REWARDED BY WORKS #2
THE SHEEP AND THE GOATS
The final parable I want to point the reader to under this section is the parable found in Matthew 25 - the one some call the parable of the last judgment, others the parable of the sheep and the goats. It is contained in verses 31 through to verse 46.
It is very interesting to note what Jesus says to those that are to inherit the Kingdom beginning in verse 34.
I guess He could have just said something very simple, putting it in a "nut shell" sentence for us, if He had wanted. He could have said to those now inheriting the Kingdom something like: "Come you that have a heart after my Father's own heart," or "Come you that have repented, been converted and been baptized," or "Come you that repented, accepted Me as your savior and set your minds to live and do the will of the Father." Jesus could have used such language for those entering eternal life AND IT WOULD HAVE BEEN ALL TRUE, SHOWING THEY HAD THE RIGHT ATTITUDE OF MIND FOR BEING SAVED BY GRACE THROUGH FAITH. But Christ did not choose to use any of those short but true sentences.
Now look at what Jesus says to those who will be on His left hand - those who will be told to DEPART FROM HIM! He says they are cursed, they are to depart into EVERLASTING(the results will be everlasting) FIRE!
Notice the kind of conversation He has with those He tells to depart from Him. He could have put it in nut shell form, He could have said to them something like: "Depart from Me, you who would not repent," or "Depart from Me, you who used My name but would not do the things I said."
Jesus used no "short form" language in this parable for He wanted to get a certain very important point and lesson over to us.
Read the whole parable again. At first it may sound like Jesus is teaching a salvation by "works." I mean it is pretty plain as to what it is saying, those that have repented, accepted Him as savior, and are converted to living a life style within the law of God, will go on to exhibiting that life in Christ by practical love towards people. Those that are cast out are to depart from Him because they did not go on in their life to practical Christianity. None of them could possibly obtain salvation and the Kingdom by EARNING IT THROUGH THEIR WORKS!
We have seen that the word of the Lord makes plain that way to salvation is impossible - no amount of good works can erase the death penalty for even ONE sin, just as the murderer can not erase his death sentence by all the past, present, and future "law keeping" combined. But the judge of the murderer does have the right to lay down conditions to being forgiven and coming under grace from the court. He can say to the guilty: "I see you have truly repented, I see you have truly set your mind to live as a way of life within the law. Good for that is a required condition for you receiving pardon and grace from your sin. But there is anther condition you must be willing to live by, from now on out, the condition of community service. You are not only to love your neighbor, everyone, with no hatred in your heart, and tongue, but you are to set your mind as a way of life, to serve your neighbor in any practical way you can, whenever the situation arises and whenever it is within your ability and power to so help, even going the extra mile at times."
The judge does not necessarily need to ask for individual specific deeds to be recorded, he just wants to see a person with a humble attitude of mind that agrees to those conditions. He wants to see an attitude that will as much as possible comply to those conditions. He realizes he is dealing with a human that is not perfect, and will through the weakness of the flesh fall at times and miss the ideal mark, yet will ask the court for continued mercy as he gets up and carries on to live by the courts conditions.
The judge is not interested in seeing if the actual "good deeds" out number the "bad deeds" in relation to the DEATH SENTENCE or GRACE bestowed. He is interested in the persons "frame of mind" - his overall attitude of mind towards a willingness to abide by the conditions. As long as he can see the person has a heart that is "after his own" then he stands in a saved from death, life. And so it is with the heavenly Father and the true Christian.
AN ATTITUDE NOT SPECIFIC DEEDS
That is the key to all of this being saved by grace and not by works. An attitude will of course manifest itself in certain actions, words, and thoughts. The right correct attitude towards God and His word and law will produce some good fruit - it will be automatic. The Spirit of the Lord within a person will manifest the fruits of the Spirit, no ifs about it. But it is possible to outwardly produce what seems to the human mind "good works" yet have a stinking filthy rebellious attitude towards God while doing it.
Ah, but God knows the heart. He knows our thoughts. He can tell if we are complying with His conditions for being saved by grace. There is a saying that goes: "We can fool some of the people, some of the time, but we can not fool all the people all of the time." Well with God we can not fool Him ANY time!
Let me again repeat - being saved, salvation is not by WORKS! If there was some work or works we could do whereby God was obligated and duty bound to give to us eternal life, then salvation would not be a GIFT, it would be attained by WORKS, not by grace and grace would no longer be grace but works. If we are saved by grace, which indeed we are, then it can not be by works. If we are saved by works, which we are not, then it can not be grace. For works is not grace, and grace is not works (Rom.11:6).
