Posts tagged works
Stop Hating on Sanctification!



When I was a soldier I met a guy named Kenny. He smoked, drank, slept with different women all the time and got kicked out of the Army for doing drugs. However, according to Kenny, he was saved because four years before he had prayed a prayer at a youth rally. He didn’t do anything to earn his salvation, and he certainly wasn’t doing anything to keep his salvation. But is this what it means to be saved?

Kenny had bought into the popular gospel known as “once saved always saved.” The gospel which I have come to refer to as the “ticket version.” For him, Jesus was a ticket and nothing more. His salvation was simply a judge granting him irrevocable access to heaven regardless of how he continued to live his life. No faith was necessary. No trust or obedience. You said yes, and wallah! You are set for life. And why not? After all, we are saved apart from our works and we are preserved apart from our works as well. If works have nothing to do with our qualifying for heaven then why fuss over them? The Bible answers this question in the same passage we have been looking at. The NIV puts it this way:
“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph. 2:10).
The Greek word for workmanship is “poiema” which literally means, “a work” but it also carries with it the connotation of an artist. In other words, we are Gods art-work. When you give your life to Jesus He begins to do a work of art within you. He begins to change you and transform you. The amazing thing is that when Paul used the word “poiema” it simply meant a work. But over time it became the root of our English word poem. A poet is someone who makes a poem. However, the poet works on the poem until it is exactly what he wants it to be. His first draft is rarely his last. Instead he returns to the poem and edits it. He fixes grammatical errors, changes words, clauses, and at times even entire sentences and paragraphs. He artfully molds the poem until it becomes exactly what he wants it to be. This is what God does with us. When we accept Christ we are saved, but God is not finished yet. He doesn’t leave us broken like He found us. He works in us and through us and for us and turns us into a beautiful poem. He then reads this poem before the universe, a demonstration of his artistic finesse, and shows both men and angels that his love is powerful enough to turn the ugly into the beautiful, the ogre into the prince, and the selfish into the loving. Thus, we are changed into his image, grow into holiness, metamorphose into Christ-likeness, and translate into his love-language not as the basis for our acceptance with God, but as the inevitable result of looking unto Jesus and being filled with his love.

Works cannot save us and works cannot keep us, but anyone who claims to be saved and does not increasingly reflect the love of God is self-deceived at best. And there is a pervading ideology infecting our hearts that salvation is all about having a “ticket” for heaven. We churn at the thought of a God who demands. We roll our eyes at the word sanctification, as though it were a sour ingredient in the salvation dish. Perhaps, due to our legalistic backgrounds, we are so eager to experience the safety and joy of grace that we actually miss what grace is. And maybe, in some secret way, we envy those who believe in “once saved always saved” and try desperately to align our faith with theirs as much as possible. The end result is the “ticket” version of salvation. We talk about a relationship with Jesus, but we don’t even believe what we are saying because at the end of the day, a relationship demands a person not a ticket. And a personal relationship is either always growing, always ascending, always advancing or it becomes stagnant, cold, and dysfunctional. Billy Graham said it best when he stated,
It should not be surprising if people believe easily in a God who makes no demands, but this is not the God of the Bible. Satan has cleverly misled people by whispering that they can believe in Jesus Christ without being changed, but this is the Devil’s lie. To those who say you can have Christ without giving anything up, Satan is deceiving you.
God never leaves us the same. He never leaves us broken. He never leaves us enslaved. He never leaves us addicted. And while he doesn’t always deliver overnight, the promise of salvation is not only a new life in heaven but a new life here. A life that is characterized by radical love and other-centeredness. 

Andrew Farley, in his book The Naked Gospel, got it right he wrote that any gospel that fails to lead to a radical transformation of the life is “a half baked gospel.” And any person who says “I am saved by grace” while continuing to live in perpetual disharmony with the law of love demonstrates that he is still living in rebellion against God and has either never truly been saved, or thrown his salvation in the garbage bin either intentionally or through persistent neglect. A true understanding of the gospel comes when we embrace the paradoxical nature of grace and works. Such a paradox is very difficult to express in human language, and yet it is there. We are not saved by works or preserved by works, but nevertheless we are not once saved always saved. Salvation is a free gift but it must be enjoyed, not spurned. And when we enjoy our salvation, when we celebrate it and daily dance to its rhythm we will be changed, not as the basis for our salvation, but as the inevitable result of inhaling it’s fragrance.

