Political and religious oppression has troubled mankind from the earliest days of civilization. Sometimes I wonder if it is even built into the nature of fallen man, to oppress and be oppressed. Many times in the course of human history a drive for freedom and prosperity has ended in another form of slavery. The Utopian hopes of men like Karl Marx have backfired. Others, with even more Biblically based ideals have failed as well.
Most every effort to form an ideal community requires some kind conformity to an individual ideal to work. Those who cannot conform do not do well in this situation. Instinctively, they begin to think that acceptance is based upon performance, and they begin to lose something of their own personhood.
Often, upon finding themselves in this trap, some come to the reality of true acceptance in Jesus Christ. What a glorious contrast! When an individual turns from self-reliance and one’s own effort to find purpose, meaning and value in life, there is a sweet release to be found in trusting in the grace, mercy and peace with God in Jesus Christ!
Not everyone experiences this contrast so dramatically. Some of us waiver between receiving this grace so freely given and feeling the need to try to earn it in some way. Sometimes, unintentionally, Godly Christian leaders can even reinforce this feeling.
To give a simple example: on every Sunday in most every church in America an offering plate is passed around. Even if no word is ever spoken, the pressure is there just the same. A momentary thought might come to your mind as the plate comes down the row you are sitting in, “How much should I give? Is this amount enough? Have I shortchanged God in any way? Will He not reward me for giving more?”
This is why the Gospel has to be restated many times even to the born-again believer. It is the Good News that your performance is not what gets you to heaven, or gains you entrance into the Community of Believers, the Body of Christ, the Church Universal. It is our trusting in Christ and His righteousness alone — His good works on our behalf — His righteous life on this earth — His sacrificial death on the Cross — and His rising from the dead for our vindication — it is faith in Him alone that brings us into this grace wherein we stand! Hallelujah! (Romans 4:25-5:2).
Why then am I calling on the workers in the church to unite? Well, it is obvious that centuries of people and groups trying to earn peace with God has created an imbalance in Christianity that has prompted another imbalance. The idea of Christian service has become so connected with a works-righteousness concept or with that of salvation by works, that the Biblical teaching on the subject is becoming taboo.
We Are Not Saved BY Our Works, but FOR Our Works!
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as 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 so that we would walk in them.
Those of you who have been brow-beaten into DOING, GOING, WORKING, SACRIFICING, can relax. This message is not for you. I will ask you to not judge or marginalize those whose joy is found in service to the Lord and His people.
Christian service, good works, are NOT dirty words! Those of you who have something on your heart, a passion to bless others in some way — GO FOR IT! Wow! Did that feel good to say! God had you and a purpose for your life in His mind even before He saved you! He already loved you and gave Himself for you — AND planned a joyous place of usefulness for you in His Kingdom! If you already know what that purpose is, seek His guidance in fulfilling it. If you don’t yet know, look forward to the adventure of realizing it! Be faithful in the few and small things and He will give you greater opportunities! (Matthew 25:21).
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.
As a fellow worker with you in Christ, I am calling all of us off the couch! Certainly take the rest you need, but take on the challenges Christ has placed before you as well! No one should take on anothers role or challenge. Each of us has a part to play in the advance of God’s Kingdom for which we are perfectly suited.
For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.
Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.
What a life God has planned for us! What adventure! What a thrill to have a part in pressing back the gates of hell! What a joy to encourage one another to fan the flames of passion for our Lord Jesus Christ and His mission on this earth!
Thank You Jesus!