Paul used the example of the father of the faithful - Abraham (Rom.4:1-5). If Abraham had done some deed, some work, that obligated God to forgive him, then obtaining justification and mercy, would have come about by works and not by the gift of grace - undeserved, unearned pardon from sin.
Putting it another way: Abraham did not go to God and say,"Oh, look Lord, did you see that great good work I just did. Ah, now it is mandatory, unavoidable, binding on you to forgive me my sins." If that had ever been the way to secure the grace of God then being saved would have been by works or deeds. But that was never the way God was going to give His grace to anyone. Abraham did not have to "work for it" just as the murderer in our example did not have to perform some "good work" to be cleansed from his sin. He just had to BELIEVE the stranger would die for him, so the penalty paid, and repent of his sin, and set his mind to follow the conditions laid down by the court for receiving grace.
It is an ATTITUDE OF MIND - a BELIEF - a FAITH - that God is looking for on the part of the sinner. It is a belief and faith coupled with repentance that the Lord is looking for in the heart of the guilty, not some specific "work" or "deed." Then with God it goes one step further.
Once this attitude of mind is ascertained by the Lord, He says: "Well I will help you abide by the conditions of this court, namely to live a life-style in conformity to my will and commandments, I and My Son who died for you, both of us will come and live within you to help you live as you should. We shall live within you by the means of the Holy Spirit" (John 14:15-24; Acts 5:32; 2:28; Rom.8:6-17).
Now this FAITH that has produced all of this is apart from any works. But can this faith that results not only in forgiveness of sins, and the very nature and power and presence of God within the person (2 Pet.1:2-4), lead to the willful, open, rebelling attitude of breaking the law and commandments of God that define the love of God(l John 5:3)?
As we have seen already Paul answers: "Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid! No, we establish the law" (Rom.3:31). As soon as we receive the SPIRIT of God, we also automatically receive the LOVE of God - they are INSEPARABLE (Rom.5:5) and the love of God is the keeping of His commandments which are not grievous as some claim (1 Jn.5:3).
This attitude of mind, this new mind in us, which is really the mind of Christ in us (Phil.2:5) will also give us the FAITH OF Christ, not just faith in Christ, but His very own faith in us, going indeed from faith to faith (Rom.1:17; Gal.2:20). Jesus' faith in us will automatically, involuntary, spontaneously, inherently and habitually PRODUCE GOOD FRUITS AND WORKS! It can not be any other way. God is holy, and from Him, from His person comes holy and good character. So looking at this side of the picture, this side of FAITH, the apostle James was inspired to tell us about the perfect faith that Abraham had. Read it for yourself in James chapter 2 and verses 14 through to 26.
The BELIEF and FAITH that Abraham had was the attitude God was looking for in him. A humble repentant submissive attitude of mind that would be willing to OBEY the will and commandments of God. The Lord could see that attitude of heart in Abraham that is why God could say: "FOR I KNOW HIM, that he WILL command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord"(Gen. 18:19). God said this of Abraham BEFORE the promised son was born unto him, BEFORE he-had a large family (he lived to be 175 years old and had many children, see Gen.25:1-8). This right type of heart attitude, this perfect faith will produce good fruit, no way around it. The Spirit of God in a person will produce the fruits of the Spirit (Gal.5:22). Jesus also made this abundantly clear when He said: "I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in Me that beareth not fruit He taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, He purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can you, except you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches: He that abides in Me, and I in him, the same BRINGETH FORTH MUCH FRUIT: for without Me you can do nothing. If a man abide not in Me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned; Herein is my Father glorified, that you bear MUCH FRUIT "(John 15:1-8).
These works or fruits are not to acquire grace and salvation; being saved has come through FAITH by GRACE, these fruits are the result of salvation by grace, the result of a contrite mind that is willing to live by the law of God and allows the Lord to come into the very mind of the converted person via the Holy Spirit, to help them produce the works and character of the Eternal God. So when all is said and done, the fruits produced by the true Christian are not really their fruits or works, but are the fruits of THE LORD! That is why Paul said: "Make you perfect in every good work to do His will, WORKING IN YOU that which is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ." and also,"It is GOD THAT WORKETH IN YOU, both to will and to do of His good pleasure" (Heb.l3:21; Phil.2:13).