And herein lies the joy of obedience. The joy of works. The joy of sanctification. We don’t have to obey to be saved as if salvation was earned by obedience. We don’t have to work to stay saved as if grace only covered our past, leaving our present and future status dependent on our performance. But when we are saved we will obey because obedience, good works, and sanctification are the natural result of being saved. You can distinguish between grace and works, but you cannot separate them. They come together – one as the qualifier for heaven (justification) and the other as the inevitable result of that experience (sanctification) which fits us for heaven.

I love the following illustration: Suppose you invited me to a meeting at Star Bucks and I arrived a half hour late. When I arrived I said, “Sorry for being late man. I was driving here and my car ran out of gas so I had to pull over. I then had to cross the street and when I did I was hit by a truck travelling 65 mph and it ran me over. And yeah, that’s why I’m late.” What would you think about my story? It would have to be one of three options. Either 1) I am joking, 2) I am lying, or 3) I am crazy. There is simply no way I am telling the truth because there is simply no way that I can come into contact with something as big as a truck and not be changed (i.e. splattered into a million tiny pieces). But isn’t God bigger than a truck? You cannot encounter Him and not be changed. It simply is not possible.

We are saved by grace and preserved by grace, but make no mistake, grace is not just pardon – it is power. Power to change. Power to transform. Power to deliver. Power to transpose. Power to redeem. You cannot have it and remain unchanged for the natural result of receiving grace is an experientially life altering divine metamorphosis. And its beautiful.

When I came to Christ I was broken because of my addictions and sinful habits. Controlled by my passions and tendencies. Corrupted by my DNA and corrupted even more by my own choices and misplaced allegiances. And I am so thankful today that Jesus didn’t just forgive me. I am thankful that he also changed me and set me free from the power of sin that was ruining my life. Am I still a sinner? Of course, but grace enables me to daily transcend my carnal self and live a life of integrity and purity before God and man. Am I perfect? Not by a long shot. But this I can say: When I look at my past I don’t like what I see. When I look at my present I don’t like what I see. But when I look at my future all I can see is the promise “that he who began a good work in [me] will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6). Praise God! I am forgiven. I don’t have to continue a slave to the garbage that enslaved me. I am free from sins guilt and free from its power and I cannot wait until the day when I will be free of its presence – and that day is nearly here.

So what is the best way to summarise the only gospel? Here it is: What Jesus did. Period. What Jesus does. Period. Or to shorten the formula: Jesus-only. He pardons. He transforms. He erases. He re-writes. He uproots. He plants anew. He demolishes. He rebuilds. He puts to death. He rebirths. He is the author of our faith and he is its finisher. He wrote the first word in your salvation story and he will write the last. And what is your role in all of this? Simple. Just dance. Dance with Jesus. Or to put it in plain English, enjoy your relationship with him. Grow into him. Abide in him. Lose yourself in his love. Allow your soul to be swept into his presence. Fall deeper in love with him. Is it easy? No. Is it passive? No. Is it intentional? Yes. Is it a battle? Yes. But it is always, at all times and in all circumstances, a response to his grace made possible by his grace. Nothing more. Nothing less.

