Crafted for Good Works (Ephesians Sermon 12 of 54)
September 20, 2015 | Andrew Davis
A New Creation, Eternal Rewards, Godliness
It's one of the biggest struggles I think that every person has in life, is a sense of purpose. You know, “Why am I alive?” “Why am I even here?” “Why do I live each day?” And people struggle with that. “What gives meaning to my Mondays and my Tuesdays?” “What is the remedy to the terrifying sense of aimlessness and purposelessness in life that kind of dogs my heels.” And that same idea led the wisest man who had ever lived on earth up to that point, King Solomon, as he wrote the Book of Ecclesiastes, and he looked around at the world that surrounded him as he looked at his own life, his own achievements. And he looked at all of those achievements and the power and the wealth and the pleasures and all of that, and He said in Ecclesiastes 1:2, “Vanity of vanities, everything is vanity, it's all emptiness, it's all meaningless.” As he looked at it. Now, we don't want to reach the end of a single day and feel that it was all vanity, it was all meaningless.
We don't want to live a single day that's empty of purpose. And praise God through His grace, we don't need to, isn't that awesome? Every single day for us as Christians is a day just crackling with energy and promise with good works that are worth doing. I mean, eternally worth doing. And the more we meditate on Ephesians 2:10, the more joy that can come to us, and I hope the more energy and zeal and power through the Holy Spirit to live an active life of good works. For it says in Ephesians 2:10, "We are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance that we should walk in them.” So, this idea is very powerful. There are a few verses that I think about every single day. There's a few of them, and I don't do it intentionally, I'm just saying they come in my mind. This is one of them, I think about Ephesians 2:10 every day. I think about it in the morning when I get up, and when I pray and say, “Lord, I want to do the good works that you prepared for me to do today. I want to walk in those good works. So Lord, give me a wise and discerning heart, show me what they are. I don't want to miss any of them.” I think we all have the feeling, and it's a mystery how Ephesians 2:10 fits into failure to do the good works but we know that we miss opportunities don't we? There are some things that we should have done and didn't do.
And I don't want that to be my life, I don't want that to be any single day, and I sure don't want that to be the cumulative effect of my whole life that I missed them. I missed the good works. And so I pray for that every morning I just say, “Lord, to help me to walk in that pathway of good works that you have ordained for me,” There are various types. There are some just grand and glorious big, good works that you might only do once in your life, and years later you'll be thinking about that good work and what God did and in and through that time, and never do it again. And then there are just those day-to-day mundane small good works that you may be tempted to despise and wonder why it's still your job and why somebody else doesn't do it, by now. But that God has set out for you to do everything's included for me in Ephesians 2:10. So it could be anything from a word of encouragement that you speak to somebody, you pick up the phone and call them. Or you just take a moment and pray for a situation you know about it in the church.
And no one needs to know about it. You don't need to tell anyone like Jesus said in Matthew 6, “you go into the room and close the door and pray to your Father who is unseen.” No one ever knew about it, but you prayed for a brother or a sister, or a situation and God sees it and He knows, and He hears it. Or it could be right a check for a ministry, or something large or small, wouldn't matter. So all kinds of good works. And so, God has ordained these good works, and in the language of Isaiah, I think of a pathway of good works in which God says “This is the way, walk in it.” Like there are these golden steps that we're going across, across the river of life, and we're just stepping from good work to good work to good work, and you can just live your life that way. This is the way, walk in it.
It's what glorious grace from God to arrange ahead of time, a life of good works that have eternal significance and to be able to join with God the Father in the work that He's doing. As Jesus said, “My Father is always at His work to this very day and I too am working.” And we as sons and daughters of the living God, we can say that God's at work. He's working in the world, always working and I have, by faith, joined in His work, and that is glorious.
