Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Workin For the Weekend/Salvation

So at book club tonight one of the students raised a great question. She's stuggling with the apparent contridiction/tension between grace and works righteousness.

Now, my boy Dallas Willard would say that grace is opposed to earning, but not effort. Our conversation was sparked when I shared a paraphrase from Out of the Question, Into the Mystery by Leonard Sweet:

"Scripture tells the story of a God who was not afraid to get hands dirty in a relationship with us...the divine come-down was not complete until Jesus embodied the extent of God's deep love in his getting down and washing the disciples' feet- the dirtiest part of the human body. No first century rabbi other than Jesus ever washed his disciples' feet. It is impossible to wash feet without getting hands dirty and wet. Far too many of us are trying to keep our hands celan when the question at Judgement Day is going to be "Shoe me your hands. How dirty and wet are they?"

Man thats good!

So, she has been told in her Christian upbringing "There's nothing you can do to earn God's love" yet also, at youth group we're constantly emphasizing the way Jesus calls us to live and how we're created to "do good works". I understand her confusion, although thats not the right word.

I'd like to unpack this a little more over the next couple days. If anyone out there would like to talk about their views on the subject, that would be great!

The question is this: How are grace, faith, and works interwoven? (also to be considered: How does Christian docrtine reinforce these elements of life in Christ? What does scripture say about all this? How have the understanding of these words evolved over time?)

Good stuff I hope! More soon.


Matt said...

It comes down to the old "so that" or "because of".

To me, it's all about your perspective. Do we do good works "so that we'll get to heaven" or do we do good works "because Jesus loves us so much and we want to show others?" The former is clearly works righteousness and that's wrong. The second one is how I believe Christians should view it.

Adam Caldwell said...

aahh dialectical tension...gotta love it.

Adam Caldwell said...

Leonard SWEET

Professor RJ Gumby said...

James 2:17-19 really answers this question for me. Anyone can say they believe in God, but the proof is a life transformed. But do not be too hasty, as we impatient human types often are, for this transformation to take place immediately. Let it unfold over your life.

The trick, I have learned is persistence, trust and the practice spiritual disciplines particularly prayer. Then you develop the relationship. You see the amazing thing about grace. God allows you to screw up, but he forgives you as you get up and get back on the path.

Let God teach you...it is the coolest way to grow. As Adam,quoting Leonard Sweet, said, we need to get our hands dirty. Help others - see them as God's children, hear their story. God does not want you to earn brownie points - he wants you to touch a life and be touched in return. There are many other ways.

Scott Watson

Kara said...

Grace, faith, and works...
It is placing your FAITH in Christ that allows GRACE to enter into your life--- and with that enters the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the key to living a Christ-like life, not some set of rules (which would be the Old Testament) or good works (which many people think).

Key Terms:
Indwelling of the Holy Spirit (residency)- the Holy Spirit residing in a believer. This happens at salvation.
Filling of the Holy Spirit (presidency)- the believer choosing to give the Holy Spirit control.

Growing in GRACE and FAITH are the result of living by the Spirit, which means giving Him control.
It is the Holy Spirit that enables us to live a Christ-like life because our sin nature is still there, so we still have the ability to sin and sometimes it looks pretty temptingly good.

It is also the Holy Spirit that produces GOOD WORKS in the life of the believer. Giving the Spirit control causes the believer to be more and more conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:28-29; 12:1-2, 1 Pet 1:13-15). When we become like Christ, we live like Christ. Jesus came to serve. One of my favorite quotes (from Brian Biedenbach on a Mexico mission trip): "The moment you place yourself above a servant, you have just outranked you Savior." When a believer serves, their FAITH is grown and displayed, GRACE is shared, and the WORK of the Holy Spirit is made evident through the GOOD WORKS of the believer.

Finally, we serve because once we accepted Christ, we didn't immediately arrive in heaven. God left us here to share His love with others. This is an extraordinary task because God has left us to be the stewards of His reputation! If God is faithful, loving, powerful, honest, and wise, we should be sharing that! Our witness to who God is should be so clear that we impact our culture with the reputation of God (1 Pet 2:11-12).

In the end, WORKS are the overflow of the love and communion with God. Ask any missionary, pastor, etc. and they will tell you if you horizontally focus on the people, ministry will be irritating. It takes a vertical focus on God to serve. If you are spiritually empty, what do you have to offer? We can't give what we don't have.

Kara said...

One last comment: We are created to GLORIFY God- not simply to do GOOD WORKS. Anyone can do good, but it is doing good in the name of Jesus that makes the difference.

Ephesians 2:8-10 sums it up:
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. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.