Did you grow up in the church? I did not. I became a Christian as a teenager and did not start attending church until I was a grown up. To me, this is a double edged sword. On the one hand I didn’t have the baggage of religion but on the other hand, I also had to learn the foundation of Christianity as an adult. The one thing I never had to deal with however, was the question of works versus grace. I was acutely aware of my own sinfulness when I repented at 17 and gave my life to the Lord Jesus Christ. He saved me out of my sin through His atoning work on the cross. It is by grace I was and am saved and I never doubted it through all my years.
However, after 46 years of walking with God, I began to notice a disturbing trend, a way of thinking, that had slowly crept into my heart and mind. I realized that I was struggling more and more with the bondage of being saved by my own works, and not by His grace. For me personally, I saw this issue through the writing of this blog. I noticed for example, that I was continually feeling pressured to write. I knew that the Lord had called me to write. He was the one that told me to start this blog and not hide what He was teaching me under a basket: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16) However, it was becoming a continual struggle filled with guilt and even condemnation, when I did not know what to write about. I have no desire to entertain you, nor do I wish to write in the flesh. Nothing that I know is of any value. The only thing that will bring life to you and me, is His spirit. With that being said, let me show you how He walked me through this cycle of trying to obey Him, while not being caught in the bondage of slavery.
I remember just a few weeks ago, coming to Him once again and asking Him about this struggle. He answered it for me so succinctly that I couldn’t believe it had ever been an issue. He asked me one simple question: “Do you want to be saved by your own works, or by my grace?” Whoa!! The answer was so obvious it was almost silly. I’m far too lazy to be saved by my works. I’ll take grace, thank you very much. I thought the issue was dealt with, but boy was I wrong. The devil loves to dupe us and trick us because he loves religion. He knows all too well the power of the blood, the power of the cross of Christ, and he knows more than anyone on this earth that my works are nothing more than dirty, filthy rags and will never meet God’s standard of righteousness. The devil knows that only the blood can save me. Only Christ’s righteousness will meet the standard of God! No matter how hard I try, I cannot save myself. If I could, then the cross would have been unnecessary and Jesus did not have to come to earth as a man to die on the cross.
Ok, so why does the Bible tell us that we need to do good works, then? I think this question is a real conundrum for many people, including myself. I think that the answer is actually just as simple as being saved by grace. Paul tells us in Romans 8:14-15 “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” I want to really unpack this scripture. The word slavery that Paul uses here is the word douleia which literally means, bondage, slavery, the condition of a slave. That word has a spirit attached to it. He called it the “spirit of slavery”. In Galatians 4:21 Paul addresses this issue, “Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law”? He goes on to tell them, that they can choose between the yoke of slavery, which is and was the law, or they can choose the freedom that Christ has given us. “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” The old covenant that God had given to Abraham was the law. If you break any of the law, you will break all of it. It was a continual attempt at being good enough, of keeping the law, of good works to earn salvation. It didn’t work for them, and it doesn’t work for us.
So I will ask again, where do good works come in? The answer is surprisingly, also very simple. Paul tells us in the next sentence: “but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” If you’re like me, you have read this verse and never thought about what it really means. The difference between a slave and a son (or daughter) is love! Jesus tells us in John 15:14-15, “You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, (doulos, in the Greek, slave or servant) for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” There it is, right out of the mouth of Jesus, we are no longer servants or slaves, we are His friends if we do what He tells us to. If we love Him, if we consider ourselves His sons and daughters, we will do what He tells us to do. We will do good works. The works do not save me or you, but they are born out of love!
So simple. So hard. So difficult to believe. But it makes me really examine my heart. Do I love Him enough to do the work He has called me to do? He’s called me to write. What has He called you to do? And do you love Him enough, to do it?