One that is based on “do,” that is, what man must “do.”  All the religions of the world fit into this category from Islam, Hinduism, Shintoism, Animism, etc. The other religion is based on “done,” that is, what Jesus has “done” for us on the cross.  Salvation is a gift received by faith alone in Christ alone.  God accepts no human works for salvation – only faith.

Yet, after salvation God designed believers for good works.  Paul uses the word “workmanship,” which literally is a word from which we get “poem.”  God wrote the poem of our lives such that we are prepared from eternity past to walk in good works. 

Paul makes the distinction between human and divine works in Scripture.  He writes,

11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
 12 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw,
 13 each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is.
 14 If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward.
 15 If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
 16 Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? (1 Cor. 3:11-16)

The foundation is the basis upon what a believer builds for the sake of the kingdom.  The foundation is Jesus Christ.  Then Paul distinguishes between two kinds of works.  One category is “gold, silver, precious stones”and the other is “wood, hay, straw.”  Both are produced in man.  What is the difference?  Paul explains that in the passage. They will be “revealed by fire.”  How does fire distinguish between the two types of works?  The first category is purified and remains through the fire, while the second category burns up and results in ashes.  The first category is divine works, while the second category is human works.  What is the difference?

            The first category of divine works is work that God works through the believer by means of the Holy Spirit. Just like there is intrinsic value in gold and silver, there is intrinsic value of the work, because it is done by the Holy Spirit. The second category is work that the believer does on his own power, independent of the Holy Spirit. There is no intrinsic value.  In fact, Scripture calls this kind of work “filthy rags” as in Isaiah 64:6, “And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags.”  The best of what we can do, on our own, is filthy rags, or literally “menstrual rags,” which means there is a deadness to the works.

The divine work has intrinsic value because it is work done by the power of the Holy Spirit under the direction of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Paul states, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil. 4:13)  Paul further states this power is unleashed in the Christian under the direction of Jesus and empowered by the Holy Spirit, “and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power.” (Eph. 1:19)  His mighty power is unleashed by means of the Holy Spirit.

            Paul uses the description of the Holy Spirit’s power in the spiritual consequences of trusting the Lord in hope, “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Rom. 15:13)  Titus (Titus 2:7, 14; 3:8, 14) exhorts believers to good works and the word for good is kalos, which means “good of intrinsic value.”  That can only be accomplished by the Holy Spirit.

            Works of the Holy Spirit are rewarded as blessing in time and rewards in eternity.  Time on earth is the only time to establish rewards for eternity.  Let us depend on the Holy Spirit and let Him move through us to accomplish His good work!

 

 

 

 

Life Bears Witness

This morning, I had the privilege of preparing Logan, Collin and Cody with their dad Brady for the baptism that we’ll have on July 8.  We talked about faith, salvation, baptism and a number of other important subjects to ensure they were ready.  One of the subjects was “what should be true in a believer’s life after salvation.”  After salvation, there should be some kind of transformation, because the unbeliever transforms into a believer, a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17).

I illustrated to the boys with a simple example.  I said if the three boys came into my office and took the pictures and objects and threw them against the wall, I asked them if would they be reflecting their dad or someone else.  Collin immediately said, “The devil.” (He’s going to be a pastor some day!)  I said, “That’s right, because your dad would never do something like that.  When you are respectful of other people’s property, you are reflecting your dad, who is in the place of God, and not the devil.”  I went on to say that if a believer did come in and destroyed the office, they would be reflecting what the devil does, because he comes to murder and destroy.  It’s often a reality that believers act like their former father the devil, rather than their heavenly father (cf. 1 John 3:7-8).

Jesus was confronted by Jews who wanted to kill Him for claiming that God was His Father.  Rather than defend Himself, He said, “Many good works I have shown you from My Father. For which of those works do you stone Me?” (John 10:31)  Obviously, His works reflected the Father and not anyone else.

Whom do you reflect in your works (your life)?  Do you reflect one who is devoted to, pursuing and enjoying the Lord Jesus Christ?  Or do your works (your life) reflect something other than one pursuing the Lord?  Press ahead to Him in His upward calling (Phil. 3:14).