One of the clearest messages of the New Testament is that we cannot expect our good works, the "good" things that we do, to save us. All of our works, even our best works, are contaminated by our sin. You and I cannot have a wage relationship with God. Spiritually speaking, we haven’t earned anything but death. OK, so God wants to give us eternal life, but we have only earned death. What does that mean for us? How are we to live with this knowledge? Today, let's take a few minutes to consider the tension between faith and works as we consider two New Testament passages:
The first is from Ephesians 2:8-10:
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
The second is from Matthew 5:16:
In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
My old friend and pastor Dan Wolfe used to say, "Paul puts the truth down low where the goats can get at it." Paul says in our first passage, "It is the gift of God, not a result of works." Wow! Isn’t that great! We are saved by grace and only by grace. God comes to us and gives us the free gift of faith. So what about our works? In the passage, Paul also says that you and I have been "created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." God created us to do good works. Not just any good works though—but works that He has prepared for us “in advance.” When I was growing up, my Mom would write down a list of things she wanted me to do that day and put the list at my place at the table. Did you know that God has a list of good works He wants you to do? But wait a minute—if we're saved by grace and not by works, why do good works at all? Our third passage from Matthew answers this question: "Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." Your works and my works matter to God because they point the way to Him. They honor Him. They bring Him glory. They demonstrate His goodness to the rest of the world.
Do you want the world to know that God is good? If so, do the works He has prepared for you to do. People will see those good works and glorify God...and that's always such very Good News!