Intro: I did not have the privilege of going on mission trips when I was a teenager. It was for the simple reason that I was not saved. I am so proud and thankful to the Lord for inviting five of our young people to join Him in His work to be His witnesses. You are privilege to be given an orientation, hands on experience working for the Lord and meet people whom you have never met in your life. They may be of different race, gender, age and character. And most probably they are lost. It is your faith and by faith you are going there to be witnesses so that when God opens the door of opportunity, you will tell them about the love of God and their most important need other than a renovated house, the salvation of their soul.
This is a follow up of last week’s message. Let me refresh you on the title “Jesus lived to please only God His Father.” When I used the word only, I meant it to say that this was His priority in life. Everything else comes after this purpose as to what He was living for. One cannot please God if his concern is only about himself or with divided interest. This is being self-centered. The opposite is being God-centered. However, people can also be others-centered. There are those who have sincerely given up their lives serving others and even country but not to please God. One example is Gandhi. He sacrificed his life for his country. He became a hero. But did he do that to please God? Or one can work to serve others believing that their efforts will save them and make them go to heaven. And many others who give up their lives for their religious belief to even commit suicide to kill the infidels. But will this get them to heaven? No.
So here’s the point, if one is not saved whatever work, good deeds one does even if he believes he is doing it for God, it will not do him any good. Why? For it is not what we do that will save one from going to hell and go to heaven. There is God’s way and the only way for anyone to be saved is through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” Eph. 2:8-9
Today we will look at what one does after he gets saved in order to please God. So here’s the title of this message.
Our bulletin cover pictures a potter’s hand working on clay. Who decides what to do with the clay? Can the clay do anything and decide what he wants the potter to do? No. Here are truths we see from our text.
“For We are God’s workmanship”. First and foremost is the source of one’s salvation is God. We are saved by the grace of God. Not because of anything we have done so as to deserve being saved but only by the sovereign grace of God. By God’s own choosing according to His will. This truth blows my mind that God had in His mind those He will save even before He created the world. “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” Eph. 1:4 God’s purpose in choosing to save some is for them to be made holy and blameless. Holy and blameless was how Jesus was and how He lived his life and that is how we are also predestined to become. Our salvation and purpose was already in God’s mind. And at His appointed time after we have lived for a while, through circumstances He engineered, He saved us through His Son. “In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.” Eph. 1:11 “Created in Christ Jesus.” Now Jesus comes into the picture. Jesus is the only means through which God saves those He has chosen to save. Without Jesus, God will save no one. Created here means, we are already spiritually dead and need to be recreated. Why? Because we are all descendants of the first Adam, who inherited his sinful nature and by that nature we sinned the moment we came to know right and wrong. Immediately we died spiritually. God has to recreate us and be joined with the One who is perfect, righteous, pure and holy. Our spirit has to be made alive by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit who is the substitute of Jesus to live inside us, not only to give life to our dead spirit but also to change us from the inside out to become like Him. The key to this new creation is to be “in Christ.” In Christ meaning being one and joined with Him. Everything depended on Jesus and none other. Salvation is all about the redemptive work of God through His Son, for without Him we are nothing and we can do nothing. When God chose to save you and me, He did it in love, that being His character. It came by grace because no one deserves His love but only His wrath for our rebellion and sin. Why He chose to save you and me, I do not know. God has all the right to decide that because He is God. Paul quoted this truth from the Old Testament found in Exodus 33:19, “For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion. It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.” Rom. 9:15-16 Mercy is God withholding the punishment for what we deserve but instead showed us compassion to save us from going to hell. Grace is God giving us something we don’t deserve. For this, I am forever grateful and thankful that He loved me and that I will live my life so as not to disappoint Him but to please Him at all times and in every way just as Jesus did. Shouldn’t this be the goal of everyone God has saved? May we be a delight and joy to God because he was pleased to save us, “In love, he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will, to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the one he loves.” Eph. 1:5-6
“To do good works.” Now comes the good works. Good works matter after one is already saved. Good works is out of our obedience to the will of God.
