Faith and works

Key verses:
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.
And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.
If ye love me, keep my commandments.
He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.
Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.
Obedience to God and His Law is a pre-condition to a positive relationship between mortals and heaven. Yet, it’s grace that calls us to obedience, not the other way around. This is the meaning of the phrase “salvation is by grace not by works”. When we start seeking to understand the will of God, the Holy Spirit opens our minds and encourages us to seek godly wisdom. Inevitably, the guidance of the Holy Spirit leads us to understand that the will of God is to heed the precepts of His Law. Christ calls us to come to the cross as we are, wretched and poor and blind. We allow Him to transform us and to impute his righteousness unto us. At this point, the works of righteousness should start to be apparent in the life of the new man. Salvation leads the believer to unselfish good works.

 

At the same time, it’s very important to understand that we cannot buy our way into heaven. No amount of “Our Fathers”, “Hail Marys”, rosary beads, or burned candles are enough to match the selfless gift of God’s grace. No amount of good works are enough to seal our names in the book of life. The reason for this conundrum is that God has already given us all His gifts. Everything that He has is freely available for us to take, if only we ask for it. We have nothing more to gain from God by doing good works and keeping His Law. We do these things because they are the right things to do. In Matthew 7:7-8, Christ speaks these words: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.”

 

Asking, seeking, and knocking are actions that we must perform in order to receive these free gifts from God. Salvation is free, but it requires a conscious effort to receive it. These acts are a demonstration of our faith and intention to subject our will to the will of God. When we ask for good health from our Lord we do so with the expectation that He will deliver. It was an act of faith when Moses lifted up his rod and stretched his hand over the sea (Exodus 14:16). Faith is not idle; faith begets actions, results, good works, obedience. These truths stem from the fact that God does not force Himself onto anyone. To follow God is to freely give up your self to His will.

 

In our church there has been some confusion regarding these things in the past. We are very much focused on the commandments of God, and sometimes we may be deceived into thinking that obeying these precepts makes us holy. This is a simple case of putting the cart before the horse. We are not holy because we obey God, but we obey God because we are holy. The holiness is not actually our own, or of our own doing, but it is Christ’s holiness, manifest in our lives through the work of the Holy Spirit. We have nothing to bring to the table except a contrite heart, sincere repentance, and the willingness to be led by God into the right way. Our only redeeming feature is repentance, the acknowledgment that something is wrong in our lives, and that only God can fix it.

 

Please remember to give thanks to God for the good He is doing in your lives. Praise His name and thank Him for all the gifts that He has spread upon the table, in particular the promise of eternal life. Let us go forth and pray to be reflections of Christ’s righteousness, lights unto the world, so that all may see and be amazed. The changes God is making in our lives are firstly meant to change us into beacons to those around us, attracting them to the Source of life.

 

In closing, here is a quote from this week’s Sabbath school study guide:

“To live a spirit-filled life means that we live according to the law of God. The law is the unchanging rule of His holiness. The standard that the law sets does not change any more than does God Himself. Jesus affirmed that the law is not abolished, but that every part is to be fulfilled (Matt. 5:17-19). To keep the law is not legalism; it is faithfulness. The law does not save us. It never can. The law is never our way to salvation. Rather, it is the path of the saved. The law, so to speak, are the shoes in which our love walks and expresses itself. This is why Jesus could say in a most remarkable manner that when “ ‘lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold’ ” (Matt. 24:12, ESV). Love diminishes when the law is not appreciated.”

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