Are you seeing now why Paul said there was NO BOASTING on our part for any of this?
It is really all God's doing from start to finish, from the time He calls us and removes the blindness from our eyes(John 6:44) to the very day of our glorification in the resurrection, it is all through grace and faith and He working in us. Oh yes, we do have a part to play in all this. For at no time do we ever become a robot in the hands of the Lord. We never have our free moral agency taken away from us. When God calls us to repentance, we must choose to heed the call or reject it. When God offers us forgiveness through grace and faith we can accept the conditions or reject them. When God comes to live His life in us via the Holy Spirit, we again can yield to Him in a correct attitude of mind, or rebel and fight against the leading of the Spirit. God's Spirit does not force us to do anything, it does not take over our mind and just start to "think" for us, move our hands or legs for us, and use our physical bodies as some sort of robotic apparatus to do its biding. The Spirit of God will not force us to do anything that we in our minds refuse to do. The Spirit will guide us into all truth (John 16:13), it will gently prod and lead and it will teach us the way of the Lord, but we in our minds must be willing to yield to the Spirit.
We must be willing to say: "Yes Lord I want to do your will not my own, I want you to teach and show me the way to go, the way to live, I want you to help me become more like you and Christ Jesus in all that I do." That is the heart attitude we must have, just as Abraham, David, Paul, John, James, and all the true saints of the Lord have had since sin and the calling to repent came into the world.
WORKS AND REWARDS
I have spent a lot of time and space in proving and showing to you the simple truth of God's word on the subject of being saved, that it is by GRACE through FAITH and not by earning it through WORKS. But, you say, God has much to say about OUR WORKS and being REWARDED FOR OUR WORKS! Yes that is true! God does record and keep tab of all our "good works" and promises to give each of His children a "reward" - a "payment" - a "pay check" at the end of the day, something VERY TANGIBLE, other than eternal life (which is a gift and can not be earned by works), some reward based upon the work we do with what God has given us, while living this physical life.
Notice what Nehemiah once said: "Remember me, 0 my God, concerning this, AND WIPE NOT OUT MY GOOD DEEDS THAT I HAVE DONE....." (Neh.l3:14). From this we can gather that God does record our good deeds. Then Solomon wrote: "For God shall bring every WORK into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil" (Ecc.l2:14). This can not be for the purpose of deciding who will be saved, for being saved is by grace through faith and not of works. It can only be for one other reason - deciding each individuals reward based upon their works, deciding what they have rightly earned as payment for the works they did.
Jesus said: "And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his REWARD" (Matt.10:42).
Paul said this: "Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one; and every man shall receive HIS OWN REWARD according to his own labor" (1 Cor. 3:8). Then another time Paul said: "For God is not unrighteous to FORGET your WORK AND LABOR of love" (Heb.6:10). Then notice this from Paul, talking about being saved and receiving rewards all in the same breath:
"For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Christ Jesus (being saved by grace through faith). Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man's WORK shall be made manifest: for THE DAY shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he SHALL RECEIVE A REWARD. If any man's work shall be burned, he SHALL SUFFER LOSS, but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire" (1 Cor.3:11-15).
We are saved by grace through faith, not of works. That foundation is sure through the redemption in Christ Jesus, BUT what we build upon that foundation and what our REWARD shall be will be determined by our WORKS!
Then some of the very last words Jesus ever said to mankind and had recorded for us are found in Revelation 22:12. "And, behold, I come quickly; and my REWARD is with me TO GIVE EVERY MAN ACCORDING AS HIS WORK SHALL BE." Is God taking note of our works? Does He write them down and record them? Indeed it would seem He does! For what purpose? To decide if we should be saved or not? Hardly,for salvation is not given to us for all of our works. The only answer left is what is taught in many scriptures, namely that God has determined that He will reward us for the WORKS we do as over time we build upon the foundation we already have in being saved by grace through Christ Jesus.
SOME REWARDS ALREADY DETERMINED
The truth of people being given rewards from God according to their WORKS is brought out in the life of Jesus' disciples. One day James and John, the sons of Zebadee, came to Jesus with a request. The request was not that they should be saved, or inherit eternal life, or come under His grace, or have their sins forgiven. I guess they knew they would have all that. But this request was for something beyond entering into the Kingdom and eternal life. They asked Jesus for a specific tangible reward for the works they would do in their Christian life. "They said unto Him, Grant unto us that we may SIT, ONE ON THY RIGHT HAND, and the other ON THY LEFT HAND, IN THY GLORY" (Mark 10:37).