Therefore, my dear friends as you have always obeyed – not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence – continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” Phil. 2:5-13
“Working out your salvation with fear and trembling” refers to doing the work of God, after and because one is saved. The working out is not in order to be kept saved. Why do people work out in the gym? It’s because they are alive and living. Dead person cannot work out. That is the spiritual condition of everyone not saved. That is why God has to make us alive, born again because our spirit has died and once this spirit is made alive, our spirit will be empowered by the Holy Spirit to move the body to do the work of God. And how are we to work it out? With fear and trembling. Imagine yourself being a jeweler and you are given the privilege to cut a flawless diamond that is still in the rough. You are working with a tool that if mishandled will crack and damage this precious stone. Wouldn’t you work at it with fear and trembling? Not in the sense of being nervous that you have no control of your hands but you tremble of the thought of failing to do a good job. In the spiritual life, we are to live our lives with the fear of the Lord and tremble at His words. We tremble at the idea of displeasing the Lord. This is not the fear of punishment but of disobedience and taking the Lord lightly.
I have heard from many who are misled by religious teachers using the words of James concerning good works. Here’s a common objection to the gospel of grace and the free gift of God through faith alone in the Lord Jesus Christ by misusing this Scriptures,
“What good is it my brothers if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes or daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” James 2:14-17.
The truth here is faith that does not result in works is dead. Anyone can claim to have faith. In what is not clear. Then another one is saying,
“But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” V. 18a And here’s how James clarifies what a true faith does.
“Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.” V. 18b
We see here three different kinds of beliefs and faith.
*One has faith but does not result in deeds or good works. That’s why different religions add works to faith. So it becomes faith plus works.
*Then the other is just focus on doing good works without faith in Christ.
*The third is because of his faith he does good works. The key word is “by”
that makes the difference. He has a living faith that results in works.
The irony of many who claims to believe in God is no better than this,
“You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that and shudders.” James 2:19
They believe in God but do not obey just like the demons.
“Which God prepared in advance for us to do.” There is work for every born again Christian to do. God has a master plan to carry out for His people to do. God has different assignments for everyone He saves that will accomplish His plan of redemption to the glory of God’s glorious grace. An example of this is found in the book of Jeremiah.
“The word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart: I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” Jer. 1:4-5
This is the God of the Bible who knew His plans for Jeremiah even before he was born. I believe that is also true to everyone whom He chooses to save by His grace. Is he capable to do this? Yes, because God is “Omnipotent” and “Omniscient.” Just read the book of Revelation. God showed John what would happen in the future. John saw it with his own eyes something that has not happened yet. Is that possible? Yes, because nothing is impossible with God. Here’s who God is as revealed through David,
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one came to be.” Ps. 139:13-16
Chew on this truth this week. This is our God who works out everything in conformity with His will. So what is this work that he has prepared for us? He will reveal that to us as we grow in knowing Him. The Christian life is compared to our physical growth. That’s why we have this purpose for our church, “To know Christ and to become like Him and to make Him known.” We can only become like Christ, as we know more and more of Him. He is the model that the Holy Spirit is working to conform us to His image in our character and being as we follow Him. There are many good works in the plan of God and He determines and has prepared what He would make us do when our character is ready to fit the assignment. Here is God’s plan in combining us together in this body of Christ known as His church.
“It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the full measure of the fullness of Christ.” Eph. 4:11-13
Notice that it says works of service. It means many different works in building up the church. They are leading in worship, singing praises to God, leading in prayer, teaching in Sunday school, praying for others during the week, picking up those who have no ride, throwing the trash and cleaning up after our fellowship, etc. Who will enable us to accomplish all these? God the Holy Spirit does as we grow in obedience and dependence on Christ.
“For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” Phil. 2:13
And because you believe, trust and by faith obey to do the will of God, this results in giving you the confidence to do the work of God.
“I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” Phil 4:13
Young people, when you go on this mission trip believe and trust the Lord that He will give you the strength to work and accomplish what He called you to do. Rely on His grace.
Lastly, this ought to be the main goal in life and how we ought to live our lives in order to please God.
“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” 1 Cor. 10:31
You may be here today and have not yet been born again and given this new life in Christ, God has brought you here for a purpose. First you need to hear the gospel that will save you and then receive eternal life, God loves you and gave you His Son for this very purpose,
“Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised from the dead according to the Scriptures.” 1 Cor. 15:3-4
How does this gospel give eternal life? First you must admit that you are a sinner and need God’s forgiveness. You must give up all the sins that you are doing, the sins you have done in the past even those you cannot remember anymore to Christ, and ask Him to pay for all of them. Then receive Him into your heart as your Lord with a commitment that from now on you will follow Him. Here is the final step.
“That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Rom. 10:9
Come to Jesus…