Ready for Good Works (6)
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5.16
Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10.31
Ready for good works
We began this series of studies with one driving assumption: All believers have been created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them (Eph. 2.10). We have been clear that we are not created in Christ Jesus by good works, as if salvation were something we could earn. Salvation is ours by the grace of God alone, and it is received by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. And even that is the gift of God (Eph. 2.8, 9).
So we’re not looking at good works as if by doing them we might earn favor with God, or merit saving mercy from Him. We are not saved by works, but unto them. Good works are the evidence of saving faith and the fruit of being united with and abiding in Jesus Christ. Every believer should thus be zealous, equipped, and ready for, and constant in good works.
That immediately raised the question, “Which works?” That is, which works might we do that are truly the good works unto which God has redeemed us? Are they merely whatever works we might regard as good? Or that our society and culture might describe as good? Or are they other good works?
We saw that the good works for which we have been made new creatures in Christ Jesus are those which God before ordained that we should walk in them – before Paul’s day, that is, before he wrote Ephesians 2.10. These are the works of the holy and righteous and good Law of God which, Paul says, is established for us by the grace of God as the standard for knowing sin and determining what is good. The Law of God is the acorn to the oak of Scripture, and the rest of Scripture enlarges, elaborates, clarifies, and explains the good works which are found in seed form in the Law.
These good works may be sorted into two categories: works that express love for God, and works that express love for our neighbors. On such good works, Jesus said, hang all the Law and the Prophets (Matt. 22.34-40). We must work out – not for – our salvation in fear and trembling, for as we do, God Who is at work within us by His Holy Spirit fits us to understand and do the works God has before ordained that we should walk in them (Phil. 2.12, 13). We must not grow weary of doing good works (Gal. 6.9), for we are the Lord’s vessels by which His goodness comes to light in the land of the living (2 Cor. 4.7, 15, 16; Ps. 27.13, 14).
Loving God and loving our neighbors are the sum and substance of good works. The more we devote ourselves to God’s Word, give ourselves to prayer, and prepare ourselves to serve God in this world, the more consistent we will be in doing the good works for which we have been redeemed.
And as we do, we will shine like lights in a world of darkness, and will bring glory and honor and praise to our God and Savior.
For the glory of God
In every good work for which we prepare, become equipped, nurture zeal, make ready, and seek to be constant in, our prayer must at all times be, “Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to Your Name give glory” (Ps. 115.1). People who experience our good works, whether by word or deed, should know that they have been reached and wrought upon by the grace of God. They should sense from us a genuineness, a sincerity, and a hope that resonates with the longings of their heart, but which is all too uncommon in their experience.
We won’t have to say much to effect this result. A simple “God bless you” or “I’ll be praying for you” or “Thanks be to God” will go far to deflect any attention or merit off ourselves, and to direct credit to God, Who guides, empowers, prompts, and moves us for good works. In due course, such a consistent referring upward of credit will open opportunities for longer and more detailed explanations, and for helping others either to be strengthened in the Gospel or to hear it for perhaps the first time.
We want our good works to shine in the darkness of uncertainty, fear, loneliness, unbelief, and sin. But we do not blare them in people’s faces; rather, we want the light of Christ’s love to glow in our works and to warm those who benefit from them with the comforting Presence of the Lord Himself.
And all our works, even the most everyday and seemingly insignificant, have the potential for bringing glory to God.
Whatever you do
Or so the apostle Paul teaches. We must believe that it can be so, that even those ordinary daily tasks, those fleeting conversations, passing greetings, aids and helps, words of affirmation and encouragement – all of these have the potential to touch the soul of another and turn their attention to God.
We must not limit the good works for which we have been saved to those programs and activities sponsored by our local churches or other ministries. Truly, we need all the good works these entities can organize and carry out.
Nor must we limit our thinking about good works to those extraordinary, out-of-the-way, go-the-extra-mile good works that sometimes open up before us; we must be ready for these as well, and not in the least reluctant to take them on.
But much more than either of these do we need the everyday, ordinary, done-as-unto-the-Lord works that reach people where they are and buoy them with the touch of Jesus’ love. Each of us has abundant opportunities for doing good to people every day, and thus to become agents of the grace of God into the world, filling it with the fragrance of Jesus and the glory of God. We must prepare well, walk circumspectly, and reach out as often as we can; for as we do, our heavenly Father gets the glory and praise – if only from us – that He deserves, and for which He has saved us through His own Son.
And we must not grow weary, never give up, nor ever think that any of our labors, thus engaged for God’s glory, will ever be in vain.
1. What are you doing to improve your readiness for doing good works each day?
2. What are the greatest obstacles that can keep you from letting your good works shine in the world? How can you overcome these?
3. How can believers “consider” and “stimulate” one another to love and good works (Heb. 10.24)?
Next steps – Transformation: Review the studies in this series. Where do you need to improve in being zealous, ready, and constant in good works?
T. M. Moore
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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.