Jesus went on to tell them they would in their WORKS partake of many of His works, and a reward would not be denied them, but to sit on His right and left hand in His kingdom, was for the Father to decide who would be rewarded with those positions (verses 38-40).
More than merely being "saved" was here requested. They wanted certain positions to be assigned them in the Kingdom. These positions or rewards can not be granted on the foundation of being saved by grace, for that foundation is the same for every person as no works can save us. So everyone is standing on the same level platform for entering into eternal life. Remember David said he would rather be a door keeper in the house of God than have the highest earthly position going for mortal man. So rewards and positions of authority in the Kingdom can be determined by only two things: 1) the decision and will of God, and 2) rewards given to each person based on their works. It would seem that during Christ's ministry, God the Father had decided in advance, what would be the position and reward for James and John and the others of the twelve disciples. They indeed would do many great and noble WORKS for the Lord during their Christian ministry and life - the Father knew that. Jesus said they would indeed drink the cup that He drank, be baptized with the baptism He was baptized with, and He also told them on one occasion that they would do greater WORKS than what He even did. They would sacrifice a lot in doing their works. Peter seemed to know this, at least he knew what they had already done in WORKS to follow Jesus, so he wanted to know what the paycheck was going to be at the end of the day. What was "in it for them" as far as a literal reward was concerned. What could they expect over and beyond eternal life, over and beyond being saved by grace, this was his question to Jesus. Christ answered by saying: "Verily I say unto you, That you which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of His glory, you also shall SIT UPON TWELVE THRONES, JUDGING THE TWELVE TRIBES OF ISRAEL. And everyone that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, SHALL RECEIVE AN HUNDREDFOLD, and shall inherit everlasting life" (Matt.19:28,29).
A lot of mighty WORKS here talked about, a lot of huge sacrificial WORKS here mentioned. The twelve disciples were told what their specific reward would be - each ruling a tribe of Israel during the Kingdom age. Others told that their sacrificial works would earn them an HUNDREDFOLD!
Notice eternal life is kept SEPARATE. Of course they will have eternal life because they will have been true Christians. But as we have before proved, eternal life, being saved, is not because of any specific sacrificial good "works" we will have done. The works we do as we build upon the foundation of Christ Jesus, will determine our REWARD we get after we enter the Kingdom by grace through faith.
From what Ezekiel was inspired to write, it would seem that the reward for David, the man after God's own heart, has been determined. He will rule over the whole 13 tribes of Israel - see Ezekiel 34, note verse 23,24; and also chapter 37, verses 15-28.
REWARDS OF RULERSHIP OVER CITIES
As we have seen, Jesus knew and taught that His disciples would be given rewards according as their work would be, after they had been saved by grace. There is a parable in the book of Luke that was given mainly because many thought that the Kingdom of God should immediately appear in Jesus' day. But there are also some other important teachings in this parable, one regarding this truth of being rewarded in the Kingdom according to the WORKS you have done,(Luke 19:11-27). Luke records that ten servants were given a pound each, say today, a hundred dollars for those living under dollar currency. They were to work with what they had been given, to use it, to increase, to be profitable servants. All but one it would seem did WORK with what they had.
Luke was inspired to bring out not that they would all (except the one unprofitable servant) enter into eternal life, for that would be taken for granted, hidden within the story, but he was inspired to relate REWARDS given to them ACCORDING TO HOW THEY WORKED! Some were rewarded with rulership over 10 cities, some over 5 cities, and I suspect some over 3 or 2 cities. Some built upon the foundation gold, some silver, some precious stones, and were rewarded accordingly. One did nothing more than his duty, thinking that would be pleasing to his master, but he found out to late, it was not, and what he thought he had, even that was taken away from him. This parable shows that God is very just and very fare. These ten servants started out on equal footing, on the same strata in life, all given the same to work with, none above or ahead or behind the other, all from the same pea pod as we might say.
As they worked, as they built gold, or silver, or stone, or wood, they were rewarded justly - they earned the wage they rightly deserved, they were rewarded according as to what every man's work shall be.