I began this series by saying that the book of Ephesians outlines Gods secret weapon to defeat evil. That weapon is the church – a community made up of evil, wicked, perverted, selfish people who have been redeemed. They are no longer evil, perverted, or selfish. Grace had pardoned. Grace had changed. Thus Paul could say,
As for you, don’t you remember how you used to just exist? Corpses, dead in life, buried by transgressions, wandering the course of this perverse world. You were the offspring of the prince of the power of air—oh, how he owned you, just as he still controls those living in disobedience. I’m not talking about the outsiders alone; we were all guilty of falling headlong for the persuasive passions of this world; we all have had our fill of indulging the flesh and mind, obeying impulses to follow perverse thoughts motivated by dark powers. As a result, our natural inclinations led us to be children of wrath, just like the rest of humankind.
But God, with the unfathomable richness of His love and mercy focused on us, united us with the Anointed One and infused our lifeless souls with life—even though we were buried under mountains of sin—and saved us by His grace. He raised us up with Him and seated us in the heavenly realms with our beloved Jesus the Anointed, the Liberating King. He did this for a reason: so that for all eternity we will stand as a living testimony to the incredible riches of His grace and kindness that He freely gives to us by uniting us with Jesus the Anointed. For it’s by God’s grace that you have been saved. You receive it through faith. It was not our plan or our effort. It is God’s gift, pure and simple. You didn’t earn it, not one of us did, so don’t go around bragging that you must have done something amazing. For we are the product of His hand, heaven’s poetry etched on lives, created in the Anointed, Jesus, to accomplish the good works God arranged long ago.



photo credit: Pat McDonald via photopin cc
A Night with the Counterfeits

 Some time ago I wrote a blog titled "Do You Qualify For Salvation?" In the past few months I have taken that singular blog post and expanded it for a series at thehaystack.tv presented by the same title. Because the expansion proved to be a real joy and blessing for me as I wrote it, and also for others who read it, I have decided to share it here. However, because I already have a blog titled "Do You Qualify for Salvation?" I will give each of these posts a different title. Below is the first one titled, "A Night with the Counterfeits". For some, this series may be nothing more than a repetition of what you have read on this blog for the last few years. For others it may be a breath of fresh air. Whatever your experience, I pray you are blessed.


A Night with the Counterfeits. 

There is a true story told of an Indian missionary. The young man was in India during a great festival in which all of the Hindus travel to the river Ganges to wash themselves for the forgiveness of sins. Thousands of Hindus traveled for miles to wash themselves in this river. The story goes that this missionary was crossing a bridge over the river when he saw a woman weeping uncontrollably. He approached her to see what was wrong.

She told him that her husband was unable to work. They had no money to provide for the family. She told him that her sins were so many that no one knew about. She was burdened with guilt and shame. She needed forgiveness and blessings. In order to receive the blessing and forgiveness of the goddess Ganges, she said, “I have given her the most valuable offering I could give her. My six month old baby boy. I just threw him into the river.” The missionary proceeded to explain the gospel to her. To tell her that she didn’t have to kill her son. God had sent his son in order to save mankind. When he was done the woman looked at him. “Why didn’t you come a half hour sooner?” She asked. “I didn’t have to kill my son.” And with that she began weeping again. She’s not the only one you know. There are thousands. Millions are crying out “why?” Longing and searching for an answer to the void in their heart. Looking for forgiveness and salvation. Their religion tells them that salvation can only be gained by working hard to earn Gods favor. Their religion tells them that they have to climb, struggle, work, sweat, bleed, and suffer in order to enter the Kingdom. But the Bible says something else. In Ephesians 2:8-9 it says,


“For it’s by God’s grace that you have been saved. You receive it through faith. It was not our plan or our effort. It is God’s gift, pure and simple. You didn’t earn it, not one of us did, so don’t go around bragging that you must have done something amazing.”[i]

The Bible teaches that it’s not what we do that saves us, but what God has done. In other words, this whole salvation thing is never about what we do; it’s about what He did. But what exactly does that mean? Before I explain it, I want to back track a bit. The book of Ephesians, which I just quoted, reveals God’s mysterious purpose for what we call “church.” Now, what does church have to do with salvation? Well, lets find out. Paul, the author of the book, paints a picture of a secret weapon that God had planned from the beginning of time in order to defeat evil. That secret weapon is the church. Why church? I mean. Isn’t church boring? Irrelevant? Hasn’t the church caused more evil than good in history? How could this be God’s secret weapon to defeat evil? That answer is found in Ephesians 1:22-23. Here Paul says,


“God has placed all things beneath His [Jesus'] feet and anointed Him as the head over all things for His church. This church is His body, the fullness of the One who fills all in all.”