There is also a sense in this verse, I think of craftsmanship, a sense of craftsmanship. We are God's workmanship, and the day is God's workmanship. The both of them and we're going to talk about that today, but there's a sense of craftsmanship. A little while ago, I came across a website that was talking about these expensive mechanical watches, from Switzerland and from Germany, and I came across one that cost 2.6 million dollars. For a wristwatch. Alright, now if I had 2.6 million, I would not invest it in a wristwatch. Imagine giving Jesus an account of that on Judgment Day, alright, enough said. But at any rate, this German watchmaker, Lange & Söhne, makes this one watch, it's called “The Grand Complication,” that's the name of the watch. And it takes a skilled craftsman, an entire year to make a single watch. And every part that goes into it, is hand-crafted the complexity is staggering. It has different chimes for different parts of the hour, 15 minutes, 30, 45 and the hour, a different chime, like it's a grandfather clock on your wristwatch. Imagine being at work, and the thing goes off and people are like, "What is that?” “Well, that's my new watch for 2.6 million dollars.” And the craftsmanship is amazing. It's got a calendar and it's got all of these things, it's all mechanical, it's not computer it's all gears and sprockets, and springs. And I just think about the complexity of it. And it's about that big and all of that fitting together, centuries of craftsmanship, but then I thought about this verse today. And we are more complicated than that. Vastly more complicated. And the craftsmanship that has gone into us is staggering, and the craftsmanship frankly, that's gone into the world around us, the complexity of how we as sons and daughters of God interact with other Christians and with non-Christians to achieve His eternal purpose is just staggering. It's exquisite craftsmanship. So God has been crafting you and shaping you and molding you for this lifetime of good works and He continues to do it, He's doing it right now for me and for you. And He's getting us ready for these good works.
Not Saved by Good Works
Salvation from Sin is Not by Works
Now, when we come to the issue of good works, again, we need to stop and just be careful of context here, don't we? And it's very important. I chose to divide Ephesians 2:10 from Ephesians 2:8-9, and from the larger section, that Andy just read. And so I think it's good for us to look back and understand where we just came from last week, Ephesians 2:8-9, “It is by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not of yourselves, it is the gift of 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 prepared in advance that we should walk in them.” So you really need to see the whole thing together. So we have to go back and remember what we talked about last week because it is so pernicious, and so powerfully magnetically attractive this idea of justification by works, or being saved by works, and it's just consistently dogging our hearts whenever we feel guilty, whenever we know we've sinned, we want to turn to our own works, and try to pay for our sins by good works, and that cannot be. “It says it is by grace you have been saved,” “have been saved.”
And so we said last week. Saved from what? Well, the answer is: Saved from eternal condemnation under the judgment of God, when it says in Revelation 20, that we will all be “gathered before this great white throne. And the court will be seated and the books will be opened and everyone that has ever lived will be gathered and we will all be judged, according to what we have done as recorded in the books, and by the Lamb's Book of Life and if anyone's name was not written in the Lamb's Book of Life, they are thrown into the Lake of Fire.” So we could sum this up. To answer the question, “Saved from what?”, it's from the lake of fire that we deserve because of our sins. How can we be delivered from condemnation, how can we be delivered from Hell? And the answer is, it is by grace, through faith, faith in Christ, faith in the blood of Christ that you have been saved, and this is not of yourselves, he says, it is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast. We can't emphasize this too much, although I don't want to just go off and preach last week’s sermon now because if Ephesians 2:10 is so glorious and beautiful, but we just need to understand that no amount of good works, no amount of the things that we could ever do in service to God can ever be used to pay for our sins. It is “through faith,” by simple trust in Jesus, by believing the words of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and this faith “is not of ourselves,” It doesn't originate with us, it comes from outside of us in, it's a gift of God. And it's not by works.
The Spiritually Dead Cannot do Good Works
Why not? Because Paul already said in Ephesians 2:1-3 that “we were dead in our transgressions and sins, even while we lived, we were enslaved to the world, the flesh, and the devil and we could not have delivered ourselves.” Our good works cannot deliver us from that bondage, that slavery. “We were by nature objects of wrath, but God because of His richness, of His mercy because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions God made us alive with Christ. It is by grace you have been saved, and God raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms, in Christ Jesus.” So that's God, God stepped in, “but God” intervened, God raised you from the dead. You couldn't have done that. That couldn't be by works, and that's the Gospel of free grace. We talked about grace, remember unmerited favor, and how that's a good starting point. There's an unmerited side and there's a favor side, how we said that those are infinite under statements. We deserved condemnation and wrath. So it's definitely unmerited. And it's not mere favor, but it's a river of blessings, “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,” a river of blessings that has come to us and will continue to come to us forever. It is by grace, it is God's settled determination to do us infinite good, we who deserve infinite punishment. That is grace. So that's salvation by grace, and “it's by grace we have been saved through faith, not of yourselves but it is a gift of God” and not by works. But though we have not been saved by works, the text most certainly asserts that we have been saved for works, for good works, Not by good works, but for our good works. “For we are God's workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance that we should walk in them.”