MORE TO THIS PARABLE
Matthew records a parable of Jesus' that is somewhat similar to the one in Luke 19, but with a few very significant difference. Turn to Matthew 25, the parable we need to look at is found in verses 14 through 30. We talked about this parable earlier from a certain view point, with another lesson in mine, but now I want you to note very carefully verses 14 and 15. "For the Kingdom of heaven(or Kingdom of God) is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered to them his goods. And unto one he gave FIVE TALENTS, to another TWO, and to another ONE. To every man ACCORDING TO HIS SEVERAL ABILITY " They all but one man INCREASED in their WORKS with the individual ability they had PLUS what the master had given them to start with! The parable in Luke showed the servants all STARTING OFF on the same level or same STEP on the ladder, but the servants in the parable in Matthew were on DIFFERENT STEPS on the ladder and were given different amounts of talents or goods, according to their natural abilities, which are also understood from the context to be different.
From the two parables it should now become clear that what we are beginning to learn is that there is MUCH MORE INVOLVED in being rewarded according to your "WORKS" than what we may have at first thought.
Paul, when talking about some false accusers, said this about them:
"…they measuring themselves BY themselves, and comparing themselves AMONG themselves, ARE NOT WISE" (2 Cor.10:12). Paul knew it was an unwise mental exercise for people to compare themselves with other human beings - there were just too many variables involved in such comparing. Some may start out what we would consider as "on equal footing" in life. They may have the same basic parental upbringing, may go to the same school and achieve the same type of educational diploma, may be of the same mental ability, be pretty equal in the number of natural talents, and start out in the working world with the same amount of literal money. BUT owing to other factors in life - good or bad influences, good or bad "luck" as we call it, being in the right place at the right time, or wrong place at the wrong time, possible accidents or sicknesses, inheriting certain physical things left by relatives, being wise or unwise in various decisions, and a host of other variables, we do NOT all INCREASE at the SAME rate. Where we stood level with some at the start, we finish increasing, some one fold, some five fold, and some ten fold.
Think about your High School class. Maybe you are still in touch with many from your graduation class. There will be some who were pretty equal and started out about the same. How have they increased today, HOW and WHY did the increase come about? I know of some I graduated with who were about equal with me in most things. Some really went on to make it big in business, making way more money than I have ever made. Then there was my close buddy who had all that I had in education, home life, and talents. He was doing about as well as I was in the working world UNTIL his wife gave birth to a very crippled baby. He had to leave his trade he loved and had been in for many years, to take a mundane job he did not like because it paid way better than his trade, and they needed the extra money to pay the doctor bills.
He and his wife's life were turned upside down, difficulties, sorrow, pain, hardship, and problem after problem. Looking at it from just a purely carnal human point, you may say he did not increase like some of the other guys from our graduation class. But by WHAT STANDARD are you comparing I will ask? Overcoming and battling through such trials and troubles as having a crippled child, could be a far GREATER INCREASE to God than making it big in the business world.
Are you beginning to see why Paul said it was NOT WISE to measure ourselves by ourselves or to compare ourselves among ourselves?
ONLY GOD HAS PERFECT KNOWLEDGE AND WISDOM TO DECIDE WHO HAS INCREASED BY WHAT AMOUNT AS HE WAS GIVEN!
Think back again to your school days(if you are out of school), and you will recall the kids who had, it seemed to you, ALL the talents, they were good at just about everything they ever did. Not many were like that, but a school usually has a few. Then there were you will remember, many with differing abilities. Some were extremely good at this or that, while others were very talented in something else. But alas, there were some who were "not very well blessed" we said. They didn't seem to have hardly any talents. They were not very good at anything, including academic work. God gives natural talents to each person as He wills. And He gives as many talents as He sees fit to any one individual. Some have MANY abilities, others less, and some have few. But all is from THE Master of His servants. The bottom line is though: It does not make any difference as to your color, sex, age, education, social background, you have SOMETHING that God has given you that you can use to produce an INCREASE!
I think of the lady JONI. She was a young pretty girl in her late teens I believe, when she broke her neck diving into the waters of a lake. She was left as a quadriplegic, it would seem her world of increasing had come to an end. But through finding God and Christ in her life she has gone on to produce wonderful WORKS in paintings with her mouth, singing and making records, writing books of inspiration, and wonderful uplifting talks in personal appearances.
You should not look upon what others have or do not have and compare yourself with them, for that is folly and unwise. You are you - they are they. You are unique, no other person who has ever lived or will live, will ever be like you. No other person will ever face or go through the same exact set of life's situations and circumstances that you will encounter while on this earth.
