Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Works and Good Works - Labor Day 2010

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Preached at Northwest Christian Church
David P. Kautt
Sunday Morning, September 5, 2010.

Ephesians 2:8-10: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

The subject of work and good works is a subject that, every once in a while, at least, ought to appear on every preacher's sermon schedule. It's a subject that has deep Scriptural roots, going all the way back to God's grand design for mankind in Creation – Genesis chapter two - and also a subject, therefore, that has broad application, as each one of us, as human beings, and as Christians, are called and commanded to work, and to pursue and produce good works.

Even though recently I have been leading you in a study of the first letter of John, I wanted to take this opportunity today, on the Lord's Day, before that holiday we call 'Labor Day', to examine this two-fold subject, work and good works. I trust that our time today in doing so will be well spent.

First of all, to lay the groundwork for this study, and, to remind you of what I trust you already know and are convinced of, take a look at what our Scriptural starting point has to say regarding this matter. Ephesians 2:8-10.

Number one, work or good works, human effort or achievement – '[our own] works of righteousness which we have done” - as Paul describes them in Titus chapter three, verse five, none of these things have the ability to save us. God's powerful grace has that ability, our wholehearted trust in that ability of God unlocks the door, activating that ability. But work, our good works, don't enable us to attain to or achieve salvation. Why? Simply put, because it is God's gift to us! Why? Because if it was, if salvation was the result of our work or good works, who would get the glory? Who would receive the praise? We would! We would undoubtedly boast that we – WE – had saved ourselves!

Salvation is not of works, we didn't effect I or bring it to pass! No! Ephesians 2:10 – everyone who truly is a Christian, go that way because of the workmanship, the new creation in Christ Jesus workmanship, of God Himself! The praise belongs to Him, and Him alone!

Nevertheless, look at the remainder of that tenth verse with me, will you? Though you and I are saved by our God, who is “rich in mercy” (Ephesians 2:4), even though our salvation is an expression, a marvelous demonstration of the “exceeding riches of God's grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” - Ephesians 2:7. Notice with me what the rest of verse 10 has to say about good works. We are not saved BY good works – no! But, we are saved FOR good works!

In other words, included in God's eternal plan to save us, is a plan to USE us to carry out His work here on earth! “For we are God's workmanship - His handiwork – created in Christ Jesus, for good works.” That is God's new creation in Christ purpose for saving us – “for good works... that we should walk in them.”

Now, having laid that foundation, let's take a look at what God's Word has to say about this subject. Colossians chapter three – How many of you enjoy the look and, perhaps, even the feel and the smell of a new set of clothes? More than once I have been the unsuspecting recipient of a fellow Christian servant's generosity in this area of clothing. “David, it's time for you to have a new suit of clothing,” they'd say. And off we would go to the clothing stores in order to out-fit this preacher from head to toe!

Colossians chapter 3 – Did you know that there's a 'clothing store' by the name, 'Put on Christ'. The 'Put on Christ Clothing Store' – (see Galatians 3:26-27, Ephesians 6:10-20, Romans 13:11-14). Take a look with me at what awaits you and me there.

First of all, notice that at this 'store' there is a 'changing room', a place, a sacred place before the God who made you, and who, in Christ, is remaking you into the image of His Son (Romans 8:29), to 'take of' and forever leave behind your old 'clothing'.

Colossians 3:8,9 - “But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds.”

The 'changing room' is a place to take off the old 'clothing' that pertains to the 'old you'. And 'old you', by the way, who died – yes, died – (Colossians 3:3) and who is to be put-to-death, executed, along with all that has anything to do with him.

Colossians 3:5-7 – In this place called the 'Put on Christ' and 'Put on Christ-likeness Clothing Store,' where all those who enter are charged and challenged to “seek those things which are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God,” and to “set their minds on things above, not on earthly things.” In that place, where all who enter must do so, having first DIED to the old way, to an old life and the wicked works that go with it, you and I, if that IS the case with us, what do we find in that place? And, how are we to be dressed once we leave that place? Colossians 3:12-14 – Would you read it with me, please?

Colossians 3:12-14, “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.

Beloved, what is the point of this passage? You see it, don't you? We are saved FOR good works. That's one of the purposes God had in mind when He sent His Son to Calvary. But now, realizing that that is what God had in mind for us, what are we to do? Colossians 3 - We're to make a trip to the 'Clothing store', we're to enter the 'changing room', we're to PUT ON good works, and the Christlike qualities that are the ingredients that are necessary for good works!

Go with me now to Acts chapter nine, and the record of the resurrection, the restoration to life of a woman named Tabitha.

