In my last post I explained what a Christian is and why being a Christian is not as simple as just receiving God’s grace. I explained that we cannot earn our salvation through good works because we are all sinners. When we confess our sins, and accept Jesus Christ as our saviour we receive God’s grace. As soon as this happens we are transformed by the Holy Spirit and from this moment, we strive for a life of honour, humility and integrity (Acts 20:35, 2 Corinthians 9:8, Hebrews 13:18). We become followers of Christ. Soldiers.
As followers of Christ, we become ‘equipped for every good work’ (2 Timothy 3:17).
In short, we are not saved by good works, but we do good works because we are saved.
So you might be thinking at this point, ‘OK that’s great. So what are good works anyway…?’.
Good question. That’s what this post is all about.
So what are ‘good works’ anyway?
The short answer is:
Every single (good) thing we do as Christians.
If you’re a sincere God-loving grace filled, anti works, Christian out there sharing the gospel, telling everyone about God’s amazing grace… then you’re probably already doing good works.
When was the last time you sat your wife down and gave her shoulder rub? Or told her to sit down, then proceed to do the dishes/cook/hang out the washing for her?
That time you shouted your mate a pie because he ‘accidentally’ left his wallet in his tool bag?
Every time you get up and go to work, help out your neighbour, change your oil, say thank you, tie your kids shoelaces…
… All good works.
Not just that. The very fabric of our being is changed when we are saved, so that our very existence, essentially, becomes a good work (Romans 12:1).
We live, for Christ.
Good works are Christ focussed, first and foremost. It’s all in our attitude and the way we go about doing it. Are we doing it to glorify ourselves? Or are we doing it to glorify Christ?
All that being said. Some of this is easier to swallow, and some of it takes a little more kahoonies.
We need to start thinking about our life and the things we do and start breaking them into three basic categories…
- Things that are acceptable to do.
- Things that are good to do.
- Things that we ought to do.
The problem is there are tons of Christians out there who are very good at doing 1 and 2, but are not so great at doing 3.
We’re going to spend the rest of the post going through each of these three things, what they are and what they mean for us as Christians and as men.
1. Things that are acceptable to do.
Ok, this is all of the things that we do in our life that are not, in and of themselves, commanded of us (1 Corinthians 10:23). This can be anything that is not sinful or idolatrous, nor is it a direct commandment of the Lord. These things are morally and spiritually neutral. Think of everyday activities, this is a big category. Going to work, shaving, pumping iron, eating food, playing with your kids, hanging out with mates, .
Anything you do in your daily life that you choose to do, that you probably don’t associate with being a ‘work’ in the Christian sense falls into this category. But they are still important and still count as works. As such they always need to be understood in the light of scripture (1 Timothy 4:4 & 4:8)
Another way to think about it is when one bloke does some kind of activity, and another bloke does not, it does not make either one more or less of a Christian, and would also likely not even be evidence by itself that either man is or is not a Christian.
The choices we make in this category encompass the totality of our life as a living sacrifice to Christ (Romans 12:1). The way we conduct ourselves on a daily basis. How we treat our body, how we treat our mind, the kinds of activities we pursue, the extra-biblical philosophies we admire, it all ties into our attitude towards Christ. Everything we do, we can, and should, offer up to Christ.
Now I’m definitely not saying that it’s a sin to be unhealthy, or sedentary, or antisocial or any number of morally neutral behaviours. Nor is any one activity more or less sinful (or righteous) than any other. Much of this category is how we choose to conduct ourselves, and to a large degree is up to our discretion. But if you’re reading this blog, chances are you’re shooting for excellence. You came here because you know that there’s a higher standard and you want it.
We need to keep in mind that everything we do is subject to the righteous judgement of God. It is up to us to study the word of God, and ask ourselves if there are things we do that are the best example of modelling Christs behaviour. Have I committed every component of my life to Christ, or just the stuff I think is important? Do I strive for excellence, or ‘yep that’ll do’? When we offer ourselves completely to Christ, are we offering the fatted lamb, or the bare minimum?
