Sunday, July 12, 2009

Whose Work is it?

John 15:7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.

The sufficiency of Christ

I was in the jury pool the other day. As we were waiting to be summoned into the court room, I had the privilege of speaking at length with a brother in the Lord. Our conversation soon turned from the law of man to the law of God. My brother expounded on how, though it is surely hard to do so, God does expect us to worship Him by living the high standard of morality and ethics found in Christ’s teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. However, he observed that most Christians are lazy, and too easily justify themselves with “we are no longer under the law, but under grace” Romans 6:14.

I listened to what he had to say, for indeed I do agree that most of us in the body of Christ do not even attempt to worship Christ as Lord with our feet. With our lips, yes, we honor Him, but when it comes to costly acts, I believe most of the Church is asleep. Alas, I must admit that this described me far too well. In the Greek, the word for “worship” is proskuneo, which means to bow the knee, to submit to the will of one greater than oneself. Now the common understanding of worship in today’s church is emotional praise, and this is a good thing, but Biblically speaking, it is not, per se, worship. No, we worship God simply by doing His will. So, in this, my brother and I were in accord. However, though indeed God’s will needs to be done, (come thy Kingdom, be done thy will on earth as it is in Heaven) I can most assuredly say that IT DOES NOT NEED TO BE DONE BY US!

Yet, hold on. Didn’t I just argue that we worship God with our feet? How can I say, on the one hand that we do need to do His will, yet on the other hand God’s will does not need to be done by us? Strange as it may seem, there is no contradiction, at least not in the Heavenly system of accounting!

We must first of all start with an understanding of the message of the book of Romans. The first three chapters begin with an indictment of all humanity. “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (3:23). However, God made a way for the penalty of our sin to be paid, through the blood of Christ. This much is I have always understood. But it does not stop there. No, for not only has Christ died, those who are in Christ have died along with Him! “ Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?” (6:3). This is why we were baptized after we confessed Jesus as Savior, for we have died with him, and were buried along with him in our baptism. Of course, the gospel doesn’t end here, either. For indeed, that Christ is raised is the foundation of our faith, for when He was raised, we too were raised up with Him TO A NEW LIFE! The apostle Paul writes to the Galatians, “ I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (2:20-21) And to the Corinthians he writes “if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” Thus, it is no longer we who live, but Christ who lives in us.

This is more than just semantics, my friends. This is reality, “Christ in us, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27). That is, though we are expected to do God’s will, we can not do it. Indeed, the ego, that which is self, was nailed to the cross, because we in ourselves could never please God. If we could, then we could claim the glory for having done so. But just as Jesus glorified His Father through working the works of the Father, so now we glorify Jesus when he works His works in and through us. “It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of [his] good pleasure” Phi 2:13. So the will of God can be found working in me, but not by me. I am but a broken vessel, ready for the Master’s use.

All is Christ, Christ is all. Pride must be crushed. Who am I to suppose that I would do the will of God? No, for all that ever needed to be done was done at Calvary, and when Jesus said, “it is finished”, it was finished, then, now and for all time. Nothing more needs to be added. So we plead, not that we should do the will of God, but that Christ in us should already have done it! We enter into that which is already finished, our inheritance having been guaranteed.

I shared this picture with the brother at the jury pool. Suppose you were to find out that there was a five million dollar judgement against you, that unless you paid it, you would go to jail. However, you also have ten million dollars in the bank, having inherited that princely sum from a rich uncle. Knowing this, would we try to pay this judgement off by working hard the rest of our lives? Were we to work 20 lifetimes, we would never pay it off. Who among us wouldn’t just draw on that inheritance to pay off that judgement? Of course that would be the only logical course. If we already have the resources at our fingertips, though indeed not our own resources, we would be fools to try to pay it on our own.

So it is with the will of God. Yes, we are to do His will, to keep His commandments, but never, ever according to the mortal man, that which comes from us. Tolstoy, having read the beatitudes, decided he would try to live according to that high moral standard. He went crazy in the attempt. Where he erred was not the correct understanding that Jesus expects us to live according to the sermon on the mount, but in assuming that we would do so by our own human effort. That was never God’s intent. We can only do His will when we get out of the way and let Jesus do the Father’s will through us. And when He does, guess who gets the glory? Hint: it’s not us! We yield and Jesus works the works of God through us. Ultimately, God gets the glory for working out His will on earth. What a radical concept!

Practically, of course, the works of men and the works of God will look the same to the world. If I went to the poor in India and ministered to them as Mother Theresa has, I too would be glorified by the world. But there it would end. I would “already have received my reward.” (Mat 6:16) Yet if I prayed to God that His works might be found in me, and went to the poor in India and did the same thing as above, yet not I, but Christ in me, then HE would be glorified, and my reward would be found in Heaven. Though the works might look the same to man, there is an eternal difference. Thus I pray only that I might abide more and more in the Vine, from which the eternal fruit that may be found on me flows. I have entered the rest mentioned in Hebrews chapter four, for “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that to which I’ve committed to Him” (II Tim I:12) I do not, as an expression of my self, even dare attempt to please God. But Christ in me pleases Him well, and I take my confidence in Him.

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