ONLY GOD HAS ALL KNOWLEDGE AND ALL WISDOM TO DECIDE WHO HAS INCREASED BY WHAT AMOUNT AS HE HAS GIVEN, IN ORDER TO REWARD EVERYONE ACCORDING TO THEIR WORKS!
In the context of the Church, we do not all come to the truths of God at the same time, or at the same age. It is God that calls when He sees fit in His own time. You enter the Church with MANY variables, everything you are, except your sins to the point of baptism. You may enter the Church as a single person, a married person, widow, or widower. You enter with your past education, many talents or few, parental upbringing, social influences, bad or good life experiences, and just everything that has made you - YOU! Yes, we all enter the Church at different levels of the mental, emotional, education, social, talent, rung of the ladder. We may be called into the Church when we are on the 5th rung of the natural ladder, or the 3rd rung, or the 7th, or 11th rung. What step of the ladder we are on when called into the Church depends on MANY factors.
Some of us may have had the best of education given us because we just found ourselves born into the right environment of family life and wealth, while others because of their "born into" circumstances, only received a grade four education, as many did in grandfather's day.
I could go on given other variables for a number of pages, you will no doubt immediately think of others as you mediate upon this truth.
None of us should compare ourselves among ourselves or measure ourselves by ourselves, for we can all find ourselves at different stages of our lives on different rungs of the ladder of life. We were not all called to be doctors or lawyers or dentists. We are not all called to be firemen or plane pilots. We are not all called to be secretaries, bankers, bakers, or candlestick-makers. If you are a skilled plumber you would not usually compare yourself against an accountant. A seamstress will not usually compare herself against a real-estate lady. But often within the Church of God we do compare ourselves among ourselves. This is total folly, and as Paul said - UNWISE!
We indeed shall be rewarded ACCORDING AS OUR WORK SHALL BE, but for us to try and figure out all the variables in "what is our work" is not only unwise but is also a complete futile waste of time and energy, for we are NOT God!
ONLY GOD KNOWS ALL THE VARIABLES, ONLY HE HAS ALL KNOWLEDGE AND ALL WISDOM TO DECIDE WHO HAS INCREASED BY WHAT AMOUNT IN RELATION TO WHAT HE WAS GIVEN, TO THEN DETERMINE WHAT HIS REWARD WILL BE ACCORDING TO HIS WORKS!
WHERE IS THE LINE?
I see it coming! It is bound to be said! After all I have written on this subject someone somewhere is going to raise the thought and the question. The thought is: A person being called must repent, John the baptist was inspired to say "bring forth fruits fitting for repentance" - the Christian is to be converted, to turn around and go the way of the Lord, yes his attitude of mind is to change to the way God looks at things, but his life actions are to change also. The Christian is to do things differently, his works are to be different under grace through faith in Christ Jesus. He is to be willing to meet the conditions laid down by the court of heaven in order to be saved by grace. He will when in this attitude of mind have the heart that is pleasing to God, and the Lord will come and live in him. Which in turn will automatically produce good "fruits" or "works." These works then must be there for they are a result of a repentant mind, and automatic by virtue of being a branch of the vine, without which a branch is cast forth, collected and burned in the fire.
That is the thought, now from that thought arises the question: Where is the line that divides the automatic works that come from repentance and meeting the conditions to being saved by grace, and WORKS that everyone will receive a reward for doing, beyond that of eternal life in the Kingdom Of God?
It is a good question and does need to be answered to clear up any fog in any persons mind, because for some this doctrine of "Christian works" does seem confusing.
Again, get clear in your mind, there is not one literal work you can do to obligate God showing you forgiveness of your sins. There are not any number of works you can perform that forces God to have to justify you, and wash away your errors, and declare you holy and righteous. You have sinned, come under the death sentence, you must die, that is what the law says. But the judge's son says he will die for you, in your stead. The law will then be satisfied and you can live. All you must do is show repentance for your sin, be converted in your mind's attitude to want to do the will of the judge, and believe, have faith in the sacrifice of the son that you are set free from death into life.
With that in mind, we are ready to proceed to our answer to the above thought and question. Jesus gave us the answer in another of His parables. I want you to read it, you will find it in Matthew chapter 20, verses 1 through 16.
