by Mike Ratliff
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. Ephesians 2:8-10 (NASB)
The genuine Christian is a new creation. He or she will not be the same after regeneration as they were before. Before regeneration they were children of wrath and conformed to this world. After regeneration they were adopted children of God who, from an eternal perspective, are Holy, justified, sanctified, and glorified in Christ. However, from a temporal perspective they are in the process of sanctification that God uses to conform His children unto the image of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. The unregenerate may suffer. They may have a large number of problems. However the suffering of Christians is different. God uses suffering, tests, and trials in the lives of His children to build humility and uproot pride in their hearts.
Why does God do it this way? Why not totally regenerate our hearts so that we will be completely conformed unto Christ’s image right from the beginning? I can’t answer that except to say that the process of growing His children unto Christlikeness this way brings Him glory. As God’s elect grow in grace, maturing and becoming humble and more and more devoted to the Lordship of Christ, they will naturally do good works. These good works are the natural product of a regenerate heart that is submitted to Christ’s Lordship. The good works do not cause salvation. They do not bring it into being. Instead, God will work in His children’s hearts and lives causing circumstances, tests, trials, and what have you to bring them to more and more dependence upon His grace to provide the fuel for our Spiritual growth, Christ’s Joy. When we have His Joy we can do His will and endure our circumstances no matter how hard. We can also do good works from the right motive.
Tragically, there are many calling themselves Christians who believe that their good works is the source of their faith. They are working their way to God by being religious. Instead, we must understand that our Faith comes first. Our good works flow from our faith not the other way around.
With this firmly in our understanding as we start this new year, let’s devote ourselves to a level of faithfulness that is entirely open to God’s wrecking ball and reconstruction processes to remake our hearts according to His will. As we submit to His will and Lordship this way, let us also do the good works that He sets before us each and every day to do by His grace and for His glory knowing fully that they are the product of the faith He has given us and the Joy of our Lord. (John 15)
Soli Deo Gloria!