So we are clearly told that we're saved for good works. Good works cannot be used to pay for sins, but God when He saves us, by grace gives us a new nature, He gives us a transformed nature. And from that transformed nature flow a river of good works, or the nature hasn't been transformed. So we have been born again by the Holy Spirit of God. We have had the heart of stone removed, and we've had the heart of flesh put in. I love what it says in his Ezekiel 36:25-27. "I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean." Oh, isn't that beautiful? You will be clean, “I will cleanse you from all your impurities. And from all your idols and I will give you a new heart and I will put a new spirit in you and I will remove from you your heart of stone and I will give you a heart of flesh.” And now, listen to this, this is Ezekiel 36:27. “I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”
Now we come to the complexity of the role of the law in the Christians life. And the way I put all of this together is the law condemns us, and brings us to the cross of Jesus Christ, saying we can't save ourselves And so we despair our self-salvation, despair our salvation by works. We can't keep the law and so we come and throw ourselves to God at the feet of the cross, and we plead for mercy and we get it. And we receive full forgiveness and salvation by grace through faith. But then having done that we have received now, a new nature, a transformed nature and the Lord turns us back to the Law and says, Now by the Spirit, keep this law. It's beautiful, it's the best life you can ever live in Psalm 119, the whole Psalm, 176 verses are “Oh, how I love your law, and how beautiful it is and how majestic and how right it is.” So we're dead to the law and its power to condemn us, but now we now live the law, the moral law, the beautiful virtuous law the Ten Commandments, or the two commandments Take the two commandments Jesus said, “All of the law and the prophets hang on this that you should love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength, and the second command is like it, love your neighbor as yourself.” So the Holy Spirit, then moves us to love God with all that we have and to love our neighbor as ourselves in ways that we've never even imagined.
Salvation by Works is no Gospel at All
Now, there's been so much controversy about this over the years, so much misunderstanding. Before the Reformation in the 16th century, the medieval Catholic church had a whole system of religious works, and a terrible confusion about justification and a false Gospel, honestly, that they were preaching, “which was no Gospel at all,” and the Lord raised up Martin Luther. And Luther tried to earn his own salvation by works of Medieval Catholicism, by becoming a monk, by scrubbing floors and doing penitential prayers and doing confessional, and all of these works of Medieval Catholicism. But all it did was make him realize the inner corruptions of His heart more and more and more and he just felt greater and greater condemnation, until at last, he finally understood the Gospel. In Romans 1:16-17 Paul writes, “I'm not ashamed of the Gospel because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes, first for the Jew, then for the Gentile, for in the Gospel, the righteousness of God is revealed, a righteousness that is from faith for faith just as it is written, the righteous will live by faith.” And he finally understood that the righteousness of God there was not the righteousness by which, He condemned sinners, but the righteousness by which He saves sinners. It's a context issue, it's good news, it's the Gospel, and this righteousness of God is now mine as a gift to save me. He said, “Then at last, the Gates of Heaven flew open and I ran through I understood at last salvation.” Well, he spent the next number of years understanding more and more and preaching more and more on justification by faith alone, “apart from works of the law,” and he's preaching this, and being diligent and emphasizing this again and again, because they really needed to hear it, and He preached from Romans 4 about how “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness” and he didn't work for it. It was just given as a gift. Preaching all of these things and they never tired of preaching “justification by faith, apart from works of the law.”
