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Grace, Faith and Good Works

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07 May 2014

GRACE, FAITH, GOOD WORKS - A Biblical Reflection
 

This piece was first published in Care Contact, March-May 2014 (Malaysian Care's newsletter).
 

by Rev Pax Tan
 

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is a gift from 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 has prepared in advance for us to do." (Ephesians 2: 8 - 10)

It is wonderful to be saved from our sins, to be forgiven and to have eternal life. "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, so that whoever believes in him, shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3: 16) 

Then what? What are we saved for? Just to have eternal life?! Is God's kingdom in a far-away place somewhere over the rainbow? What about now on this earth, where you and I are stuck to, held by gravity? What are we supposed to do after receiving this grace of God, through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ? 

Firstly, salvation comes through faith by believing - "I am not ashamed of the gospel  (good news), because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes....The righteous shall live by faith." (Romans 1: 16-17). Therefore this is purely a gift from God.

Secondly, because it is all about God's doing, we have absolutely nothing to do with it, we cannot do anything to deserve it, or influence it, or improve upon it, or to change it.  We can only respond to it - accept it or reject it.  So if we choose to accept this Jesus to be our Saviour, Lord and King - who lived and died to save us from our sins, for the result of sin is death, then we cannot take any credit for it, we are helpless, we are liabilities, we cannot boast.

Thirdly, we are then re-fired, re-made, re-shaped and rekindled. God becomes the Master craftsman, the Potter, and we the clay, to become his workmanship, his new creation - "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone and the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5: 17).

For What?  

We are created in Christ Jesus to do good works, good deeds, good things; not bad works, not neutral deeds, certainly, not lousy things.

So That…

 "In the same way, let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."  (Matthew 5: 16)

Doing good works in the name of God, motivated by thanksgiving to God is contagious in influencing others to say and commend good things of God, to praise God, our Father in heaven. This causes people to want to know more of this God we testify to, and come to accept and believe in God.  

We see this in the many Christian schools, hospitals, clinics, relief work, rehabilitation centres, rescue and mercy operations, orphanages, emergency responses, and the many varied kinds of homes and drop-in centres.

Abundant life on earth, treasure in heaven

"This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone….Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order that they may provide for daily necessities and not live unproductive lives." (Titus 3: 8, 14)

"Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good works, and be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life."  (1 Timothy 6: 17 - 19)

True life, the abundant life, the enjoyable life, that we can take hold of -  is in the blessings of God, doing good, lots of good works, being generous in sharing; looking for people and projects to give to and participate in! And at the end of it, are treasures and bountiful returns which are guaranteed, many folds - that is REAL INVESTMENT!

Be careful how you spend your money and time. Leaving money unspent on earth can amount to nothing in heaven! And how much time and money do you spend with those who are in need and how you do it will decide your future.

"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me."  (Matthew 25: 35, 36 - do read the whole passage for the judgment!)

Let’s be contagious, influential and "busy bodies" for goodness' sake!

"And let us consider how we may spur (encourage; be concerned; motivate; help; stimulate; incite; provoke; outdo; stir up; arouse; dorong) one another on toward love and good works"(Hebrews 10: 24)

Good works are the test of our faith

"What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don't show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or a sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, ‘Goodbye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well’ - but then you don't give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?  In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action (works; deeds) is dead!"  (James 2: 14 - 17)

Furthermore, 

 "Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins."  (James 4: 17)

Doing good works is always the will of God. Paul says it was prepared in advance. God wills it, plans for it and sees it through - in his workmanship. We are his masterpieces if we do good works, lots of good works, like Jesus our master. Jesus was always with the people, going to the poor and needy, talking to them, comforting the hurting, feeding the hungry and thirsty, healing the sick and disabled, preaching and teaching, defending the down and out; standing up for the ostracised and marginalised; looking out for the lost and lonely.

Accordingly, in obedience to God's Word and exercising real faith, a few friends read the scriptures and responded by looking for good works to do. They came across some children of leprosy patients who were staying together in the same residential hospital. These friends along with others began to visit the patients, found out more about their situation. The children needed a home and tender loving care outside of the hospital. So that was the small beginning of Malaysian Care 35 years ago, as people rallied around children of leprosy patients and started a foster home for them.

Have faith, be kind, practical and generous to those in need; be real, do good deeds - you will be rewarded and become joyful!