by Mike Ratliff
28 Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” John 6:28 (NASB)
The flesh is still with us all, even those who have been born again unto eternal life. The flesh does not understand grace. The flesh does not understand the relationship to the Christian being born again unto good works (Ephesians 2:10). Therefore, the visible church is ripe with false teaching at this time that emphasizes all the wrong things, and, coupled with rampant Biblical illiteracy, most professing Christians are like those Jesus was confronting in John 6 who could not conceive what our Lord boldly told them in vv35-40 that belief and salvation is a gift from God not something earned or deserved.
On the other hand, many take this too far the other way proclaiming that any work would be a violation and would be an attempt to earn salvation, et cetera.
“Come, my beloved, let us go forth into the field . . . let us see if the vine flourish.”-Song of Solomon 7:11,12
The church was about to engage in earnest labour, and desired her Lord’s company in it. She does not say, “I will go,” but “let us go.” It is blessed working when Jesus is at our side! It is the business of God’s people to be trimmers of God’s vines. Like our first parents, we are put into the garden of the Lord for usefulness; let us therefore go forth into the field. Observe that the church, when she is in her right mind, in all her many labours desires to enjoy communion with Christ. Some imagine that they cannot serve Christ actively, and yet have fellowship with Him: they are mistaken. Doubtless it is very easy to fritter away our inward life in outward exercises, and come to complain with the spouse, “They made me keeper of the vineyards; but mine own vineyard have I not kept:” but there is no reason why this should be the case except our own folly and neglect. Certain is it that a professor may do nothing, and yet grow quite as lifeless in spiritual things as those who are most busy. Mary was not praised for sitting still; but for her sitting at Jesus’ feet. Even so, Christians are not to be praised for neglecting duties under the pretence of having secret fellowship with Jesus: it is not sitting, but sitting at Jesus’ feet which is commendable. Do not think that activity is in itself an evil: it is a great blessing, and a means of grace to us. Paul called it a grace given to him to be allowed to preach; and every form of Christian service may become a personal blessing to those engaged in it. Those who have most fellowship with Christ are not recluses or hermits, who have much time to spare, but indefatigable labourers who are toiling for Jesus, and who, in their toil, have Him side by side with them, so that they are workers together with God. Let us remember then, in anything we have to do for Jesus, that we can do it, and should do it in close communion with Him. – C.H Spurgeon from Spurgeon’s Evening by Evening for May 9.
I remember when I had been a Christian about 5 or 6 years and was looked to by many in our church as very mature and a good Bible teacher, but I assure you that I was still struggling with some sins and was not very mature in Christ at all. In any case, during that period I still pondered these things in my heart about what role my works would play in my salvation. After all, I attended churches that consistently taught from the pulpit that salvation was a decision and regeneration came as a reward for making the right choice, et cetera. Think about that. Think of what that sort of theology does to the rest of what our Lord and His Apostles taught. I was in such bondage! I saw my inconsistencies. I heard how I was once saved, always saved, but I also could not believe that God would put up with the mess I was making of everything. Well I was right about that second part! God was not putting up with it and He did not allow me to remain in that stagnate cesspool of works righteousness forever. He caused me to go through some ghastly trials that humbled me and caused me to stop trusting in myself completely more and more as each trial was worse than the one before until I came to that place where I saw what good news the Gospel really is and what a worthless piece of merchandise I really was that He purchased with Christ being my propitiation (Romans 3:25). It was from those shattered remains that God rebuilt my ministry and my walk before Him so that it is now ALL according to His grace and mercy. Like Mary, I work, but not for my salvation, but to be in close communion with my Lord, to serve Him and bring Him glory.
To those reading this who are of the emergent persuasion, if you have made it this far then I am very surprised, but if so, I pray that you will also understand that much of the stuff you are chasing after and hearing from your leaders is in rebellion to the clear teaching from God’s Word. Sorry, but that is the truth. That also means that those doing the teaching are false teachers and you need to separate from them. Mysticism and other religions cannot be mixed with Christianity. God will judge.
To those reading this who are of the church growth persuasion, I am very surprised you have read this far, but if so, then God be praised. Church growth is not always the goal you should pursue. Obedience to an expositional preaching of the Word of God should be your goal. Do not use the gimmicks of the world to try to influence people to come to your church. That is worthless. It is also dishonest. The Holy Spirit is the one who will cause the increase and that will come with your obedience to your true calling. Will using worldly techniques cause church growth? Sure, just look at Rick Warren’s empire; however, it is a house of cards. I would love to debate Rick Warren or one of his people on doctrine. Some would say that Rick Warren would simply do his chameleon thing and there would be no debate. We can only pray… In any case, if you are so sold on the truth of the church growth paradigm, then of what do you have to be afraid? Why not debate?
To those reading this who are desperately seeking to be right in the middle of God’s will for your life, to be that Christian who is both not working for their salvation and is doing the good works that brings God glory and brings them into close communion with the Saviour, I suggest you start by reading the following passages: Colossians 3:1-5; Romans 12:1-2; Hebrews 4:9-16; John 15:1-17. Start there. Learn to prayerfully apply these to you life. Remember, the transformed life is not the Gospel; it is the fruit of the Gospel.
Soli Deo Gloria!