According to this verse, Christ is the head of the church which is his body. However, there is something powerful here. The Greek word for church is “ekklesia” which means congregation or assembly. According to the Bible “church” is not a building, it’s a community of people. So God’s secret weapon to defeat evil is a community of people. But what kind of people? Ephesians 2:1-2 answers that question. It says,


“As for you, don’t you remember how you used to just exist? Corpses, dead in life, buried by transgressions, wandering the course of this perverse world. You were the offspring of the prince of the power of air—oh, how he owned you, just as he still controls those living in disobedience.

Did you catch it? God’s secret anti-evil weapon from the beginning of time was a community of people. But not good people. Bad people! People who were rebellious, wicked, and selfish. People who were slaves to sin. God’s mystery of the church is that He was going to get these “evil people” and use them to defeat evil. However, in order for God to do this He would have to get these people to be on His side. But how? The answer is found in the story the Bible tells about salvation.

Now of course, there are many different versions of this story floating around. Even though the Bible only tells one salvation story, this story has been retold in countless ways. However, we can boil down all of those countless versions into four. 1) The most common is that you are saved by works. This means you have to be good and if you are good enough you are allowed into heaven. This is the version that forms the foundation of paganism. I call it the “performance” version of salvation. 2) The second is that you are saved by grace, but in order to stay saved you have to work. In other words, Jesus covers your past sins but your future is uncertain. You are saved, but not really. There is still something you have to do in order to earn the right to stay saved and enter heaven at last. This is the foundation of religions such as Catholicism and Mormonism. I call this the “but” version of salvation (you will soon see why). 3) The third is that salvation is a ticket to heaven and nothing more. No change takes place in the life. But because you once believed you now have a ticket that guarantees you access into eternal bliss. This is the foundation for some (though certainly not all) evangelical churches and is often referred to as “once saved, always saved”.[ii] I call it the “ticket” version of salvation. Being raised Adventist, I was too smart to fall for the “performance” version (most Christians are). However, that didn’t make me immune to being duped by “but” and “ticket” versions. For many years I viewed the salvation story though those two lenses. The “ticket” was useless. While I didn’t have any anxiety over my eternal security, I had no victory over sin. Since I knew I was going to heaven, I had no rush to find victory. But I was depressed, always feeling defeated and filthy, and eventually my sin caught up with me and the consequences were extremely painful. If only Jesus had set me free from sin I wouldn’t have had to go through those dark nights of shame and guilt that nearly choked out my life. But Jesus wasn’t the problem. The problem was I had come to view Him, not as a savior, but as a ticket and tickets have no power.

From there I fell into the “but” version of the salvation story. This is the version that teaches that Jesus forgives and saves but in order to stay saved you have to perform at a certain level or else you are out.  This version was instrumental in showing me that victory over sin was possible, but as time went on I found this to be nothing more than a baptized version of the “performance” model. Even though I was saved by grace I always felt I hadn’t done enough to stay saved and that I had to do more. I had to be a vegetarian or else I would lose my salvation. I had to keep the Sabbath perfectly and be nice to people and do everything right or else I would lose the free gift of salvation. And I was miserable. I call this the “but” version of salvation. Why? Because anytime someone spoke about the grace of Christ, I always felt the need to add “but” at the end of their conversation. “We are saved by grace!” They would shout. “But!” I would shout back, “don’t forget you still have to do A, B and C!” For some reason I couldn’t just enjoy the grace of God for what it was. Instead, I always had to add the “but” at the end just to make sure everyone knew what the requirements were. During this time I knew some of rest that is to be found in Jesus, but there was always a voice in the back of my mind that prevented me from having full assurance. I experienced spiritual growth and victory over sins that had long controlled my life, but something was missing.  However, I refused to admit there was a problem with my salvation story because in my mind, the only alternative was the “ticket” version and I sure wasn’t going back to that.

