Monday, August 15, 2011

Works Without Christ

One of the things I have noticed in my witnessing is that many people are desirous to use good works as a replacement for real faith in God which, subsequently, is the catalyst of good works. Many do not want to have a personal relationship with God so they choose instead, as a replacement, to just be a good person. Why not? It’s one of the easiest things to do! Oh my, to be in charge of your own life and to never have to commit to God or the church!! Wow! Isn’t that something! Readers beware! That lie of Satan, “Works without Christ—no commitment necessary” has taken the world by storm. Unfortunately, so many are listening that Isaiah the prophet held no punches when he was inspired to write the following:


Like a parched earth, so are those without Christ
Therefore Sheol has enlarged itself And opened its mouth beyond measure; Their glory and their multitude and their pomp, And he who is jubilant, shall descend into it. (Isaiah 5:14)

Now the lie doesn’t sound so enticing, does it? The Hebrew word for Sheol means, the underworld, or the abode of the dead. All those who follow that lie without first having committed themselves to Jesus Christ will be participants in the great underworld party. The thought breaks my heart.

To be sure, it is not that the world is does not need “good works” or that an ungodly person cannot lend a helping hand to someone in need. In earths eyes, those things are praise-worthy. The truth is we need them desperately, but they are not by themselves a substitute for the relationship God desires to have with humanity. Remember, it is He that has created us and our world. It is sin that has corrupted it. It is not He that has brought about the evils in it, but humanity who has listened to the lies of demons. Satan, himself a rebel against God, lives to pull you away from the love of Christ. If the lie he uses to do it is a beautiful one, yet achieves his end, then so be it. Works without Christ is one of His biggest. This subtle lie seeks to pit man against God yet it always falls short. It seeks its own glory and not God's.
 
Much has been written about works vs. faith when it comes to eternal life and salvation. I do not believe it needs to be re-hashed in detail, but I will bring a few points to memory. First of all, we know that true Christian believers will do good works because it is the natural out-cropping of genuine faith. James clearly testifies to this when he reasons the following:
 
14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?
15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food,
16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?
17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! (Just having faith to believe is what the demons have)
20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?
21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar?
22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works;
23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God.
24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. (James 2:14-24 (ESV) emphasis mine)

The Apostle masters putting the brakes on the argument that many try to use—works alone is good enough to bring a person into good relations with God. That said, we are entreated to consider further the biggest excuse non-Christians use to justify why they do not need to have a personal relationship to God. For when asked if they believe they are going to heaven when they die, the most common response is, "I hope so!" If pressed further, they state, "Because I am a good person." Ok, there are at least four reasons that commonly encompass why they usually say that:
 
    1  That is what they have been taught
    2  That is what they have always heard
    3  It can be non-committal
    4  It can fill a need to feel good about oneself

Those things considered I cannot expect anyone who has never spent some serious time in the Scripture to say or believe otherwise, because, in our lives, all of us have made excuses for something at one time or another. But does that justify their answers?

In today’s world, it could be reasoned and argued quite well, that "Works" is definitively an excuse to avoid relationship; and why not? It seems acceptable to the world. How hard it is to witness of Jesus to a lost person who just gave $20.00 to a homeless man? We also see the subtle demon in relationships between spouses all the time. One spouse feels like the other is not paying enough attention to his/her needs, so they approach the offending party. The response is usually along the lines of, "Honey, I do this and I do that for you. Doesn't that show you my love?" What the offended spouse really wants and needs is a close relationship that involves much more that just duty fulfilled.
 
To recap, those who are lost in this world and living without God are deceived if they believe that by doing enough good works they will incur God's eternal favor. The “good works” that have heavenly value, not just earthly, as James stated, follow the one who has faith—they never come before it. Without faith it is impossible to please God, Hebrews 11:6a. God seeks a relationship with those who make the choice to say "yes" to Jesus, and His redeeming work. True Christians seek Him for reconciliation, that is, to be forgiven of our sin, and to be placed into the correct relationship with Him. But alas, there is another catch, for the forgiveness God imparts is either 100% or none-at-all. To clarify; God looks upon the heart to see whether the person praying is sincere. He looks at our motives. He looks into what drove us to pray. One may say. "How then can we know He hears our prayer? Is there a way to pray with meaningfulness?" The answer is simpler than we may think. For prayer to be effective it needs to be in response to the conviction that one is separated from God because of sin. That divine work of recognition or being cognizant of our defeated position is God's work, not ours. Two passages that come to mind are:
 
Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent." (John 6:29 (NKJV))
 
and:
 
No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:44 (NKJV))
 
If then our prayer is in response to the conviction of our lost condition, as the Holy Spirit witnesses of, then our prayer will be heard. If we pray, just for the sake of pleasing someone or because you heard that it is a prescription to get to heaven, then chances are, your sincerity is in question, and God will not hear.

The question of salvation then takes us back to our original supposition, that many use works as a cop-out to having a relationship with God. Again, James clearly testifies that our faith will result in good works, never the other way around. Works do not produce faith.

 

One day soon He will come with the clouds!
The time of the Lord's return is upon us. Soon the Lord will be shutting the door on the church age and the Rapture, or disappearance of believer from the earth, will occur to bring true Christians face-to-face with Jesus. We call it the "Blessed Hope and Glorious Appearing."

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people,
12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age,
13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,
14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. Titus 2:11-14 (ESV)

The question is, have you examined yourself to see why you do the things you do? Are your works the result of sincere faith or are they a cop-out in the hopes of God overlooking your misdeeds against Him? There is only one way of salvation and that is through the life-giving blood that Christ shed, via His body, upon a cruel and vicious cross, nearly 2000 years ago. Confessing your inability to save yourself, your sin, and your faith in Him is what will merit you eternal life. Good works then become the spiritual result of a heart that loves because you have first experienced genuine love—His love! Won’t you turn your life over to Him today? Soon the sound of the trumpet to call us home will be heard and the door to the Ark will be shut by God on those who have fully rejected Him. While there is time you can make that decision today. Remember, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life!” John 3:16

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