I hate works. Last summer of 2012 I had an encounter with God and I learned that up to that time in my Christian walk I was always in some form of bondage. I was either doing the wrong thing (John 8:24) or I was doing the right things for the wrong reasons(Matt 15:7-9, Is 29:13). I would define works as a Christian’s attempt to obtain righteousness and love with God by their actions and disciplines. I missed this INCREDIBLY KEY FOUNDATIONAL PRINCIPLE of Jesus and Christianity not because of a lack of quality teaching at my church but for a host of reasons that I will discuss briefly. Now works consciously feels like sinning because of my newly heightened spiritual sensitivity and because living by balanced grace is something I don’t ever want to give up.
I’m usually cautious of short lists because they can oversimplify a complex subject but below I’ve identified 5 symptoms of works. Feel free to comment on extra symptoms you may believe. You’ll notice they aren’t related to any specific commandment, old covenant, new covenant, frequency of aspects of devotional worship, frequency of church attendance, approach to worship or anything that can be quantified. That is because works is a quality measure not a quantity measure. Works is a matter of why we are doing something not what we are doing. We really can’t look at someone and assess whether or not they are in works. We can’t assume that a Christian that is committed to do a lot or a Christian that leans more fundamental is in works. Likewise, we can’t assume that a Christian that isn’t committed to do a lot isn’t in works. We can’t assign the cause of works to a particular denomination’s doctrine or lack thereof. Works is an age old distraction from the enemy. Quality measurement is related to our hearts (Luke 6:45). I believe the 5 symptoms can reflect the nature of a believer’s heart.
What took me so long
There are a few factors that hindered my full acceptance of balanced grace (Eph 2:8). Balanced grace is the intersection of not feeling condemned for your past and future mistakes(Rom 8:1) nor is it a licence to sin(Romans 6). It’s an understanding in your inner most being that God loves you for who you are which motivates a complete surrender so that He can supernaturally change you. We live in a world with so much performance based acceptance that this simple concept is hard to grasp. Balanced grace was ultimately unnatural, illogical an unattainable. How could I context switch my brain from performing during my 9-5 to surrendering at church? I certainly was a performer growing up for the the love of my parents. I worked hard for my education, I’m not a government free loader. My hard working immigrant background mind couldn’t wrap around this. With man this is impossible but with God all things are possible (Matt 19:26).
- You feel like God loves you because you are doing the right things.
- You don’t feel like God loves you because you aren’t doing the right things.
- You notice the need for spiritual growth in others before your own needs for growth.
- You scorn contrasting doctrine other than your own even if it’s error.
- You stick to spiritual routines and feel uncomfortable when the Lord want to change.
We have to pray for balanced grace daily. Grace is a unique characteristic of Christianity. Other philosophical or religious worldviews are either rooted practically in how people should live, mastering levels of knowledge or mystical experiences. Christianity is rooted in personhood and believing that Jesus is the son of God. Jesus is all the “works” we need to know:
Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works[PLURAL] God requires?”
Jesus answered, “The work[SINGULAR] of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” -John 6:28-29, NIV 1984
Once we performed the 1 work we do then all of our commitments and ministry will be for the right reasons.