4) Eventually, the “but” version of salvation led me to the fourth version of the gospel. It is a subcategory of “but” known as the “light switch” version of the gospel. The light switch version nearly killed me. This version (which was nothing more than the logical result of the “but” version) teaches that a person is justified freely by Gods grace but must, from then on, continue to perform well enough to keep their salvation. That’s pretty much what the “but” version is, only in the “light switch” version every time you sin you lose your salvation until you confess and repent and then you are saved again. It’s as if God is in heaven flipping a “light switch.” Every time you sin, the light switch goes off (you have lost your salvation), and every time you confess and repent the light switch goes back on (you are saved again). When I believed in “light switch” I was always worried about whether I had sinned or not and often times found myself debating myself over whether or not I had just sinned, almost just sinned, or thought I just sinned but hadn’t really. The situation was worse when I felt that God wouldn’t forgive me for a sin I committed if it involved another person. I would suffer for weeks and months over a supposed sin that I needed to confess to someone else and at times found myself confessing things that were not only unnecessary but ridiculous. But I did it anyways because I wanted to make sure that God wouldn’t have any reason to not let me into heaven. I was daily and hourly tortured by my conscience and became so hypersensitive that I eventually found myself at a counselors office diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. God was my enemy desperately trying to keep me out of heaven. And I was responsible for changing his mind, but no matter how hard I tried one plaguing accusation remained: “Never good enough.”

Negative as this experience may have been I do thank God for it because if it weren’t for my hopelessness and despair I would never have turned to him for answers. I would never have studied and researched and explored. I would never have asked those deep, gut wrenching questions that many people never think to ask. My defeat paved the way for my victory and though I have much to learn I eventually discovered that none of those previous versions were the true salvation story. When I did in fact discover the Biblical story of salvation my entire soul was enraptured with a joy and conviction I have never before experienced. I was free! The 4 versions were false, but there was a fifth. In fact, I wouldn’t even call it the fifth. Instead, I prefer to call it the only. The true. The genuine. All the others were counterfeits, but I had finally discovered the beauty of the gospel and the overwhelming joy it brings.

But more on that next time.

_____
[i] All Bible verses quoted from The Voice.

[ii] Contrary to what I believed growing up “once saved always saved” is not a universally accepted teaching in the evangelical world. Adventists are in the company of Lutherans, Methodists, Pentecostals, Free-Will Baptists (also Pentecostal) and others in denying this teaching. Most Protestants who embrace the theology of Martin Luther, Jacobus Arminius, or John Wesley are likely to also reject the concept of “once saved always saved”.
Faith VS Works
photo credit: Julia Manzerova via photopin cc

Have you ever read the book of James? If so, chances are you might have been a bit confused. After all, James seems to contradict nearly everything Paul says in the book of Romans. He consistently talks about "works" whereas Paul was the "champion of grace." However, how can the Bible contradict itself on such a major theological topic? For example, Paul writes in Romans 3:28 that "a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the law." However, James says in James 2:24 that "a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone." Since the Bible does not support theological pluralism or relativism one of them has to be wrong. But which one is it? 

The reality is neither one of them is wrong. They are both right. In order to see that James and Paul don't contradict each other its important to understand the historical context that they were writing in and the issues they were addressing in their letters. You see, in Romans Paul was dealing with the dangerous heresy that a person can be saved by keeping the law. Paul repeatedly emphasizes here (as he does in Hebrews, Galatians, Ephesians etc.) that it is impossible to perform your way into heaven. The only way is by Gods gift of salvation. A gift that cannot be earned. James, on the other hand, isn't dealing with this heresy. James is dealing with a totally different heresy - the idea that so long as you accept doctrinal truth in your head then you are saved. Therefore when James uses the word faith he uses it differently than Paul does. Paul uses faith to describe a genuine trust in Jesus. James uses faith to describe an intellectual assent to some abstract theological truth. According to James simply saying "yes I believe that's true" does not save you because it isn't real faith. Real faith doesn't just accept truth intellectually; it embraces the truth and applies it to life. Real faith is seen in the persons life not just his words. Therefore, good works are the evidence that you have been saved by grace through faith. A lack of good works (which results in the presence of sinful works) may be evidence that your faith is not genuine.
Do You Qualify for Salvation?
photo credit: abcdz2000 via photopin cc

There is a true story told of an Indian missionary. The young man was in India during a great festival in which all of the Hindus travel to the river Ganges to wash themselves for the forgiveness of sins. Thousands of Hindus traveled for miles to wash themselves in this river. The story goes that this missionary was crossing a bridge over the river when he saw a woman weeping uncontrollably. He approached her to see what was wrong.