One last point on this, which is relevant to all three categories really, is that it’s also our responsibility to understand our own motivations. Even if we are saved and serving Christ, we need to be vigilant to the ever present temptation to please the world, even if we think we’re doing it in service to the Lord. Christ warned us that we need to be ‘at least as righteous as the pharisees‘, but the mistake the pharisees made was they were motivated by merely the appearance of righteousness, in order to boast about how great and religious they were (Matthew 6:1-18).
Whatever we choose to do, let it always be done with humility, for the sake of excellence, not reward.
2. Things that are good to do
These are the things that most honest bible believing Christians understand to be good works. Even the passionate grace-filled types are out there doing these things, and even doing them because they know that they are good to do. They are just not going around telling people that this is important.
Except that they are important.
As Christians who are putting on the full armour of God, these are things which the Bible tells us are good works.
The ‘good to do’ category is things that are fairly recognizable as good things to do, but are themselves not essential to salvation, necessarily. When Christians are out and about engaging in these activities and exhibiting these attitudes and traits, they are the things that very often make Christians unique.
Things like, giving to the poor, tithing, offering a mate a lift to work. Chipping in at Church. Being a good citizen in general. Obviously heaps of non-Christians do these things as well, but Christians especially, have a responsibility to fulfill the law; that is, to the love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soul, and love your neighbour as yourself. To do this, is to glorify Christ, and give praise to God.
Our attitude is also good to go in this category as well. The beatitudes, the fruit of the spirit and all the very very many other passages in scripture which reference our general attitude towards the Lord and other people. Being peaceable, slow to anger, not given to *much* wine, etc (James 1:19, 1 Timothy 3:8).
As I said before, these are the activities and the attitudes that Christ expects of us, and that are in many cases a natural result of the change that the Holy Spirit produces in us when we confess our sins. Be careful though; don’t assume that just because it doesn’t come naturally means it’s not important. If the word of God tells you it’s good, then it’s good, even if you don’t particularly feel like it.
Often times, there are things that fall into the ‘good to do’ category that require a little more gusto. They may be inconvenient or occasionally (or often) taxing… like paying tax, or offering a new Christian brother a lift to church, or engaging them in conversation (and actually being interested in getting to know them). This is the category where we tend to judge ourselves the most harshly, but also tend to make up the best (worst) excuses.
It’s the third category however, that is the most critical of all, and unsurprisingly the one that requires the most from us.
3. Things that we ought to do
Alright, things have been pretty peachy up to this point, but we’re here now, no point putting it off any longer.
It’s time to nut up or shut up.
This is the stuff that separates the men from the boys, and often the Christians from the non-Christians.
This is the no-free-ticket list.
We are men of God, and our faith in him calls us to a life of humility and repentance, we don’t get a choice in that. By definition we are Christians based on certain unconditional characteristics and actions (Ephesians 6:11, and a bunch of other scriptures… like heaps).
The ‘ought to do’ good works, are those where by virtue of the fact that we chose to follow the Lord, hand in hand with that are some strict obligations. Before we continue, lets just be clear one last time (it won’t be the last time), when I say ‘the Christians from the non-Christians’, I do not mean that these things are what save you, or even that you have to do them in order to be saved… however, the very nature of salvation itself and the change it produces in us make many of the following and others that the Bible commands of us, inseparable from a life lived honouring and serving Christ. You can’t pour water out of a bottle without air getting in.
There’s the ten commandments of course. But they are like a good summary, a cheat sheet. They’re not the only things we are commanded to do as Christians…
First things first. Preach the gospel. The words of Christ himself:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” – Matthew 28:19-20
Let me say it once. Evangelism is not a ‘gift of the spirit’, it’s a commandment of all followers of Christ. To love our neighbour as ourselves, is to share a deep and honest concern for their eternal future. Furthermore, Christ exhorts us to teach others to obey the commandments (Matthew 5:17). We are to obey Christ’s command to tell others to obey his commands, and so on and so forth. We are commanded to be a light in dark places, a beacon of Godly Character and true love.
