Friday, November 17, 2006

cause & effect

She was visibly shocked and even irate that I should be so confident in my assertion that good works can’t earn favor with God. She’s a Jehovah’s Witness. My JW friend was nice enough to give the big guns a break last week and he brought a lady who I believe to be nothing more than an enthusiastic rookie. I hope she learned something. As for me, I’m glad for the break, because this gal wasn’t sly enough to keep changing topics and follow the cult’s script for how to proselytize without using common sense, logic, and a proper reading of the Scriptures. Unfortunately for her though, it seemed that she was deaf—spiritually deaf.

We are not saved by doing good works. Jesus did not only make it possible for salvation, but he paid the full price. Hence, the cry of tetelestai (It is finished!) from the cross. God sprinkles the blood of his own son on the altar to atone for our sins, and we defile the sacrifice when we add our imagined righteous deeds (filthy rags) to the table. It is not an improvement to dilute perfection!

“We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.” Galatians 2:15-16 (ESV)

Can a caterpillar become a butterfly if it sips nectar and floats effortlessly in the air? No sir! That’s impossible. First comes the transformation into a butterfly, then the attributes of its new nature are inevitable.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2: 8-10 (ESV)

If we are saved, it is because God chose to save us, not because we pulled our own lifeless bodies up into the rescue boat. The Bible says that God caused us to be born again. And then He protects this hope. If it were up to us to protect it, we have reason to be uncertain and doubt our salvation, but if God is keeping guard over our salvation, we cannot lose it. Oh, good works follow salvation, but let’s not put the cart before the horse.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” 1 Peter 1:3-5 (ESV)

Do the saints ignore the words of the Law and deeds of compassion and righteousness? May it never be!! But are we saints because we do good works or do we do good works because God has transformed us into saints?


L.L. Barkat said...

We certainly do good works because God has transformed us! However, I think this complicates the matter:

people all over the world do good things every day... we don't seem to have a corner on the ability to do good.

Now, whether those good things are enough to save?... a friend of mine once said it's like this... trying to reach God is like trying to cross the ocean; even if we are good swimmers, we can never do enough to cross, to bridge the gap. We need him to draw us across the expanse.

Craver Vii said...

”…we don't seem to have a corner on the ability to do good.”

Complicated indeed. We (the church) cannot claim to perform satisfactorily in this arena. I don’t suppose that it would matter very much to a hungry person whether free food comes from a Christian, Muslim or atheist. Especially if it comes “no strings attached.”

But good deeds are leaky packages. A little goodness spills out from the top when they are not done in a sweet and kind spirit. Goodness escapes from the bottom when the motive is not truly pure. And do we offer top-shelf good deeds or just leftovers, damaged or unwanted items? And oh boy, if we compare to God’s perfect goodness (the only accurate standard) we find that our good deeds may not be so good after all.

So if they’re not so good, what’s the point of doing them? Not-so-good deeds have less appeal than the opiate that fools us into thinking that we ourselves are good. (frustrated sigh)

What if good deeds are things done by the hands of regular muckety-mucks when God wants to express his own grace through us?

[Oops—I’m ranting. The show’s producer is signaling that we have to go to commercial.]

Craver Vii said...

Commenting on my own stuff... kinda schizophrenic, huh?

The proceeding tasty morsel was imported from here. Check out the link for more good stuff.

(From CH Spurgeon)

"There is a great deal of difference between God electing you, and your electing yourself; a vast deal of difference between God justifying you by His Spirit, and your justifying yourself by a false belief, or presumption; this is the difference,"

—"you who have elected yourselves, and justified yourselves, have no marks of the Spirit of God; you have no evidence of genuine piety, you are not holy men and women, you can live in sin, you can walk as sinners walk, you have the image of the devil upon you, and yet you call yourselves the children of God. One of the first evidences that anyone is a child of God is that he hates sin with a perfect hatred, and seeks to live a holy, Christlike life."

Anonymous said...

i think the reason we see unbelievers also do "good works" is because we are all created in god's image and his common grace is on humanity. so in art or in a good work, or in feeding the poor, we see a glimpse of him. it's just that in believers, people shouldn't just catch a glimpse but a gaze. a gaze into what god must be heart in thlike. i also think that motivations for good works can be quite different as well.

but i don't get too caught up in why someone else is doing good works, i still see it as a reflection of god's image in that person. it's just that without jesus, we will run out of grace and energy to fully reflect that. does that make sense?

Anonymous said...

that one line should've read: "a gaze into what god's heart must be like."