She told him that her husband was unable to work. They had no money to provide for the family. She told him that her sins were so many that no one knew about. She was burdened with guilt and shame. She needed forgiveness and blessings. In order to receive the blessing and forgiveness of the goddess Ganges, she said, “I have given her the most valuable offering I could give her. My six month old baby boy. I just threw him into the river.” The missionary proceeded to explain the gospel to her. To tell her that she didn’t have to kill her son. God had sent his son in order to save mankind. When he was done the woman looked at him. “Why didn’t you come a half hour sooner?” She asked. “I didn’t have to kill my son.” And with that she took of running and weeping. She’s not the only one you know. There are thousands. Millions are crying out “why?” Longing and searching for an answer to the void in their heart. Looking for forgiveness and salvation. Their religion tells them that salvation can only be gained by working hard to earn Gods favor. Their religion tells them that they have to climb, struggle, work, sweat, bleed, and suffer in order to enter the Kingdom. But the Bible says something else. In Ephesians 2:8-9 it says, “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.” The Bible teaches that it’s not what we do that saves us, but what God has done. It’s not about what we do; it’s about what He did.

The book of Ephesians which I just quoted reveals Gods mysterious purpose for what we call “church.” Paul, the author of the book, paints a picture of a secret weapon that God had planned from the beginning of time in order to defeat evil. That secret weapon in the church. Why church? I mean. Isn’t church boring? Irrelevant? Hasn’t the church caused more evil than good in history? How could this be Gods secret weapon to defeat evil? That answer is found in Ephesians 1:22-23. Here Paul says, “And God placed all things under his [Jesus] feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” According to this verse, Christ is the head of the church which is his body. However, there is something powerful here. The Greek word for church is “ekklesia” which means congregation or assembly. According to the Bible “church” is not a building, it’s a community of people. So Gods secret weapon to defeat evil is people. But what kind of people? Ephesians 2:1-2 answers that question. It says, “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.” Did you catch it? Gods secret weapon from the beginning of time was people. But not good people. Bad people! People who were rebellious, wicked, and selfish. People who were slaves to sin. Gods mystery of the church is that He was going to get these “evil people” and use them to defeat evil. But how? In order for God to do this He would have to get these people to be on His side. He would have to rescue them from the power of sin. But how?


You know, there are three popular versions of salvation. The most common is that you are saved by works. This means you have to be good and if you are good enough you are allowed into heaven. The second is that you are saved as a free gift apart from works. This means that you don’t have to do anything in order to be saved. You just have to receive the gift. The third is that you are saved by grace, but in order to stay saved you have to work. For many years I fell into the third version of salvation. However, this version is simply a baptized version of salvation by works. Even though I was saved by grace I always felt I hadn’t done enough to stay saved and that I had to do more. I had to be a vegetarian or else I would lose my salvation. I had to keep the Sabbath perfectly and be nice to people and do everything right or else I would lose the free gift of salvation. And I was miserable. But according to Paul, it’s the second version that’s the right one. We are saved by grace through faith. Period. Look at it here in Ephesians. It says, “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.” Guys, it’s not about what we do; it’s about what He did. We can’t do anything to be saved. We can’t do anything to stay saved. It’s all a gift of God. And the crazy thing is that God gives this gift to evil people, not to good people. Grace is for the sinner not the saint. Look at verse five. It says, “made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” It is when we were dead in sin that Jesus offered us salvation. Works cannot save us. It has to be a gift. This is the only way. You can’t be vegetarian enough, or know enough Bible verses, or behave well enough for God to accept you. The gift of salvation is not offered to you when you are good. It’s offered to you when you are evil. It’s not about what you do; it’s about what He did. The church is a community of people who were slaves to sin and have been rescued from that slavery. It is not a building. It is not a club. It is not a group of perfect people. It is a community of people who were once dead in sin and they received the free gift of salvation and are now alive in Christ. They did not receive the gift because they were good. They received it because they were evil. Why? “So that no one can boast.” It’s not about what we do; it’s about what He did.