Spurgeon and Luther
Charles Spurgeon, and said they hit that same nail again, and again, and again, and again with their hammers, and so gradually became imbalanced, imbalanced on the issue of works, and it's easy to happen. And it shows up when Luther translated the Bible into German, and he came to Romans 3:28, which says, “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith, apart from observing the law,” he's stuck an extra word in there to help the scripture out a little bit. Hey, look, the scripture doesn't need help. If the Greek word is there, put it in there. If it's not in there, don't put it in there. Good. Just a good rule on translation. All you Bible translators. He stuck the word alone in there. “We maintain that a man is justified by faith alone, apart from works of the law.” God wasn't hindered when Paul wrote Romans. If He wanted him to say alone, He would've, He didn't. But it got even worse when he came over to the Book of James. And James in James chapter 2, from verse 14 on to the end of the chapter is talking about the role of works and faith, and he's actually asking a different kind of question than Romans 3 and 4 is asking. And that is, “What kind of faith justifies you?” That's what James is dealing with there. He says a “faith that has no works is a dead faith, he says It's a demon faith, even the demons believe that there's one God but they shudder.” So James is dealing with what kind of faith, and the faith that produces no works is dead, it's demon faith, it's empty faith and it will not save you. Well, Luther couldn't handle some of the phraseology that James used. The person justified by faith apart from works, but James says, that Abraham was justified by works, and he just couldn't figure it out. How they're using the word slightly differently etcetera. And coming at it from a different angle.
Saved for Good Works
Good Works Validate Justification
And that Luther did teach the place of good works in the Christian life and he understood it properly. He was so upset at James, by the way they've worked it out, they're friends now, everything's good. But he called them Jimmy in the German language, and all that, and he said he wrote an epistle of straw, and if he could, he'd have it out. Well, that's disrespect for the word of God, and let me tell you something, when you come to two texts from the scripture that don't seem to harmonize, roll up your sleeves and work and pray. Don't throw one of them out. So, “we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from works.” But James says yes, “but what kind of faith saves, the faith that produces a lifetime of good works.” Paul would say the same thing right? From Ephesians 2 8-10, wouldn’t he? That's what's going on here. So, good works validate justification, they prove it. They show that it happened, that you've been born again by faith, you're leading a transformed life. It's the issue of fruit. There's going to be fruit in your life. Good works equals fruit in other places. So John the Baptist said, "Produce fruit in keeping with repentance." If you've genuinely repented, you will have good works, you'll have fruit. Jesus said, "By their fruit, you will recognize them. Do people ever pick grapes from thorn-bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear a bad fruit and a bad tree cannot bear a good fruit. Thus by their fruit you will recognize them." And then Jesus said "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of Heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in Heaven."
And again, this is a very hard thing to understand, but we will not be justified by works, but we will most certainly be judged by works. It would be easier to understand if I change the word judge, to say he's assessed or evaluated. Is that a little bit easier to understand? We will not be saved by good works, but we will be evaluated on the basis of our works on Judgment Day. Many passages teach this, but most clearly Romans 2:6-10, "God will give to each person according to what he has done. To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, He will give eternal life." Who's that? Christians. That's a description of the Christian life. People who by persistence in doing good are seeking for “glory, honor and immortality.” To them, He's going to give eternal life. "But for those who are self-seeking, who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger." Who's that? Non-Christians. Then he says the same thing doubled up. “There will be trouble and distress for everyone, every human being who does evil, first for the Jew, then for the Gentile,” Romans 2:10, “but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good, first for the Jew, then for the Gentile, for God does not show favoritism.” So Jesus is a perfect fruit inspector, and He will inspect the fruit of your life. He will have the full record of your words, He'll have the full record of your deeds. And He will evaluate your heart perfectly accurately based on the works. But you will not be forgiven or saved on the basis of your good works. Does that make sense? Just evaluated. Was there saving faith? If so, there's definitely going to be these good works.
