Yesterday, I was reading Walt Henrichsen and his thoughts on the concept of “unconditional love” – it’s not a biblical doctrine. As a believer in and follower of Christ, I’d love to see millions come to repentance and embrace Christ as their god without rival. But, I cannot err on the side of preaching the gospel as unconditional love. It’s not that easy – God’s love for us is conditional: it is under the condition of grace.
This week, Pastor Marvin Jinks walked a class of about 75 of us through part of Chad Craig’s “Divine Design for Discipleship” as part of a continuing education course Cristine and I are enrolled in. One of the simplest truths we see people stumble over in the Christian walk is the line between faith and works. “Good works are fruit. But, they are rooted in the righteousness of Christ.” Sometimes, it’s hard for us to wrap our heads around the fact that we don’t have to do good things to be “in” with God. As a result of the one condition – salvation by grace through faith in Christ – we’re already “in” with God.
My friend, Ron painted the picture – If you had me over to your house for dinner, the meal was served, and we all ate, how insulting would it be for me to ask you, my host, “How much do I owe you?” You don’t owe me – it’s a gift. And, yet, so many of us get all tied up in trying to do good works to pay back God after He’s given us a gift. Our works are not for that – they’re for two things – showing God how much we love Him and for storing up rewards (treasure) in heaven. Titus 2:14 paints a picture of us rabid for doing good because of what Christ has done for us, but never for the purpose of paying God back.
Today, Ron sent me this comment from Walt –
“Salvation is by grace; rewards are by works. You, not God, determine your standard of living in heaven. In an act of grace He eliminates the possibility of your determining it on earth so that you can focus on the eternal.”
– Walt Henrichsen
With all the work I’ve been doing on our production of “That Day”, my eyes are growing more and more fixed on the day when we all come before Christ to receive our rewards for what we’ve done here on earth. After the most recent performance, Steve Knoblock stood up and said “How amazing is it that God gives us the resources to do stuff, grants us the grace to empower do the stuff, and yet He’s promised to reward us for stuff He did through us with the stuff He gave us?” If you’ve seen the play, you know that after all of the judgments happen, the saints who received crowns lay them at the feet of Jesus in the ultimate act of worship. It’s not to say “I’m not worthy of this crown.” That would be offensive. Rather, it’s to say – “I love You, Lord, and this is my gift of love back to you!”
When that day finally comes, He will say in return – “Here is your promised reward for what You did out of love for me.” Of course, we beg the question “am I doing good works for selfish reason – i.e., I know I’ll be rewarded for it?” Recall that He will regard every selfish motive as a zero reward – see Galatians 5.19-21.
This week, as we disciple, I’m praying that God helps me first to crucify my flesh – to win the battle against self-comfort, to “put to death the misdeeds of the body”. Then, we pray that God will continue the work in those we disciple: to live lives free from the law of sin and death… lives lived according to the Spirit. (see also, Romans 8.2-4)