So what about works? When I was a soldier I met a guy named Kennel. He smoked, drank, slept with different women all the time and got kicked out for doing drugs. However, according to Kennel he was saved because four years before he had prayed a prayer at a youth rally. Is this what it means to be saved? If works have nothing to do with our salvation then why be good? Look at verse 10 with me. Paul says, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” The Greek word for workmanship is “poiema” which literally means, “a work.” We are Gods work. When you give your life to Jesus He begins to do a work within you. He begins to change you and transform you. I like to think of it this way. When Paul used the word “ poiema” it simply meant a work. But over time it became the root of our English word poem. A poet is someone who makes a poem. However, the poet works on the poem until it is exactly what He wants it to be. This is what God does with us. He works in us until He makes us what He wants us to be. He doesn’t leave us broken like He found us. He works in us and through us and for us and turns us into a beautiful poem. Good works are the evidence that God is at work within us. But even those good works are His works, never our own. It’s not about what we do; it’s about what He did.


I knew a guy named Patrick. The first year that I knew him he tried to commit suicide two times. Another friend of mine and I tried to help him. You see, Patrick’s problem was that he was raised to believe that he had to pay penance for all of his sins and he always felt he hadn’t done enough. But for some reason no matter how much we talked about grace it just didn’t sink in for him. One day, after he had tried to commit suicide again, he was in the mental hospital and a chaplain went to see him. He explained the gospel to him. Paul accepted it. He got down on his knees and asked God to forgive him for his sins. At that moment he opened his eyes and the chaplain looked at him. “That’s it?” he asked. “That’s all you have to say?” Patrick said, “yes that it.” All of a sudden, and I’m not kidding, the chaplain grabbed Patrick by the shirt and started to punch him! He hit his chest and shook him back and forth and screamed “why don’t you just get it! Saved by grace! You don’t have to do anything to be saved! Jesus paid the price.” A wall fell. It was an invisible wall. It broke down like the walls of Jericho. And Patrick saw for the first time. He wept like he had never wept before. He laid all his burdens at the cross. And for the first time in his life, he was free. A few days later, I stood on the shore of a beach in Hawaii and watched as Patrick was baptized in the ocean. Patrick finally understood that salvation isn’t about what you do. It’s not about how good you are. Salvation is about receiving the gift of grace. It’s free. It’s not about what we do; it’s about what He did. Every other religion in the world tells you what to do. Christianity tells you what was done. It’s not about what we do; it’s about what He did. Period.
Ellen G. White on Legalism
photo credit: Daniel*1977 via photopin cc
Having grown up Christian and walked by the borders of legalism for too long, the issue of salvation, grace, and assurance are among my favorite topics to discuss. For those of you who don't know, legalism is the belief that you can earn salvation by how good you are. The problem is, you never feel you are good enough. This teaching is in direct opposition to what the Bible teaches about salvation  - that it is a free gift given by God and cannot be earned by human performance. Though many Christians would never say they are legalistic many live the lifestyle of a legalist. This lifestyle is characterized by rigid moralism, strict and often nonsensical rules, and a lack of joy and assurance in ones Christian experience. The following are some quotes by Ellen G. White, one of the founders of Adventism, on the topic of legalism. Though many have accused her of being legalistic, these quotes help to see what she really thought about the concept of performance based religion. I hope they bless you as much as they blessed me. 

