Thursday, June 23, 2011

On Diapers and Good Deeds

It always amazes me how many diapers we go through each month with our baby.  Thankfully though, we’ve been through this routine before and I know that one day he’ll grow out of them.  He’ll go on to maturity: he’ll start to feed himself, dress himself and make his own bed (well…maybe not that one!) and eventually make it through school.  His growth won’t be easy though – it will require some work and training: potty training, piano lessons, homework, chores…but it’s our prayer that one day he’ll be both mature and fruitful in life.

It also amazes me how many Christians pay little attention to their growth in godliness.  In my last post (WWJD: What Would Jordan Do?) I talked about the importance of practicing the spiritual disciplines that Jesus did.  However, talking about “disciplines” may make some uncomfortable.  Since the Reformation, it seems, many of us have a fear of “good works.”  However, I believe one of the biggest lies of the devil is that any emphasis on deeds or works immediately means legalism.  Some might say: “We’re saved by grace, we don’t need to focus on works!”  Unfortunately, that is plain unscriptural!

Now obviously it’s true that we’re saved by grace alone – but that doesn’t negate the need for us, as believers, to emphasize good works.

I want to share with you a distinction that has helped me tremendously.  It’s the simple truth that there is a vast difference between one’s IDENTITY and their MATURITY
As a believer you can’t change your identity – you are IN CHRIST.  The moment you repented and turned to Jesus you became a child of God…works won't make you a Christian or make God love you more.  That’s your identity – you are a CHILD of God.  However, you can change your level of maturity.

A baby doesn’t work to be born….but to grow to maturity requires LOTS of work!

No matter how long my boys stay in their diapers, they’ll always be my kids…their “works” won’t change my love for them.  However, their “works” will change their maturity, their growth and their fruitfulness!  When my son is 18 and heading off to college, my guess is that he won’t take a box of diapers with him!

YOU ARE IN CHRIST...your works can’t add to your identity.  But the question is – are you going to be a BABY in Christ or an ADULT in Christ?  Are you going to go on to maturity, to fruitfulness?  If you are, that will take work!

That’s why the Scriptures are full of exhortations to “Grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Pet 3:18) and to “make every effort” (2 Pet. 1:5, 15; 3:14; Heb 12:14, etc) and to “train yourself to be godly” (1 Tim 4:7,8)...and that believers are to “prove their repentance by their deeds” (Acts 26:20 – heard a sermon on that one lately?).  And that’s why Jesus said “by your fruit you will recognize them” (Mt 7:20) and why he declares over and over in Revelation “I know your deeds!” (not just “I know your intentions!” – see Rev 2:2,19,23; 3:1,8,15). 

Your deeds – your works, growth and fruitfulness – are of extreme importance both here on earth as well as on judgment day!  (See Rev 22:12 and 1 Cor 3:11-15).

Martin Luther himself, in his treatise on “Christian Freedom” said, of course, that Christians are “justified by faith,” yet he also was emphatic that while still on this earth the believer must:
“give heed to exercise his body by fastings, watchings, labour, and other regular discipline, so that it may be subdued to the spirit, and obey and conform itself to the inner man and faith…True then, are these two sayings: ‘Good works do not make a good man, but a good man does good works’” (Martin Luther – Concerning Christian Liberty ).
That’s why spiritual disciplines are so important – like a child learning practicing piano, or a basketball player doing training – disciplines and good works help us grow in spirit and have a positive impact on the world around us.

Works won’t save you.  But they’ll sure help you get out of your diapers and make a difference for Christ!

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