There may be other teachings some can find in this parable, but the main teaching is undoubtedly this: The householder represents God the Father. The laborers are persons God calls to be His children and inherit His Kingdom. The penny for the day represents ETERNAL LIFE not rewards for works. Get that clear - penny for the day = eternal life. They all agree to the terms, at the end of the day, all will receive the SAME. The laborers are called to the work by the master, the householder, WHEN he decides, which means some will have to stick with it, being his servant, living under his grace for the agreed amount, which is the same for all.
Is the curtain beginning to lift, for those still finding it somewhat low down?
God has promised the exact SAME THING to all that He calls to be saved by grace through faith, without doing any "works" - that same thing being ETERNAL LIFE!
Without God calling a person to repentance and to Jesus Christ as savior they can not even start out to go into the vineyard (John 6:44). WHEN God decides to call them IS ENTIRELY UP TO HIM, that is left in His hands alone.
Some may be called to be a true Christian at a certain age and may only live a few years before they die this physical death to await the resurrection. Some may be called at some other age in their life and live on in the flesh much longer than the person above. Some may be called at whatever age in their life and only live a few weeks as a Christian before they die. BUT THEY WILL ALL RECEIVE A PENNY - ETERNAL LIFE!
Now to get to the specifics of our "works" question.
This may never have happened, then again something like this example may have taken place, certainly it could happen, and stranger things have taken place: A man was raised we will say in a religious atmosphere, the Bible was read to him by his mother as a child growing up, and he read it for himself at times as a young man, but he never took it very seriously. He went his own way doing his own thing. One day a true minister of the Lord was in town. He was holding a tent preaching service in the local park where our man lived. Something (the Spirit of God really) spoke to this man and told him it was time to get his life in order and go listen to this preacher. So off he went to the tent in the park, sat down with his Bible and was guided through the chapters and verses of real repentance, Jesus as Savior, and serving the Lord in spirit and in truth, by this minister. Many parts of the word of the Lord came flooding back into his mind from the time he was a child. He was deeply broken up, he could see clearly that he was a sinner and needed to repent and turn his life over to God. After the service, he went to ask the minister if he would spend some time with him on the subject of sin and repentance and being saved. The minister was pleased to do so, and for about 5 hours he was guided, into all the truth on that subject. At the end of the hours, this true minister of God is fully convinced that the man KNOWS what sin is, understands all about counting the cost of being a true disciple of Jesus, has been called by God to walk in the light, he has come to genuine repentance. He is willing to be baptize, for the remission of sins.
Our man is also fully persuaded God has called him to repentance. He asks the minister, what prevents him from being baptized. The minister responds "If you believe with all your heart you may." Our man responds "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that He has called me to repent of my sins and to serve Him."
Our man has NOT YET DONE ANY WORKS! He has sat on the park bench with the minister for 5 hours being taught the word of the Lord and coming to deep repentance. He has talked to no one else, been around no other person, except this minister of God.
Now we are talking about this as a true example. God has indeed called this man to repent and serve Him. This is genuinely his day of salvation, to go out into the vineyard. As pleased as punch, both the man and minister go off to the stream running by the park, so our man can be baptized. Down into the water he goes, under the water he goes for the remission of sin. Up out of the water he comes to new life in Christ. The minister of God lays hands on him for the receiving of the Holy Spirit. OUR MAN HAS DONE NO WORKS YET IN THE WAY WE NORMALLY THINK OF "WORKS."
All he has done is meet the conditions laid down by the heavenlt judge to be saved by grace through faith.
It is in the late afternoon when all this is taking place, and for those who have lived or are living in the state of Florida(the afternoon rain and thunder and lightning state) the next part of our scenario will not seem too exaggerated. Both men are coming up out of the water on to the banks of the park, when out of the sky ROLLS THUNDER AND LIGHTNING! Like the sound of hundreds of wild runaway horses the thunder booms across the sky. Then as quick as the blink of your eye, LIGHTNING streaks out of the sky and HITS our newly baptized man - striking him DEAD on the spot! He was called by God, he did meet the conditions of repentance, having his mind converted, putting his mind in the right attitude, getting baptized and receiving the Holy Spirit. But within seconds of all that, without doing any works, he was physically DEAD!
Was he saved by grace through faith? Oh, you bet he was! Will he receive his penny at the end of the day, when the trumpet sounds and the resurrection takes place? Indeed he will! Is eternal life his? I guess so! It is God that calls, when He chooses. At whatever time of the day. All agree to be saved by grace and not of works, for as long as the day for them lasts. At the end of the day for as many hours as all served under grace they all get the same - eternal life - the penny in the parable from Jesus.
