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Not By Works?

There is a deceptive teaching in the modern American church that has been derived, just like all of the recorded deceptions of the Father of Lies, from truth, but askewed and fashioned out of partialities.  Okay, there’s… ahem… a few of those - but tonight, I’m going to write about one that the Lord has been opening up to me in the last 24 hours.  It’s about the powerlessness of the American church, and their justification of it.

Scriptures clearly point to the fact that man is made righteous (enough for salvation) by faith, not by works or we would boast about it.  That is undeniably the heart of God - our righteousness is filthy rags, and it’s only by the blood of the Lamb that we are cleansed and made worthy of eternal life in the presence of the Lord.  Thank you, Lord!

It is also true that Jesus tells us to do certain things in private.  In Matthew 6, Jesus lists three things, specifically, that we should do in private:  charitable deeds, prayer, and fasting.  Tonight I’m going to talk about the charitable deeds one, although the other two just opened up a whole new can-of-worms for me.

Charitable deeds, in this context appear to be specifically things related to giving or meeting people’s physical needs.  For example, sounding a trumpet and having town cryers announce, “John Smith is giving away hundreds of dollars to the poor and needy today at First Religious Church - that’s right: John Smith of First Religious Church. Thanks be to God for blessing <JOHN SMITH> so that he could, in his humility and sacrifice, give as the Lord has commanded and bless the poor.”

It seems to me that these two concepts have been dangerously intermingled in church doctrine.  The result being the paradigm that we should not desire to work in signs and wonders or any spiritual giftings, nor do the ground work often required to be released by the Lord in these good works - i.e. fasting, prayer, diligent & disciplined study and meditation on the scriptures, etc.  We have been taught that “we cannot attain to move in anything spiritual or supernatural, because it is all only by the grace of God - and not because of anything we can do, have done, or will ever do”, and that even to desire to do so would be prideful.

I can understand why this doctrine came about… it was to protect people from disappointment.  Come on, I mean, if you are prophesying and being used by the Lord to perform miraculous healings, but Sister Edna isn’t, we can’t blame it on anything that Sister Edna is, or isn’t, doing - that may motivate her to spend the rest of her left eargerly desiring to prophesy, and wasting a lot of time fasting and prayer, only to live with the constant disappointment of not seeing God move.

I can understand why some denominations have created and adhere to “dispensations” of the gifts of the Spirit.  We can’t have people thinking that this stuff is for today, but not moving in any of them - that would somehow make them feel inferior to other believers.

My Family, we need to be motivated to waste our lives pursuing by any means necessary the working of the Holy Spirit on and through our lives.  We need to work, with fear and trembling, at obtaining the Fruit of the Spirit in our lives.  We need to eagerly desire, and not relent in asking the Father, who is better than any earthly father, for the gift(s) of the Holy Spirit.  We need to burn-up our pride, at every opportunity, to lay our hands on the sick, and to pray a prayer of faith for them to recover.

(Emphasis added to show “works” - and, wow, just do a search on www.blueletterbible.com for the phrase “seek him”.)

1 Peter 3
(10)For “He who would love life
And see good days,
Let him refrain his tongue from evil,
And his lips from speaking deceit.
(11) Let him turn away from evil and do good;
Let him seek peace and pursue it.
(12) For the eyes of the LORD are on the righteous,
And His ears are open to their prayers;
But the face of the LORD is against those who do evil.”

Hebrews 11
(6) But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

The Lord is waiting for us to ACT in our faith, and to pursue Him, and to test Him.  But, Aaron, Hebrews 11 is the “By faith” chapter, not the “By works” chapter…

(4) By faith Abel offered
(7) By faith Noah prepared an ark
(8-10) By faith Abraham obeyed (and) dwelt (and) waited
(17) By faith Abraham offered up Isaac.

I’m just going to stop there, but the list goes on.  It is a list of faith accompanied by works.  So, you say, “No, Aaron - you’re reading into that, and adding emphasis just to throw me.”

