I want this article to serve as a warning. Not because something happened to me this week or anything, but because I have been in church for over 38 years and I’ve seen this too many times.
Kurt Jackson recently preached a great message comparing “doing good works” as a means to salvation and “doing good works” as evidence of a redeemed, transformed life. There was some Greek in there, which Kurt can explain to you…
Basically, Paul speaks quite often about not trying to hold up our good works to God so that He is convinced or forced to love us. This would have been like the way the Pharisees showed off how well they kept all 600-some-odd Jewish “laws” as a measure of their righteousness. Paul, being a former Pharisee, knew about this all too well.
In contrast, James’ book talks about our good works being evidences of our having experienced God’s love. Because He first loved us and continues to show us mercy and love day after day, our response is gratitude and thanks lived out in acts of love and service and grace and long-suffering and self-control, kindness, gentleness, goodness…
But for a couple decades now, I’ve been aware of some inconsistency between how Jesus taught us to live and the way many of my “Christian” leaders and acquaintances actually have lived their lives. Jesus saw it when He was on the earth, too:
This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men. (Matthew 15:8-9)
I don’t know about you, but thinking about this verse terrifies me. I don’t want to be one of the ones who has been saying, “Lord, Lord!” and He tells me to take a hike. I don’t want to be guilty of tying millstones around the people’s necks when I should be helping strap on His easy yoke and light burden.
I’ve heard it preached that God doesn’t love only some future version of me; He loves me right now!! So many times I get caught up trying to do things, start ministries, promote programs, or whatever in order to earn God’s love when all the while He’s trying to whisper to me that He loves me right now, He wants to use me and lead me and change me and love the world through the right-now version of me.
I guess what I’m saying is that it’s important to always live desperately, urgently begging God to point out my sin and show me how to act, love, serve, feel and speak like He does. And to do whatever is necessary to beat the rest out of me.
Surely that couldn’t hurt?