I have been blogging in recent weeks about the importance of grace in our whole faith journey. Last week we looked at the 2nd chapter of Ephesians and the incredible verses that read, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast” (v.8-9, NASB). These verses clearly teach that we are not saved by works. But that doesn’t mean that in our faith journey that good works have no part. In fact Paul clarifies that issue in the very next verse when he writes, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (v.10 NASB). The word “for” is illustrative of the fact that God has indeed saved us to do good works.
The gulf between a Holy God and sinful man must be bridged by God alone. Nevertheless, the essential quality of this new life in Christ is good works. Good works are an inseparable condition of this new creation. We can be absolutely certain that God desires good works from us because they form part of His “workmanship” in our lives. We are not saved by good works but we do good works because we are saved. Think of an apple tree. An apple tree doesn’t survive on the apples it produces; it survives on the nutrients from the soil, the rain and the sun. It produces apples because it’s an apple tree. Christians produce good works because they are Christians.
Being God’s workmanship is the idea of being His masterpiece. God has prepared plans for us to serve Him and opens doors for us to do so. When I earned my masters degree in counseling while I was pastoring two small churches in rural western Pennsylvania I did it thinking it would help me be a more effective pastor. I didn’t know that I would go to central Michigan and become a licensed professional counselor for 15 years impacting literally hundreds of lives in that role. I couldn’t have arranged it or planned it but walking in the works He created for me to walk in God opened the doors. Recently in putting my sermon notes into a booklet form and having it translated into Telugu (Indian language of Andhra Pradesh) I couldn’t have imagined that God would open the door for me to go to India and minister to around 180 pastors from Andhra Pradesh and Orissa.
All that we should do is to “walk” in the good works God has prepared for us to walk in. The word “walk” in verse 10 has the idea of the walk of life. It implies motion, direction and progress. Christianity is not a creed, but it is a life lived in the power of the Holy Spirit and in the presence of Jesus. The difference in the place of works with other religions and Christianity is seen in a story found in the Daily Bread sometime ago. A missionary in India described an evangelistic meeting in which a number of Christians gave their testimonies. They told how Christ had changed their lives. In attendance was a well-known government official who was a member of the highest Hindu caste – the Brahmin. At the end of the service he stood up and asked if he might say a word. He told the people, “I too have been saved, but not by Jesus Christ. I have been saved by the religion of my fathers.” Quite satisfied with himself, he sat down. The minister responded, “I am glad to know that you too are saved. Since you are saved, I invite you to join a little party of Christians who are going to visit some outcasts in our villages.” The missionary went on to explain that they would be taking food, clothing and above all – love for those “poor brothers of ours.” This greatly disturbed the Brahmin. He believed that if even the shadow of an “untouchable” should fall upon him he would be defiled. Standing to his feet, he declared, “I still say that I am saved, but I am not saved that far.”
Let me ask you – are you walking in the good works God has created for you? Remember that faith alone saves, but true saving faith works for God’s glory.
Shalom, Pastor Rich