How God Gets His Work Done!

-He Doesn’t Need My Wisdom!

The Church of Corinth was one messed up church—they struggled with sexual immorality; and, they fought over the Lord’s Supper; and, their doctrine on the resurrection of the dead was problematic! So, when the Holy Spirit provoked the Apostle Paul to write a letter & call them out, he reminds them of the 1st time they met when he had introduced them to the Gospel:  “And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified….my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” 1 Corinthians 2:1-5.

-Don’t Sanitize The Gospel!

I’m not intending to read into the text; but, it seems like maybe they’ve become embarrassed over the Gospel. Perhaps they felt pressured to make the Gospel more appealing to their cosmopolitan neighbors by down playing the cross, the shed blood & the atonement. If so, there’s probably an application here for the western Church—have we digressed so far from our calling that we feel compelled to sanitize the offensiveness of the cross? Have we become so “seeker friendly” that we’ve become “Gospel unfriendly”? Do we crave the world’s approval so badly that we feel compelled to “market” the Gospel by packaging it in a more user-friendly format?

-God Only Blesses His Plan!

It seems, in the reading of this letter, that Paul is intent on changing some faulty thinking! They needed a doctrinal cleansing on HOW God gets His work done—He doesn’t need our help! He doesn’t want us to figure out how to DO CHURCH in our wisdom or strength! He will only bless HIS SOVEREIGN PLAN! Paul seems to emphasize interactive discipleship over “church programs”—life on life interaction! “…I came TO YOU…I was WITH YOU” he said in vs. 1,2.  Paul also emphasizes the power of God over human performance—human method’s will come & go; so, focus on the power of God to minister through us!

-Do Ministry By God’s Grace!

If our ministry focus is on US—how WE need to GET BETTER at it; or, how much effort WE need to put into it—WE will be ineffective at it! We’ll become neurotic & self-absorbed over whatever ministry we’re involved in because our efforts will center on us & our abilities rather than God & His power to do the spiritual work—that ONLY HE can do—in someone’s life! We’re talking about doing ministry by “legalism” vs ministry by “Grace”; and, GRACE wins every time! When we perform ministry in the strength of the flesh it puffs us up; and, gives us the allusion that we’re helping God out! He doesn’t need our help!

 

 

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You Can’t Do Anything Without Jesus!

-Strength And Courage Won’t Do!

The beauty of Christ’s Commission, to us, is in it’s simplicity—“Go…make disciples of all the nations.” It’s hard to imagine how that could be misunderstood. As a teenage convert, to Jesus, the hard part was not the understanding; but, the doing! I understood the command perfectly well; but, carrying it out terrified me! I’d nearly go into a cold sweat every time I thought about sharing my faith with my high school friends. How could I ratchet up the strength and courage to do it? How would I know the right things to say?

-Arm Wrestling Doesn’t Work!

It wasn’t until many years later when someone finally shared with me, from Scripture, that I didn’t have to depend on my ingenuity to convince people they needed Jesus! I couldn’t arm-wrestle anyone into the Kingdom if I tried! In John 15, Jesus tells us that plan will never work! No one has ever come to Christ because of a big beautiful church building; or, a “professional” Worship Band; or, a multi-media experience!

-Regeneration Is God’s Work!

The work, of regeneration, is God’s work ALONE! It’s impossible for us to do the work of God in our own strength—“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing” John 15:5.  This is at the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry; and, He’s preparing His disciples for His departure. “I will build My Church,” He told them, “And, I’m going to use YOU.” But, they had to get one thing straight—“You can’t do it without ME! I am the Vine, you’re just the branches,” He taught them.  All the LIFE & all the POWER & all the RESOURCES to fulfill His Great Commission came from Him!

-Being A Fruitful Branch

And, the key to being a branch that produces fruit,  Jesus said, was to be connected to Him, the Vine! If we’re not abiding in Him we’ll shrivel up and die, Jesus says in v.6. We can’t make disciples in our own strength—by reading books about making disciples; or, witnessing to 5 people a week; or, memorizing Scripture; or, making ourselves accountable to someone else. That’s NOT where we find the POWER to do Jesus’ work! He alone is the source! This is one of the most devastating mistakes any Church ministry can make—doing God’s work “in the flesh.” Man’s effort won’t get it done!

-God Is Glorified When We Ask Him To Do It!

The work of God gets done; and, He is glorified, when we ASK Him to do it! Back to John 15, vs. 7-8 “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified,” Jesus says, “that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” Jesus does the work, of God, for us & through us! Making disciples is HIS WORK! Every spiritual work is a supernatural work & only Jesus can do the super-natural! We’re just a branch; but, when we’re tapped into Jesus Christ, the Vine, He does great things through us! God is glorified!

