Are you the ‘doing’ kind of Christian?

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Do you ever question whether you’re doing ‘enough’ good works as a Christian? I think there is a lot of self-inflicted guilt and shame among believers. We observe some who seem always to be serving in some way. Measuring ourselves against their standard leads us to conclude that we lack dedication, that we might not even be ‘real’ Christians.

Yes, God’s Word teaches that Jesus redeemed us for good works prepared even before God created the universe.  Just what should we be doing?  How do we know?

And speaking of knowing, if we are to have heart-motivation to do any good works, what kind of foundation of knowing do we need?  What will keep us grounded with pure motives (as pure as we can obtain)?

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(Jesus) gave himself for us ….. to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. Titus 2:14 ESV

My volunteer colleague yearns to ‘do good works’.  Her soft, large heart embraces those unacquainted with real hope. She is drawn to share with many the truth about Jesus’ liberation of those captive to Satan, those estranged from the Father. But her husband doesn’t (yet) share her passionate zeal. He’s not even sure if he is a believer. She mourns this fact. Seeing other believing couples aligned to serve God together pains her.

Listening to her has made me think, “Is sharing the Gospel the only good work? Just what are these ‘good works’ God has prepared for us to do?”  John records the same question and Jesus’ answer.

What must we do, to be doing the works of God? ……… This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent. John 6:28-29

My friend, burdened by her husband’s lack of interest in things of God would say, “I DO believe in Him!”  True, but the Greek word believe means to trust, to ‘EN-trust all things to Jesus as Lord’.

It could be that until she actually believes that Jesus ‘has got this – her husband’s soul’, her husband’s heart situation might not change.  Jesus might just think it best FIRST to grow HER unequivocal confidence in Him.

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May you have the power to grasp……his (Christ’s) love….

…..and to know this love that surpasses knowledge…Ephesians 3:18- 19, NIV

I have an elderly friend whose mind is losing power to grasp more than one thing at a time. Reading and taking in an entire psalm confuses her.

But she can take heart. At this stage of her final journey on ‘earth 1.0’, holding on to one central fact is enough.  What is the one thing she needs to know?

‘Jesus loves me, this I know.’

When I think of grasping one fact, Martha’s sister Mary comes to mind. Jesus praised her for feeding on what was of ‘summa’ importance.

When I struggle to trust God, it’s because I have forgotten what He has already done. Our ancestors, those Goshen Hebrews, neglected to recall God’s wonderous acts as well. God named their failure to remember ‘rebellion’ because seeing, they didn’t recall how good He had been to them.  They didn’t trust Him.

Our fathers in Egypt did not grasp Your wonders or remember Your abundant kindness. Psalm 106:7 Berean Study Bible

Father, give Pat and me as well power to clutch and hold on to your love. May we not forget. Keep us rehearsing daily your deeds.

Are you exhausted?

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God helps those...

Have you ever heard this American-ism?  Who hasn’t?  In fact, my father used to quote it to me all the time growing up.  Trouble is, he wasn’t a Christian.  But he was a self-made man.  He grew up in a family that had money, pre-1929!  Born in 1924, he lived a while in Alaska as his family raised silver blue foxes for their fur-fashioned luxury stoles and coats supplied to wealthy blue bloods.

Silver Fox Fur Jacket

That niche soured quickly as the depression dried up the demand for expensive accessories.  Reduced to poverty, the family moved south to Arizona where his father was killed by a drunk driver in 1930.  ‘Mom’ relocated back to Arkansas with my dad and two brothers to eke out a living. There were cousins there, I think. The family scraped by, subsisting at the lowest economic rung. FDR saved my dad through innovative Civilian Conservation Corps camps for young men.  Spending his senior year of high school away from home, Pop studied at night in order to graduate on time with his class back in Mountainburg, Arkansas. His checks provided the funds so his mom and youngest brother could eat.  From there my dad joined the army, grappling his way up the military ladder. He earned a BS and an MA at night. He commanded units in Korea and Viet Nam during 5 combat tours. He pioneered and wrote aviation doctrine as well as a book.

About his relationship with God, all he would ever say when I gently pressed amounted to: “I’ve made my peace with the Lord” But my dad DID live by the ‘Gospel’ – the American good news of ‘work hard and make something of yourself’.

And Ben Franklin’s aphorism about God lending a hand to independent self-helpers fit his worldview. See this brief Wikipedia explanation of the history of the phrase that Ben Franklin popularized. For a long time I didn’t know how to counter that statement.  After all, the Bible does extol working hard to add to our virtue.   Take Peter’s exhortation in 2 Peter: 1:5-7

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith excellence, to excellence, knowledge; to knowledge, self-control; to self-control, perseverance; to perseverance, godliness; to godliness, brotherly affection; to brotherly affection, unselfish love.

That sounds like effort!  If the God-waiting-on-us-to-do-our-part doctrine is not so, then what do we make of much of the moral law in the Bible?

After thinking about how to reconcile “work hard and your efforts will be supplemented by God v. to trust God and watch Him do it all” I think I can propose the right way to consider this topic.  Here’s my attempt:

It’s a matter of one’s starting point, having the correct ‘mindset’ to borrow a term in vogue in my field of education. Do we believe that God created us and then left us to follow our interests and passions, with our calling the shots in life?  Or do we take our cue from our Creator and ask some of those foundational questions such as:

  • Since God created us, He must have had a purpose. What might that be?
  • And if it makes sense to look at what He has written to discover His plans for us, what has He said?
  • And how are we to DO this work for Him?

It would also be prudent to identify God’s own ‘teleos’, His goal for offspring created in His image. Fortunately, He does not leave us guessing.  God writes in Isaiah 43:6b-7:

Bring my sons from afar

and my daughters from the ends of the earth—

everyone who is called by my name,

whom I created for my glory,

whom I formed and made.

Paul in the New Testament echoes the same purpose when he writes to the Christians in Ephesus: (Chapter 2:10)

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Here’s the  64 thousand dollar Q

How does God get the glory when the spotlight shines on us and what WE do…..with a little boost from God?

That was rhetorical, obviously.  He can’t!

God ONLY gets the praise and glory and acclaim He deserves when unlikely, weak people accomplish His work where it’s evident that only He could have enabled either the attitude of the ‘worker’ or the results. Remember the 5 loaves and 2 fish accounts?  Were the disciples praised for their supply of enough food to satisfy 5000 hungry men? Do you understand a bit more Jesus’ curious exhortation:  Let your light so shine before men that they see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.  Matthew 5:16

I never could figure that out!  If we’re doing the good works, wouldn’t WE get the kudos? Why would anyone think to praise God?

Good question!

The good deeds we are to do, we are to do with His strength, in a humble way that magnifies the surpassing greatness of God. No surprise there!  If we actually read His Word, we find out that God expects nothing less from us. After all He explicitly created us to carry out and accomplish pre-planned tasks, each one initiated BY HIM for you and for me.

So back to my blog title: Are you exhausted?  Could it be that you are doing a lot of ‘good stuff’ that you initiated without reference to Your Creator?  And working hard in your own strength, in a way that makes you look good?  No one is denying that much good is done in the world by Christians and non-Christians alike.  But IF we’re worn out, maybe, just maybe it might be because we are functionally living out the American Credo.  After all, who could possibly criticize our good works? Have you considered the answer to that question might be God, Himself?

Here’s a sobering thought: …..anything that is not done in faith is sin.  Romans 14:23c

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