James 2
(21) Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?
(22) Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?
(23) 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.
(24) You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.
<and going back>
(17) …faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

And if the words of the brother of Jesus aren’t enough, Here’s Jesus:

Matthew 5
(16) Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

So, does Jesus turn around in the next chapter and contradict himself? He just told us to let people see our good works, but in chapter 6 He tells us to do our charitable deeds in private.

Healing someone who is sick -
Prophesying the Heart and Word of the Lord and building-up other believers -
Asking the customer service girl for forgiveness as you work out the Fruit of patience, peace, and self-control -
Stopping torrential rain with a single-sentence-prayer so that the emergency workers can help an accident victim -
Boldy reading the Scriptures in public -

These are good works, not charitable deeds, and, although men may try to ascribe some bit of glory to you, personally, I can assure you that the Father in heaven will get the bulk of it.  And, you know what, (just like an instructor said in class yesterday), if you have some pride issues still in you that need to be dealt with, the Lord will deal with them… but don’t try to wait until you feel like you’re all free of pride and any glory-seeking before you start contending for the power of God to work through you.  ‘Cause you know, as soon as you realize that you have managed to rid yourself of all pride, you’re back at the drawing board.

Paul commands believers to pursue and desire spiritual gifts and fruit.  He wasn’t writing the letter to other apostles - he was writing it to regular ole believers (1 Corinthians 1:2) - and He commanded them: 

1 Corinthians 14
(1) Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy.
(29) Therefore, bretheren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak with tongues.

“Okay, Aaron, so we keep seeing, seek, search, pursue, desire, act… so, How do I do that? What do I do? Where’s a good starting point? Show me a scripture that gives an example of a way to pursue a greater level of spiritual authority and power.”

Matthew 17
(14) And when they had come to the multitude, a man came to Him, kneeling down to Him and saying,
(15) “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and suffers severely; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water.
(16) “So I brought him to Your disciples, but they could not cure him.”
(17) Then Jesus answered and said, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to Me.”
(18) And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him; and the child was cured from that very hour.
(19) Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?”
(20) So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.
(21) “However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”

Pray - talk WITH the Lord - praise Him, ask Him, listen to Him, ask Him, thank Him, praise Him some more, listen some more. (Prayer includes worship; worship is prayer set to music - right? It should be, anyway.)  Ask the Lord for the Holy Spirit; ask the Holy Spirit for gifts of faith, His fruit, His gifts, and the same power that raised Christ from the dead to manifest outwardly in your life.

Fast - tell your carnal body and mind that what you hunger for and desire is not anything natural, it’s supernatural - it’s the justice and kingdom of God come on the earth (Matthew 5:6).  We have to remove the roadblocks to the outflow of power through our carnal bodies.

And, remember, you are a co-heir with Christ - to whom all authority in heaven and on earth has been given.  You ask “in the name of Jesus”, you don’t have to ask Jesus to do it for you, and you’ll stand there and watch.  What? Yeah - YOU have the authority to ask God to perform His will on the earth, by His Holy Spirit, through you… so, what are you going to do first?

Comments

Comment from Jennifer Mckinney
Time: June 16, 2007, 11:18 am

Shayne and I have recently had this discussion with the Jehovah’s witnesses that are coming over to our house trying to convert us. I don’t know If you know but they keep time cards to show their elders how many hours in a week they do “works”.

Comment from Aaron
Time: June 16, 2007, 12:59 pm

I hope your not implying that the works of which I’m speaking are in that same vein - but, if so, I’d love to hear your thoughts, for, against, whatever - fire at will!

Comment from Jennifer Mckinney
Time: June 16, 2007, 6:13 pm

As always while reading your blog my children are climbing all over me, and dividing my attention. No, I don’t think the things the JW’s do are in the same vein, No they are doing works but I don’t think they are really doing it by faith. If they were they would not be keeping track of all the ministry they were doing. I believe It’s out of some respect fear because IF they do not keep up a quota of hours every week they get reprimanded. Works for the sake of works is vain as well. I think if the watchtower was to tell the JW’s that they no longer had to go door to door that 99.8% would stop tomorrow. Their works are not works in faith but of responsibility or even fear.

