I am fully aware that this article might offend some people. However, we should know that the truth almost always offends our flesh. Letting His light shine into our very heart is NEVER comfortable. It is painful!
So, only if you want to let the great heart surgeon have more than a casual glance into the dark cellar of your unconscious mind any time soon, you should go on reading. If not, it would be better to cling to the dangerous delusion of believing Jesus came to make you a better human being. In fact, He came to save sinners from perishing in their (unconscious) sinfulness by giving them the light to see their lostness and hopelessness without Him.
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (Jn 8:12 ESV)
For the avoidance of doubt, I define darkness here as our unconscious sinfulness of the heart which defines us as sinners in God’s sight and light as knowing and living in the truth, that is, seeing our complete dependency on God’s power and provision to do ANYTHING which is really good in His view. Thus, being a saint means doing EXCLUSIVELY these works which God gives us to do according to HIS plan.
Q: “What if our doing for God were worthless in His sight?”
Martin Luther put it this way,
IV. Now every one can note and tell for himself when he does what is good or what is not good; for if he finds his heart confident that it pleases God, the work is good, even if it were so small a thing as picking up a straw. If confidence is absent, or if he doubts, the work is not good, although it should raise all the dead and the man should give himself to be burned. This is the teaching of St. Paul, Romans xiv:
‘Whatsoever is not done of or in faith is sin.’ Faith, as the chief work, and no other work, has given us the name of ‘believers on Christ.’ For all other works a heathen, a Jew, a Turk, a sinner, may also do; but to trust firmly that he pleases God, is possible only for a Christian who is enlightened and strengthened by grace.
(Martin Luther, A treatise on Good Works, 1520)
Let’s get real here…
If we find ourselves doing something – WHATEVER – which we do not out of faith, not fully convinced of God’s guidance to do it, not filled with the joy to please Him who gave us that particular work to do – we are still faithless.
And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (Hebr 11:1 ESV)
If we find ourselves faithless, then, it won’t help us to pray for faith, neither to ask others to do it, nor to ask God to change our current heart condition as we see fit. He won’t do it, for sure, because God wants us to know that we have NO faith to do anything good on our own. And He wants to give us a new heart, not only some correction as for our “not-so-bad” behavior.
I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. (Jn 15:5-8 ESV).
Can we hear His voice here? What does it mean to “bear much fruit”? Running around and saving the whole world by preaching the gospel to the “lost” (in our sight), feeding the poor, or pouring our energy into an impressive Christian ministry? None of these activities will be of any value if our doing is NOT accompanied by the fruit of the Spirit which consists of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, [and] self-control (Gal 5:22-23 ESV).
Not necessarily. Realizing the truth about our own hearts will eventually set us free to really experience God’s rest. Without His rest, we cannot please Him, we cannot please those whom we are trying to help, neither will we be pleased nor satisfied by our own doing – ever.
In closing, one might draw the conclusion that God’s love, again and again, helps us to be set free. Free from self-deceit, free from “burning out”, free to do what we REALLY want to do since everything we do half-heartedly robs us of the power to do good works as God sees fit.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Eph 2:8-10 ESV)
May God help us to get real about our faithlessness and our futile works apart from Him so that we can be set free to live a genuine godly life.
Let’s go, be relaxed, and pick up a straw – but with faith! 😉