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Eph 2:8-9)
Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, (2Ti 1:9)
Our Own Works Can Never Purchase Salvation: A legal religion can never lead souls to Christ; for it is a loveless, Christless religion. Fasting or prayer that is actuated by a self-justifying spirit is an abomination in the sight of God. The solemn assembly for worship, the round of religious ceremonies, the external humiliation, the imposing sacrifice, proclaim that the doer of these things regards himself as righteous, and as entitled to heaven; but it is all a deception. Our own works can never purchase salvation.  {DA 280.2}

There Is No Safety For One Who Has Merely A Legal Religion: The fountain of the heart must be purified before the streams can become pure. He who is trying to reach heaven by his own works in keeping the law is attempting an impossibility. There is no safety for one who has merely a legal religion, a form of godliness. The Christian's life is not a modification or improvement of the old, but a transformation of nature. There is a death to self and sin, and a new life altogether. This change can be brought about only by the effectual working of the Holy Spirit.  {DA 172.1} 

The One Great Offering… Has Been Made: A legal religion has been thought quite the correct religion for this time. But it is a mistake. The rebuke of Christ to the Pharisees is applicable to those who have lost from the heart their first love. A cold, legal religion can never lead souls to Christ; for it is a loveless, Christless religion… Works will not buy for us an entrance into heaven. The one great Offering that has been made is ample for all who will believe. The love of Christ will animate the believer with new life. {1SM 388.1}

Christ, Our Only Hope: The spirit of bondage is engendered by seeking to live in accordance with legal religion, through striving to fulfill the claims of the law in our own strength. There is hope for us only as we come under the Abrahamic covenant, which is the covenant of grace by faith in Christ Jesus. The gospel preached to Abraham, through which he had hope, was the same gospel that is preached to us today, through which we have hope. Abraham looked unto Jesus, who is also the Author and the Finisher of our faith (YI Sept. 22, 1892).  {6BC 1077.7} 

Firm as a Rock: Legal religion will not answer for this age. We may perform all the outward acts of service and yet be as destitute of the quickening influence of the Holy Spirit as the hills of Gilboa were destitute of dew and rain. We all need spiritual moisture, and we need also the bright beams of the Sun of Righteousness to soften and subdue our hearts. We are always to be as firm as a rock to principle. Bible principles are to be taught and then backed up by holy practice.  {6T 417.3} 

Dear Brother M: Brother M, you have not taken a judicious course with your family. Your children do not love you. They have more hatred than love. Your wife does not love you. You do not take a course to be loved. You are an extremist. You are severe, exacting, arbitrary, to your children. You talk the truth to them, but do not carry its principles into your everyday life. You are not patient, forbearing, and forgiving. You have so long indulged your own spirit, you are so ready to fly into a passion if provoked, that it looks exceedingly doubtful whether you will make efforts sufficient to meet the mind of Christ. You do not possess the power of endurance, forbearance, gentleness, and love. These Christian graces must be possessed by you before you can be truly a Christian. You cannot in your own strength put away your errors and wrongs; they have been increasing upon you for years, because you have not seen them in their hideousness and in the strength of God resolutely put them away. By living faith you must lay hold on an arm that is mighty to save. Humble your poor, proud, self-righteous heart before God; get low, very low, all broken in your sinfulness at His feet. Devote yourself to the work of preparation. Rest not until you can truly say: My Redeemer liveth, and, because He lives, I shall live also. {2T 88.1}

If you would gather together everything that is good: If you would gather together everything that is good and holy and noble and lovely in man and then present the subject to the angels of God as acting a part in the salvation of the human soul or in merit, the proposition would be rejected as treason.{FW 24.1}

Christ for our sakes became poor: Christ for our sakes became poor, that we through His poverty might be made rich. And any works that man can render to God will be far less than nothingness. My requests are made acceptable only because they are laid upon Christ’s righteousness. The idea of doing anything to merit the grace of pardon is fallacy from beginning to end. “Lord, in my hand no price I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling.” {FW 24.2}

When men learn they cannot earn righteousness:  When men learn they cannot earn righteousness by their own merit of works, and they look with firm and entire reliance upon Jesus Christ as their only hope, there will not be so much of self and so little of Jesus. Souls and bodies are defiled and polluted by sin, the heart is estranged from God, yet many are struggling in their own finite strength to win salvation by good works. Jesus, they think, will do some of the saving; they must do the rest. They need to see by faith the righteousness of Christ as their only hope for time and for eternity. {FW 25.3}





Sources

Ellen White (CD Rom)

egwdatabase.whiteestate.org