Comment from Aaron
Time: June 16, 2007, 7:58 pm

Works-for-work’s-sake is certianly in vain.

I can see where some people might be slightly offended by some of these assertions, but, I’m going to leave these comments here in full, just for an avenue of community discussion.

And, although I’m certianly not in any way defending the Watchtower or JW’s, I think the same comments could be made about the majority of American Christians today… if attendance wasn’t being taken; if it wasn’t your week to be on the “Visitation Team”, or your week to work the nursery - or if your momma or your peer from work wouldn’t notice you had missed two weeks in a row……. how many of us are truly motivated out of a fear of the Lord, and out of love for Him - versus being motivated by people’s opinion of us?

But, ouch - I digress. The point here is not anything like church attendance or evangelism - it’s about a fasted lifestyle devoted to prayer, the apostle’s teachings, the Local Church, and the needs of others - and about contending with the Lord for the full release of the “same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead” being released through us and in us to change ourselves and the people around us by the miraculous and merciful manifest power of the Almighty.

Comment from Robin
Time: June 17, 2007, 7:06 am

Works for obedience sake, that’s the only way to go.
My encouragement is just do what God is telling you to do and get your eyes off what everybody else is doing. Unless, of course He tells you to correct, rebuke or encourage others…that’s still obedience.

Comment from Nick Weisenfels
Time: June 26, 2007, 10:59 pm

The Bible says that “faith without works is dead.”

The Bible also says,

“Foolish man, do you want proof that faith alone will not save you?”

It all comes down to whether you are a Pauline theologian or a Petrine theologian. Protestants tend to be more Pauline, emphasising the value of faith. Non-Protestants tend to be more Petrine, emphasising the value of works. The fact is that the Holy Scriptures do not give their 100% support to either theory, instead they express the value of both faith and works as equal.

It works both ways. One needs both to recieve salvation. Works are not just an expression of our faith. They are valuable on their own merit. The point is that works by themselves aren’t able to save. Then again, my faith alone isn’t able to save either. Only the mercy of God can save.

But, why would someone bother doing works in the name of God if they did not believe in the God whom they claim to serve.

Saint Seraphim of Sarov said “Obedience is more important than fasting and prayer.”

There is also the story of the monk who spoke with Satan:

Satan said to the monk:
“You fast, but I never eat. You keep vigils, but I never sleep. I am better at these things than you are. Why can I not overcome you?”

The monk said to Satan:
“You cannot overcome me because I posess one quality that you do not, and that quality is humility, the most important quality of all. Humility is the queen of all the virtues.”

In a certain sense, we are all saved by works. We are saved by the works of Christ.

Comment from Nick Weisenfels
Time: June 26, 2007, 11:09 pm

I was also thinking about this part of your post, and not because I found it “offensive”:

“I think the same comments could be made about the majority of American Christians today… if attendance wasn’t being taken; if it wasn’t your week to be on the “Visitation Team”, or your week to work the nursery - or if your momma or your peer from work wouldn’t notice you had missed two weeks in a row……. how many of us are truly motivated out of a fear of the Lord, and out of love for Him - versus being motivated by people’s opinion of us?”

Anyway, are we not put here on earth in community and to live in community? How can we know that our motivation to go to church because of what our momma might think is really a bad thing in the long run? At least we are in church, and this being in church might be the thing that ultimately keeps us in relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Sometimes our relationships, even with God, become at times sort of mechanical, like we are doing it out of reflex rather than out of desire. But a good habit is still a good habit. Being in church is better than not being in church, no matter what the reason. I was once told, by a young woman who is wise beyond her years:

“When you walk into a perfume store, you come out smelling like perfume. It is the same thing when you enter the house of God, even if you were having trouble paying attention.”

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