Loving Neighbors (7)
For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men… 1 Peter 2.15
Is there any doubt that we live in a time when ignorance of God is at a very high point? Where the Name of God is mocked and His existence denied by people with great influence? Where all manor of false religions have become established as viable belief systems, leading multitudes into the ditches of disillusionment, disappointment, despair, and death?
This is not an ignorance of God that is silent. On every hand, in every sector of society and culture, people boast about their own autonomy – they are a law unto themselves. They revel in their licentiousness. Writers and speakers travel the world boasting that God does not exist and that Christianity is a program of deceit and hypocrisy.
From within the Christian world, we try to counter this ignorance with a torrent of words. Webpages, sermons, apologetics courses, books, schools and colleges, and more have joined the voices of those who decry the ignorance of our day and would reprove those who promulgate it, and, hopefully, persuade some of them to repent and believe.
We need all such words. But words alone will not silence the ignorance of foolish men. For that to happen, Christians must engage in good works, works outlined in the Law of God, proclaimed by prophets and apostles, modeled by our Lord Jesus Himself, and faithfully fulfilled by believers in every age.
The ignorant world can recite our words back to us. They’re sick of them, and of having to hear them. What they want – though they may not admit it – is to see the lifestyle of Jesus lived out in the flesh by individual believers and their communities. It is our good works that will lead the world to glorify God (Matt. 5.13-16). Our words matter, and we must be gracious, truthful, and consistent in using them for Christ and His Kingdom. But without good works, few will be persuaded that what we proclaim holds any power or promise for them.
The goal of all Christian instruction is love (1 Tim. 1.5) – love for God, in all the ways we have considered, and love for the people to whom God sends us in our Personal Mission Field. Every day we see people, whether many or few. And every day we have opportunities to do good works to show the love of Christ to those people.
As we grow to become better seekers, we will find that we are praying more for the people around us, asking the Lord for some plan or opportunity to reach out to them. We’ll also be more sensitive to their needs and interests, and more inclined to seek ways of affirming and encouraging them. This will set the stage for us to serve the people around us, whether by small deeds or large, so that they see in us the kind of self-denial and sacrifice which characterized our Lord Jesus. The more we get to know people, the more our concern for them will reach to their souls, and we will want to shepherd them closer to Jesus and the Father. In the process, we will sow the Word of God into their lives in as many ways as we can. And, increasingly, we will become better stewards of our time with the people to whom God sends us, making the most of every opportunity to show Jesus and tell of His greatness and love.
Every Christian has been sent to the world as Jesus was sent (Jn. 20.21), to bring near the reality of the Kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Matt. 4.17; Rom. 14.17, 18). God has given us all the time we need, and abundant opportunities to practice loving our neighbors in the ways we have discussed. We must not be like that timid servant in the parable of the talents, who buries his gifts, calling, time, and opportunities in the ground, while he goes about his own interests without regard for the will of God.
Loving our neighbors is work. Good work. The kind of work that can be so persuasive that people, when they see our good works, will set aside their old ways of thinking and all their cherished assumptions and ways, and gladly embrace the Good News of Jesus (cf. Act 6.1-7).
But we must work out our salvation in fear and trembling if we would engage the Kingdom power of God’s Spirit in our souls (Phil. 2.12, 13). You are not your own; you were bought with the price of Jesus’ blood (1 Cor. 6.19, 20). Your time is not your own, but God’s gift to you, given for His glory (Eph. 5.15-17; 1 Cor. 10.31). We must work while it is still day, because the night is coming when no one can work (Jn. 9.4). Our works are the proof of our salvation, the sign of the Kingdom, the means for spreading the grace of God, and the life substance that give hope and lend credibility to all our words (1 Pet. 3.15).
Made for work
From Adam onward, God has designed that His goodness and beauty should fill the earth through the good works of His people. Ignorant men will continue to proclaim all manner of foolishness from age to age. But in every age, the task of the Church and all the followers of Jesus is to silence such ignorance by good works of love.
Work hard at loving God, and knowing His love for you with ever-increasing profundity and power. And let that love well up from within your soul and overflow to the people around you as the expression of the Spirit’s work in you (Jn. 7.37-39). We’re not saved by our works. But we’re not saved without them. And when all our works, and all the ways we use our time, are directed to loving God and our neighbors, we will see the Kingdom of Jesus advancing in and through us, and the idols of ignorance and foolishness collapsing into the trash cans of time.
Now is the day of salvation! Work at it, and work it out, that you may glorify God in a life increasing in love for Him and for your neighbor.
For reflection or discussion
1. Why do we need good works and not just true words?
2. How is God leading you to be more consistent in filling your Personal Mission Field with good works?
3. What can you do to make sure all your learning is helping you to grow in love for God and your neighbor?
Next steps – Transformation: Are you using the time of your life to love God and your neighbors? Write to me, and I’ll send you a worksheet, The Time of Your Life, that will help you to discover better ways of using your time for love.
T. M. Moore
At the website
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.