Tuesday, March 14, 2017
Let your light shine before men in such a way
that they may see your good works,
and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
Okay, so this picture just makes me laugh, don't read anything into it.
I have been thinking about good works today. Understanding that good works are not meritorious - in other words, they do nothing towards my standing before the Lord regarding salvation - we are still called to good works throughout the scriptures. Ephesians 2:10 even says that we were created FOR good works, so they are definitely a part of life.
So what constitutes a good work? Here's where the wrestling begins because I think in our humanity, we have made goods works a competitive system. You might serve in the nursery on Sunday, but I read the Daily Bread every morning. You might take fresh baked cookies to your neighbor, but I made them a whole meal. You might pray every night when you go to sleep, but I not only pray, I journal, study, memorize a verse and listen to a worship song. Is prayer even a good work or are good works only something you do for others? Are good works earning something? Maybe just brownie points, but is there value in getting more brownie points than other people?
As many of you know, David and I had six children, all with different needs, strengths and weaknesses. When trying to run a household with that many children, I had to set up pretty narrow systems to make sure we got out the door in the morning with everything we needed. For some of the kids, we had to lay out the clothes the night before, while others could manage that on their own. We made lunches the night before, packed backpacks and had them lined up on the red cabinet, ready for lunches to be dropped in and zipped up. Each child knew what was expected of them when I got them up - make their beds, brush their teeth and get dressed before coming down to the kitchen. There I would have their breakfast of choice ready to go (most of them wanted Eggo waffles) and when they were done, they put their dishes in the dishwasher. Then bags were packed with lunches and pretty quickly, we were out the door.
This was not too overwhelming to five of the kids, but one really struggled with their part of the expectations. Their bed was rarely made, their room was a disaster, homework was a struggle. It just took extra effort on my part to get this child with the program. On days when this child was on top of things, I would cheer and make a big deal because of the success. But quickly I became frustrated when I had to cheer for something the other 5 did without question or cheering. Was I fostering a disobedience that would only be rectified through praise?
Here's the truth: the other 5 children had privileges that were often taken away from the one. They didn't need cheering - the blessing of obedience was a consistent, positive relationship with mom and dad, plus more freedom because they could be trusted to do what was expected (which is another way of saying "obey"). The other child was fully capable of obeying, but most of the time didn't feel like it. Therefore that child had limited freedoms and privileges, until that child learned that with obedience came not only blessing, but good fellowship/relationship with mom and dad.
So what are good works? Obviously they are good actions, good things - not evil or destructive. But if you boil it down, good works are simply obedience. God created us to walk in obedience to His Word. When we obey Him, like an earthly father, we are in good fellowship with Him. When we reject His boundaries or refuse to obey, then like an earthly father, He will discipline us - choose to sin, choose to suffer, right? So good works are everything from kindness towards others, forgiving others, meeting other's needs, spiritual disciplines - anything that glorifies God and is within the boundaries that God has set for us. When we extend our hands, we do it for Jesus. We should never do anything that He wouldn't do. Good works are works that are consistent with Jesus' character.
There are several benefits to good works. In addition to continual fellowship with God, it is the easiest way to show your gratitude for the cross. Willingly placing yourself under God's authority, with a good attitude, an attitude of gratitude, is a visible way to tell the Lord, "Thank you." Good works are also the most effective way to live out your faith. If you don't put actions to your beliefs, then your faith is dead. Good works show who you follow. You also give testimony to those around you that God is real and that He loves you. Your good works will bring glory to God. And finally, good works produce spiritual fruit - the works of the flesh produce all sorts of negative and broken feelings, but good works, with your eyes set on Christ, produce fruit of the Spirit in your life.
One final note: we're not aiming for perfection here because we know in our flesh we are limited. Think of it this way - who dreams of having a child so that you could discipline them constantly? Instead you dream about the good times and the close relationship. This is what the Father wants with you and the way to have a close relationship with Him is to willingly seek His will and obey.