 

 

What Good News Can Do For You!

-The Gospel Is An “Announcement”

The word “Gospel” literally means “good news.” In the original Greek language it’s often translated “Herald” or “Evangelist.” When a Greek king won a battle, he would send a “Gospel Herald” all over the kingdom to announce the “good news” of his victory! So, in it’s purest sense, the Gospel is an “announcement”—the Biblical writers used the word “Gospel” to announce that Jesus has won the battle for our salvation by His atoning death on the cross! The Gospel is the good news, about God’s forgiveness, by Christ’s substitutionary work in our place— “…He became sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” 2 Cor. 5:21.

-We’re Saved From Good Works

Once we’ve heard & accepted the good news—about Jesus’ payment for sin—we’re commissioned, by Him, to announce the good news everywhere & to make disciples of Christ from all nations! When we get Jesus’ Gospel right, it’s a message that saves us from our “good works”—“For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift—not from works, so that no one can boast” Eph 2:8,9.  From my earliest recollections of myself, as a young boy, I remember trying to impress God with my good deeds. But, Scripture clearly says here that salvation “…is NOT from YOURSELVES…”; it’s “…NOT from works…” We can never change enough to sway God! We can never justify ourselves before Him! We’re DEAD in our SIN! That’s why Jesus went to the cross—to pay the price we should have paid! It’s the “good news” of the Gospel that saves us from thinking that our good deeds can save us.

-We’re Saved From Guilt

When we get Jesus’ Gospel right, it’s a message that saves us from our “guilt”—“And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins” God says in Hebrews 8:12.  The Psalmist wrote, “…then I confessed my sins to you and didn’t hide my guilt. I said, ‘I will confess my sins to the Lord,’ and You forgave my guilt.” Psalm 32:1-5.  The same Gospel that saves us from our good works, saves us from our guilt—when guilt is our motivator, we can never do enough! That’s the unbearable burden of a “performance-driven faith”—when have you done enough? But the Gospel, of Christ, says we’re saved by GRACE!

-The Gospel Saves Us To Do Good Works

 

The Holy Spirit inspired the Apostle Paul to write: “For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them” Eph. 2:10.  Did you see that? Paul says, “…we are HIS creation”; and, it’s in our conversion to Christ that we are “…created…FOR good works”; and, God prepares us for those good works! They don’t save us! They’re the RESULT of our salvation—the RESULT of God’s sanctifying work IN US! When we truly see the beauty & glory of God’s grace in our lives, we will want to do good works that reflect well on Jesus!

God’s Radical Gospel!

-What’s Good About “Good Works”?

The whole concept of “good works” has confused and divided people & churches since the original sin in the garden! Just a casual reading, of Scripture, uncovers this tension between some “good works” that are BAD & some “good works” that are GOOD—so, how do we know if our “good works” are GOOD or BAD? Do we need “good works”? What is the purpose of “good works”?

-The Answer Is In “The Gospel”

The Apostle Paul brings some clarity to this tension by defining the Gospel for us in his letter to the Church of Corinth: “Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you–unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” 1 Cor. 15:1-4.  So, let me define the gospel, Paul says—Christ died for our “sin.” Sin is a “missing of the mark”; or, a breaking of God’s law. Where there is a LAW there is a LAW GIVER; and, God, the Creator, is that Law Giver. He is Holy, Just & Righteous in all His ways, Scripture informs us! And, as Creator, He has the ultimate authority to demand obedience from us, His creation!

-“The Gospel” Changes Everything

But, in Adam, we disobeyed Him; and, our sin separated us from our Holy Creator. So, Jesus came to die for our sins! That’s the Doctrine of Imputation—our sin was “imputed”; or, placed on Jesus; and, His righteousness is “imputed”; or, credited to our account when we repent of our sin & trust Jesus for our salvation. At the moment we trust Him, God “justifies” us—that means He declares us righteous! Paul also includes the good news of the Resurrection in his definition of the Gospel—Jesus was buried in a tomb & He rose bodily, from the dead, in power over sin on the 3rd day! That’s the Gospel; and, it’s not just something we preach! The Gospel impacts the rest of our life—it’s about “reconciliation”! The Gospel reconciles our hostile relationship with God, because of our sin; and, it reconciles ALL our relationships! The Gospel is also about “redemption”—it makes all things NEW!

-So, What About “Good Works”?

In his letter to the Church of Ephesus, the Apostle Paul clears this up for us—“For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift – not from works, so that no one can boast. For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them” Eph 2:8-10. He contrasts our “good works” that cannot save us; with, the “good works” that God creates us to do after we’ve been “reconciled” & “redeemed” in Christ!  Our “good works” are BAD if we think they save us! God’s “good works”—in us—evidences true faith! Those “good works” are GOOD!