Speaking of love.
True love is a commandment also (1 Corinthians 13). In fact love is the thing that underpins the entire gospel, it captures all the law in one word (Matthew 22:34-40). True love is not some pithy, effeminate, passive positivity. True love demands in many cases, extreme courage, suffrage, isolation and even persecution. To stand up for truth, not just because you love God, but because you love a brother, is one of the hardest requirements of Christianity, and also one of the most crucial, and unavoidable (hard love… Yeah… I think I’m going to call it that from now on). Hard love, in many instances requires our deepest mercies and compassion, but just as much, it demands of us correction and rebuke (and the humility to accept them when they are due us). When you see a brother in Christ living in his sin, it is not judgemental or hateful to show it to him, and to rebuke him, it is a most courageous act of hard love (Matthew 18:15-22). To say that it is judgemental to correct a fellow Christian living in sin, is a pathetic excuse to avoid the hard truth, a sad human effort to garner other people’s approval and perpetuate our surface level relationships. This (soft) love is as nutritious as a hollow bread stick, it’s not really love at all.
We are commanded not just to share the gospel, but to show people their sin. What good is salvation if no one knows what they are being saved from? Or are being misled about what they’re being saved from?
Christ did not die for your boo boo’s. He came to take away the sin of the world (John 1:29), and it’s our job, our responsibility to both warn the lost of the consequences of sin, and to point them to the hope they have in Christ Jesus. It is not loving to shove your head in the sand while millions of pregnancies all over the world are ‘terminated’ so that some irresponsible teenager can go to college (and learn basic biology, like how a single fertilized human egg contains full and complete human DNA).
You throw Christ’s sacrifice back in his face when you choose mans approval of you over their eternal life.
More could be said.
Now it’s confession time. Look gentleman, at the end of all this, I’m not a saint. This is the guilty charging the guilty here. We cannot be arrogant. It’s through Christ alone that we are saved. However, my imperfections as a follower of Christ, do abrogate my responsibility to see out the Great Commission and seek perfection. It’s an impossible, but a worthy goal.
It’s the ought to do category that’s copped a bad rep. Because it’s the hardest; the most misunderstood; the most confronting. Legions of spineless unbiblical cronies have tried to underplay our responsibility as Christian men of valour, to see that the word of God is heard, and the message of salvation is proclaimed. Many core commandments get marginalised as being ‘outdated’, judgemental, or ‘hateful’ or ‘unloving’ (very ironic). Or just plain irritating – ‘keep your religion to yourself!’… sound familiar?
They are however, as important as any other. It does a man no good to feed him, but not save him.
Always remember, the guiding principle of all good works, not just the last category, is hard love. Not the kind of love that most people think of. The love of God is not some shallow social interaction. The goal of hard love is not to minimise discomfort, it is stand boldly on the truth of the Word of God, with the hope that none should perish.
Remember gents, if you’ve given your life to the Lord, you’re probably already doing some good works. They’re not nasty, and they are not to be avoided.
Good works are the best and most reliable evidence of our salvation (Matthew 7:16).
They are the inevitable expression of the presence of the Holy Spirit in us.
They are tough, in some cases extremely difficult.
They require courage, conviction, integrity, honour and humility.
Good works are our best tool for evangelism.
Good works are everything we do, they are who we are in Christ. They are Christ in us.
That’s it for this one guys. If you liked what you got here and you want more, then definitely subscribe at the top right of the page, leave a comment, tell me what you thought of it, tell me what you want to read about, tell me anything.
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Definitely, if you haven’t yet, pick up a Bible from somewhere (anywhere) and have a read of it. Christ died for you mate, salvation is yours for the taking.