I've had to say that I don't want you drawing that back down on it. I see it in my own heart. You do something wrong, you have to do something right to make up for it. Don't do that, go to the cross, go and pray, ask for forgiveness, and then get up by the power of the Spirit, and start living a works-filled Christian life again. Alright now, God's workmanship is on us and around us concerning these good works and that's awesome, isn't it? It's really exciting. “We are God's workmanship created in Christ is to do good works.” So, that means that God prepares us for the good works, God crafts us, He shapes us, and without that craftsmanship in our lives, we will not do the good works. That means all of your good works are a display of God's glory. To God be the glory for all of the good works, because He got you ready to do them. Now, His workmanship is done through Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit. He makes us a new creation. We're born again, we're made new, created new, without that no good works are possible. So, wait a minute pastor, you're saying that non-Christians do no good works? Yes, that's what I'm saying. Non-Christians do zero good works because none of it's done by faith. And “anything that's not from faith is sin,” anything not done for the glory of God is sin. So, they do none. We now ,as Christians born again, we now can do good works. We're able to do good works, and that's awesome. Now, He then continues to work on us, to craft us for more and more good works. How is he do that, by pouring the Bible into you? Just pouring scripture into you by your daily quiet time, by the sermons that you listen to, the books you read, the conferences you go to, the conversations you have, Bible study groups you're part of, just everything you do alone and in groups. He's getting you ready by the ministry of the Word of God for good works.
And all of this is based on our union with Jesus Christ. Look at the verse again, “we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus.” So we are created new creations in Christ Jesus. It's all by union with Jesus. We do our good works in union with Christ by the Holy Spirit, not alone. Clearest passage on this is John 15, Jesus said, "I am the vine, you are the branches. If anyone remains in me, you will bear much good fruit; for apart from me you can do nothing." That's powerful, isn't it? So as we abide in Jesus by prayer and by the Word, and stay close to Him and walk with Him by the power of the Spirit we'll do good works, we do it in Christ Jesus to His glory. Apart from me, you can do nothing. So God is working on us.
God’s Workmanship on Us and Ahead of Us
Both Sides of the Equation
Now, it's so cool about all this, is God works both sides of the equation. He works on us for the good works and He gets the good works ready for us. That is really exciting, isn't it. Clearest example of this in the Bible, I think, is in Acts chapter 10, the story of Cornelius and Peter, do you remember that story? So Cornelius was a Gentile, a Roman centurion, who was a God-fearing man, interested, very interested in the Jewish religion, fasting, praying, doing lots of good works, but not converted. And one day an angel appears to him, and said, “Cornelius your good works have come up as a memorial offering before God, send men to Joppa to find a man named Peter who's staying in a house of the house of Simon, a tanner, he will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved. So he's not saved by all of his good works, but an angelic messenger said, Now, go send to get this man Peter.” Alright, so that's God working that side of the equation.
Now, the next day, Peter gets up for his quiet time and he's having his quiet time, and putting one of those flat Middle Eastern roofs and he gets hungry. Isn't it funny how God uses little things, and so he's hungry and he asked for someone to make him a sandwich. Sorry, they didn't have sandwiches back then. Anyway, to make himself lunch or breakfast or whatever it was and while the meals being prepared he has a vision, he falls into a trance and has a vision, you remember. And how there was this large sheet being let down from heaven by its four corners and the sheet contained all kinds of unclean animals and reptiles, and nasty things that Jews can’t eat. And the voice came from Heaven, "Arise Peter. Kill and eat." And Peter did what Peter does. He said, "Never Lord", four times he says, Never Lord, look it up. That was the last of the four. And that's after the resurrection, and the ascension into Heaven, “Never Lord.” Don't ever say, “Never Lord,” don't do that. Alright. If it's the Lord speaking and say “Yes Lord,” alright? "Never Lord, I have never eaten anything impure or unclean." And the voice comes a second time, "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean." God is able to declare foods clean, that were unclean before and he's able to make people clean who were unclean before, but he didn't understand all that, he's just like, "What is this?” And it happened three times. Then the men from Cornelius appear at the gate. And the Spirit tells him, "Get up Peter and go with these men, don't be afraid to go with them." So they traveled back and they get to Cornelius' house, which Peter as a law-abiding Jew, would never have entered that home, and would never have had a meal with them, wouldn't have had anything to do with them because they're unclean. He understood, “wait a minute, I get it.” And as he's preaching the message the Holy Spirit falls on them and they become brothers and sisters in Christ by faith in the Gospel. He said, “Now I understand that God does not show favoritism, but accepts men from every nation who love him and believe him and do what's right.” And he learned a lesson there. He wasn't done learning, read about in Galatians 2, another day, we'll talk about, I already did, look on the Internet, I already preached that sermon.