Acts 9:36-42, “At Joppa there was a certain disciple named Tabitha, which is translated Dorcas. This woman was full of good works and charitable deeds which she did. But it happened in those days that she became sick and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room. And since Lydda was near Joppa, and the disciples had heard that Peter was there, they sent two men to him, imploring him not to delay in coming to them. Then Peter arose and went with them. When he had come, they brought him to the upper room. And all the widows stood by him weeping, showing the tunics and garments which Dorcas had made while she was with them. But Peter put them all out, and knelt down and prayed. And turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up. Then he gave her his hand and lifted her up; and when he had called the saints and widows, he presented her alive. And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed on the Lord.

Now, you may be wondering in this sermon about work and good works, why we would stop to read and study this passage. My Loved Ones, we read it quickly, but look at it once again with me. Ladies, what does this passage tell us about this woman, this follower of Christ named Tabitha? Verse 36 – It says that she was, “full of good works!” That her life overflowed with the “charitable deed which she did.” Now, listen. Those two statements about this woman tell us a great deal! They do! But, listen... Who was it that knew the truth of those descriptions about her? Verse 39 – the needy! The helpless! The hurting! “Then Peter arose and went with them,” the text says, “[and] when he had come, they brought him to the upper room. [And there in that upper room] stood all the widows weeping, and showing [Peter] all the tunics and garments which Tabitha had made...”

Do you see it, Ladies? Do you see it, Fellows? This rather unknown Christian woman, WAS known, at least in and around her hometown of Joppa. And it wasn't for being a gossip or a busy-body! No! She was known! Tabitha was loved and appreciated because she was “FULL of good works!” Ladies, that's a reputation, with the good Lord's help, for which we all should strive! Amen? Amen!

But, how do you and I get that way? This passage that illustrates what Paul means in his instructions to Christian women in places like Titus 2 and 1 Timothy 5 – how is it that you and I are to come to be known for living lives FULL of good works?

Titus 2:11-14 - “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.”

You see that flow of thought, the order of things Paul lays out for us here, don't you? Good works – to be like Tabitha – what a model! What an example she is to all of us, man or woman! To be FULL of good works, as Tabitha was, we must first be zealous for good works. The things that God enabled Tabitha to fill her life with, these kinds of things must be what we eagerly desire and pursue! But, how is that possible?

Earlier, I suggested that you and I must travel to the 'Put on Christ Clothing Store', and that we must enter the 'Changing Room' so as to PUT ON good works! In this passage, however, the directives, though similar, go about describing the process of becoming zealous, eager for good works, like this... Verses 11-14 – Instead of entering the 'changing room', so to speak, in this text Paul exhorts us to join God in His 'Saving Grace Class Room!' “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age.”

To be and become “zealous for good works,” we must, first of all, be ready, attentive 'STUDENTS' of God's grace. Learning the lessons His saving grace is meant to teach us. Lesson like saying, 'No! No!' to ungodliness and worldly lusts, and, 'Yes! Yes!' to a life that is lived soberly, righteously, and in a godly manner – a life redeemed FROM, bought out of slavery TO lawless deeds, and a life prepared and purified FOR God – zealous – eager to do His will!

Zealous, fervent and eager, for good works!” That's what God's 'Saving Grace Classroom' has as it's 'learning outcome' – it's 'curriculum goal'!

Work, and good works – there's a great deal more to study and learn regarding this subject. But, allow me to wrap up what we need to know in this way. Work and good works.

This book – this Holy Book, breathed and inspired, as it is, BY God - to the end that God's people might be “thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17) – what does it tell us, what does it teach us about the subject of work and good works? Three things: number one – Colossians 3:17, Work and good works are to be performed in Christ's name! “And whatever you do in word or in deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him!” (See Ephesians 6:5-8).

Second – work and good works, how do they come about? Ultimately, how do these kinds of works come about? Oh, that's easy! It's my muscle, my mind, and my money that makes it happen! Right? Right? Take a look at Philippians 2:12-13.

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”

Work and good works – my muscle? My mind? My money? No! “It is God who works in us both to will (them) and to do (them), for His good pleasure!” Which, leads us, then to number three – last thing we must always remember regarding this subject: Philippians 1:9-11. Paul's prayer for the Philippian believers and for us. What does He ask God to do in us and through us? By the way, beloved, that right there ought to be a huge clue, correct? What does Paul ask God to do in us, and through us?

Verse 9 – He asks God to cause our love to abound in knowledge and all discernment. Verse 10 – He asks God to help us prove and a-pprove the things that are excellent, that we might be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ. And... And – verse 11 – that we might be, Paul asks God to fill us with the fruits of righteousness. Good works – the “fruits of righteousness” - How? And, why? Good works – the “fruits of righteousness which are BY Jesus Christ” - that's the how. “To the glory and praise of God” - that's the why?

Work and good works – Allow me to close with this benediction taken from Hebrews 13:20-21.

Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

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