Everything is in the hands of the Lord, it is He not us that shows mercy, to WHOM and WHEN and for HOW LONG they may live. This is what Paul was teaching in Romans the 9th, 10th, and 11th chapters.
Our lives belong to God. As Job said: "The Lord gives and the Lord takes away."
If some are to live under grace for 75 or 50 years, it is the Lord's doing. If some are to live as a true Christian for 30 or 20 years, it is the Lord's doing. If some are to live for 10 or 5 years being saved by grace and not by works, that also is God's doing. If some are only to live for 1 year or 9 months as a Christian before physical death is their lot, that too is the Lord's doing, as He permits all things to happen. And if some are permitted by God to only live as a true saved by grace Christian for only one week or one minute, they also will receive ETERNAL LIFE at the end of the day.
Oh, it is true those true Christians who may die within a few minutes or seconds after being saved by grace through faith, will not have produced any works for rewards according to your "works, and so may be only the door keepers in the family and Kingdom of God. But remember David's attitude, he said he would be happy with only that position in the Kingdom, if that was what God decided for him. AH! Now we see a little more as to why God said David was a man after His own heart.
When you understand the mind bending truth of the word of God, and what it teaches us about WHY WE WERE BORN, about being saved by grace to become a literal son and daughter of the MOST HIGH GOD, a literal brother to Jesus Christ. When you understand the wonderful truth that we were created to be heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ, to be like Him, to rule over and be above the angels, to inherit all things - (Rom.8:17; 2 Cor.6:16-18; 1 Cor. 6:3; Heb.2:5-17; 1 John 3:2; Rev.21:7).
When you come to understand that the very lowest in the family of God, as pertaining to the rewards given to each, will be on a level of existence that only God is on, then "rewards according to our works" will be put into their proper perspective, and we will be more than happy to be just a door keeper in the family of our heavenly Father.
NO ENVY OR JEALOUSY IN THE FAMILY OF GOD
The Eternal God is holy perfect righteous character. He is without sin, He has never sinned, He can not sin! The God of heaven and earth, the creator of the whole universe, can not even be touched with the temptation to sin! There is no JEALOUSY, no ENVY in Him as in carnal sin. Jesus Christ, the Father's firstborn son (Col. 1:13-18) is also God - John 1:1-2; Heb.1:8. He is a member of the family of God. He is on the right hand of the Father in heaven (Heb.4:14-16; 8:1,2). The Father is greater and head of Christ in authority (John 10:29; 14:28; 1 Cor.11:3). Jesus as God, is also sinless - complete perfect holy righteous character.
There is no JEALOUSY or ENVY in Christ Jesus towards the position the Father holds as the most supreme authority in the universe. Such carnal human sinful thoughts as: "I am envious of your position Father and believe I should have it because of my great works that I did," can not enter His mind! Both the Father and Christ are FREE FROM SIN, can not be touched by sin, can not even be tempted in thought to sin. No jealousy or envy in the carnal sinful manner is possible in their divine nature of HOLINESS!
So it will be my friends, with all the persons born into the family of God, changed from mortal to divine, from natural sinful flesh to the holy sinless character of the God family. Whatever will be our reward for the works we have done, whether serving (and our reward will be to serve not put our feet up and sunbathe on the beach at Waikiki) as "door keepers" or ruling over the tribes of Israel in the Kingdom of God, THERE WILL BE NO SINFUL ENVY OR JEALOUSY IN US OR BETWEEN US!
We shall be as God, we shall be as Christ (1 John 3) one with them ( John 17). We shall be ONE large happy, righteous FAMILY - 1 John 3:l-3, we shall be joyful, perfect, holy.
The true Christian SHOULD PRODUCE GOOD WORKS, the true Christian will automatically produce good works from the mere fact that God the Father and Christ Jesus will be living in them via the Holy Spirit, to bring forth GOOD FRUITS.
We need to relax, let them work in us for their will and purpose. Do not compare ourselves among ourselves. Do not try to keep "tally" of our good works to someday compare them with God's record, for such will be foolishness as we are carnal flesh and not yet divine holiness.
Yield and submit yourself under the might hand of God. He will work within you to do His good pleasure and produce His good works. Then when He comes He will bring YOUR REWARD with Him to give it to you. You can be assured your reward for your works will be JUST and PERFECT!
Written July 1995
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