Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Modern Work Righteousness Abounds, How to Tell
“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” (Eph. 2:8-9). We are saved by grace, but what is grace. Grace may be understood as God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense, which is a good way to point to Jesus. But most certainly, grace is a gift. A gift is a gift, not because of something done by the one being given the gift, but because of the action of the one giving the gift. How absurd to suggest that for a person to get a birthday gift s/he must claim it, accept it, not reject it, or any other action on his/her part. To suggest an action on the part of the one being given to suggests an earning or deserving making it no longer a gift, but a reward.
Forgiveness, salvation, faith, heaven, these are all gifts, not because of some action on the part of the one being given to, but solely because of the work and actions of the Giver. To suggest an action on the part of the one being given to, such as even suggesting the one being given to must receive the gift, subtly implies an action on the part of the one being given to and thus subtly implies an earned or deserved reward.
Why is this so difficult? Because of our tainted will and sinful human nature. And because of the “work” and “earn” world and society in which we live being taught from birth that nothing in life is free.
How is this dependency on works righteousness manifest in our world today? All you have to do is listen to the way people speak, how they express their certainty of salvation. Does one point to oneself or to their dependency on Jesus alone. You might be rather stunned when you actually listen to a person’s expression of faith to find that more often than not it is an expression that points to self, not Jesus.
Statements which focus on self are similar to the following: “If you want to be saved, all you gotta do . . .” “If only you . . . ” “You can be . . . ” “ You have to . . . accept, not reject, open your heart, commit yourself . . . etc.” When you hear or say these phrases or similar phrases you become the object of your salvation, which means you are dependent on yourself for salvation, which is works righteousness.
When someone gives you a gift what is your response? Of course, in asking that question it is inferred that one has been taught the appropriate response because an appropriate response is not something that comes naturally. When we are children our parents teach us an appropriate response, usually by asking, “What do you say?” And our response is “Thank you.” So, as we grow older and we are given a gift, we respond by saying, “Thank you.” To answer with something other than simply, “Thank you,” would bring certain confusion to the gift giver. An example would be if we were given a gift and we were to respond, “Look what I got for myself,” or “Look what I have claimed for myself,” or any phrase that points to me or suggests that I need to do or say anything except say, “Thank you.” With this understanding that our response to a gift is to say, “Thank you,” we can see one’s dependency on their own works righteousness when they respond with something other than to say, “Thank you” when Jesus gives us the gifts He has to give. When Jesus gives the gifts He has to give, when He gives us faith, when He gives us forgiveness of sins, when He gives us eternal life, our response is simply to say, “Thank you.” To respond in any other way to the gifts God gives, pointing to oneself, is work righteousness. “Look what I claimed for myself, faith,” “Look at the forgiveness I choose for myself,” “Look at how I dedicated my life to Jesus, lucky Him,” all these responses are work-righteous response.
God gives, and we are given to, and He even moves in us and stirs in us, much like our parents so that we respond appropriately, “Thank you, Lord for all your good gifts and blessings.”