Monday, August 9, 2010

Works for God

On a personal note, I just want to thank everyone for your support.  I am writing this blog to be faithful to what God has given me to write and not to please man, but it is very encouraging to know that there are many who appreciate my posts.

Today, I want to talk about service to God.  Its easy to see in the Word that works are an essential part of our faith.  James tells us.
But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." And he was called the friend of God.You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.James 2:20-26 NKJV
These verses are not to say that our salvation is depending upon our works, but our works are a sign of our salvation.  We serve God not to be saved but as a response for what God has done for us.  Jesus tells us:
"For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush." Luke 6:44
If fruit is the result of our service to God then how can we not produce good fruit as those that call ourselves Christians?  God tells us that we are known by our fruit.  Just as you tell a tree is an apple tree by the apples it produces, so does one know a Christian by the fruit he or she produces.  If you are following God, you will produce fruit.

Now that we have determined that where there is faith, there will be works, we can now address the the motivation behind the works that we do. 

First of all, as I discussed earlier, our works are a response to what God has done for us.  Even more, they are a result of God in us.  In fact, we can not even do any Godly works if we do not first have God.  Jesus tell us:
"Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned." John 15:4-6 NKJV
You can not bear fruit for God unless you are in God.  God is the source of all our good works.  We can not take credit for any of it because all that we do is only possible because of the Holy Spirit. You can also reference Matthew 25 to read the Parable of the Talents.  It clearly shows that our talents are from God and to be used for the Lord and we are held accountable for not using them for the Lord. 

I know this is humbling.  Many people like to think they they are giving their talents for God.  They think that since they are saved they might as well take those things that they are good at and do it for God.  While commendable at some level, its the wrong heart.  Its not a matter of giving some talent we have to God's service, its understanding that the only reason you have that talent is that God chose to bless you with it.  Its not using your talent for God's service, its accepting your talent as a gift from God for his service. Its understanding that its ultimately God's talent. 

So what of our best? What is wrong with just doing the best that we can do?  What's wrong with the attitude of using our own talents for God?  What is wrong with doing "our best?"  Not only is it impossible to do anything for God in our own strength, anything done in our own strength is worthless to God.
But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away.  Isaiah 64:6 NKJV
The best of our best is filthy rags to God.  That is the best you can hope for when doing works in your own strength.  We can do all things through Christ but we can do no worthwhile thing without Him. 

Now that we have established that all our good works are done by God through us, we can not take credit for any of the works we do.  Do not ever think that God was lucky that you got saved because of your talents.  God does not need you for His service.  Remember, God used a donkey to talk to Balaam (Number 22:28), God spoke to Moses through a bush (Exodus 3:2), and Jesus said that if the people stopped praising Him, the rocks would cry out in worship (Luke 19:40).  If God can use plants, animals, and inanimate rocks, He certainly does not need you or your talents. 

Its also the wrong to think that we are in some way helping God.  Think for a moment how prideful it is to even think that you "help" God.  I once heard a pastor brag in what felt like a prideful way about how many churches were built with how much money he gave.  Does our money or even if we built those churches on our own make things "easier" for God?  God, if He so willed, could speak into existence innumerable churches everywhere in the world and churches that are so well-built, so ornate, so amazing that they are the wonder of man and He can do it in an instant.  God, if He so willed, could preach the Gospel to the entire World in everyone's own language in the best possible way all at once.  God is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent and perfect.  Man is very imperfect, ego-centric, and is in only one place at one time.  Our "help" is more of a hindrance than anything else.

So if our works are unnecessary, imperfect, and not even in our own strength then what is the purpose for God desiring us to do works for Him?  That brings me to my point.

Doing works for God is not about doing but about submitting.  Its about submitting our will to God.  Its about sacrificing the "me" for Him.  Its about giving up our own desires and allowing God to create new desires within us, desires that bear eternal joy and not temporary pleasure.  Its not about striving to please God but by surrendering to God because its that surrender that gives pleasure to God.  That is what will bring joy to us and ultimately bring glory to God. 
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. Philippians 2:5-13 NKJV
The first and greatest work we can do is to submit to God.  Jesus, our Lord and our example, submitted himself to God's will and the fruit is our salvation.  Jesus humbled himself and was exalted.  The same promise applies to us.
"For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."  Luke 14:11 NKJV
Ultimately, our works for God are part of His relationship with us.  God works through us to accomplish His will.  In other words, God could have chosen anything in the universe to accomplish something, but he chose you.  Think about that for a minute and realize how amazing that is.  You become part of God's work.  You become part of an answered prayer or part of someone learning about Jesus.  Never take the attitude that you have to serve God because it is really about how we get to serve God. Its a gift to be part of His service.  If you aren't excited about serving God, check your heart and your motivations because doing the works you were created should be joyful and exciting and, in the end, lead to an even closer relationship with the Lord.  God does not need our works, but He desires them for the closer relationship with Him that results.
"If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples. As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full." John 15:7-11 NKJV

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