I know I think a lot about works, because I have tension about the fact that I might not be doing them, and I like the idea of grace getting me off the hook.
The truth is that there are works. But they come out of grace and following hard after Christ.
They are tricky though because doing works with the wrong kind of heart are not righteous. We can’t rely on our works for our salvation.
DeitrichMatthew 19:16 Bonhoeffer covers it well, and I wanted to share one example.
The rich young man came to Christ and asked what he must do to achieve eternal life. Jesus tells him from the scripture to keep the commandments. He says he has and what else? It is this comment that is telling. He wants to look better than everybody else. I have kept these commandments. Now give me something extra. So Jesus does: sell your belongings. Oops, that is not what he had in mind. He goes away sad.
It wasn’t the possessions that was the issue. The issue was the issue of discipleship. When Jesus called the disciples, he said to come and follow. They dropped what they did and followed.
So here is the thing: What Jesus wants is a ‘yes’ when he tells us to follow him. Giving up our possessions is a great commitment, but it’s not going to guarantee us salvation. It might give us a freedom in Christ, but if Christ hasn’t asked us to do it, it’s not going to give us more salvation than anybody else.
We look at the people of scripture and the great men and women of the church, and admire what they did. But doing what they did gives us nothing if it’s not a call from the Lord, a pure heart and a lack of trust in our actions to save us.
I think what it is, is acting with a pure heart, loving God, having an attitude of prayer and sacrifice. Letting the greats of church history to inspire us. Just don’t copy them instead of relying on Christ and following what his plan is for us individually.
I always write these things because they mean something to me, not that I am so good at doing them. For me, the check in my heart is to not read things like this with relief because I haven’t been doing what I think or feel I should be. It’s not a pass.
So, don’t read the story of this rich young man and say ‘whew, I’m glad I don’t have to give away my riches.’ Also, don’t read it and say ‘If I give away my riches, it counts toward my salvation.’ Try to have a disposition and a heard toward saying ‘yes’ to what he has asked.