God’s Good Works are “Prepared in Advance”
But yeah, he has not done learning yet, but God got both sides of the equation ready. Do you see that? He's doing that all the time, He's getting people ready for you, and you ready for those people. I don't just mean in terms of missions or evangelism everything. It could be another Christian brother or sister who's got a need, and He's getting her ready or him ready for you and you ready for that person, and it's just beautiful. God prepares these works in advance. Andy did a great job of emphasizing that. I mean, God has gone ahead of us. I like that it's redundant, “prepared in advance.” You know, that's redundant, don't you? All preparation is done advance. Imagine if your friends came, and there was no meal ready and you're like, what's going on and all that, and it's like maybe your friends say, “I thought we were coming in for dinner.” “Oh yeah, we're going to prepare it after you leave.” Well, that doesn't make any sense. Alright, preparation happens ahead of time, but Paul strengthens it with some extra phraseology, and says “God has gone ahead of you and gotten everything ready.”
So I had this picture in my mind a number of months ago of how at Lowes you can do these kits, like you can go make a bird feeder, and you get there and everything's laid out. All of the pieces are cut. There's this little dish with the right amount of glue, and you've got all the tools, and just put it together. Do you like it like at Christmas time especially Christmas Eve. “Some Assembly Required,” isn't that cool? No, it's not cool. Not at 3 in the morning. Some Assembly Required, “tab A,” “slot B,” and all that. By the way, never put tab A in slot B, that's the problem. Put tab A in slot A please, alright. As a mechanical engineer, I had to say that. At any rate, some assembly required, these good works, we have something to do with them. God wants us to put it together and do it and it's awesome. It's very, very exciting. So every day the day is a masterpiece of good works, the day as I said, crackling and sparkling and filled with possibility, and energy and good things worth doing.
So how far in advance does God get these good works ready? Minutes? Hours? Years? Centuries? Yes, all of the above, the complexity is beyond the brain to calculate. When it comes to, let's say, the mission field for example, there are many stories told of traditions, tribal stories passed down from generation to generation that got that tribe ready to hear the missionaries to come. Don Richardson tells the story in Peace Child, the Sawi people in Irian Jaya who had a tradition of a peace child, where warring tribes would exchange the son of the chief, and as long as that child was alive there could be reconciliation piece between the tribe. He used it as what he called the redemptive analogy. A way to explain the Gospel. They've been doing that for time immemorial. They didn't know when they started that. That was worked in providentially in that tribe. I heard another story, once of another tribe in a jungle area and they had passed down a prophecy by word of mouth of a man with yellow hair was coming with leaves with some kind of writing on it that would come and tell them the way to know the Most High God. Is there any chance that missionary is going to be bald or red-headed? No! Yellow hair. Imagine the mission agency, they don't know about the prophecy, they know nothing, and they're like, “Yeah, I like this guy, he's got yellow hair.” That's their requirement for the job, but God got that tribe ready to hear the Gospel in advance even, I don't know, centuries in advance or it could be just an individual encounter that God prepares.
When we were missionaries in Japan, I had the experience of going, every Saturday, I would go to Takamatsu and I would take a train from Tokushima to Takamatsu and teach the Bible in English there, and then I would take the train back. And one thing I noticed on that train ride is that Japanese people didn't like sitting next to me. And listen, I was looking after my hygiene, I was doing what I needed to do whatever it was necessary but it just, I frequently had an empty seat next to me. The train could be crowded. So after a while, I kind of liked it. I actually used it, just put my books there, I had a little more space and it was good. But you know, until one day, a young man came, college-age, and asked if he could sit next to me, Japanese man. I said “Sure.” So I moved my books, and he sat down, and we got in a conversation. It turned out his mother is a Christian, but he's not a Christian, not yet, and he had questions about Christianity. He didn't sit down to talk about Christ, he just sat down. But we got into an incredible conversation about an hour long train ride and it led to many other Bible studies and he eventually came to faith in Christ and he said, after that happened, he said, "I think it was God's work in my life that I sat next to you on the train. I'm usually very shy, and I don't talk to strangers. And so God was working in him and in me to get us ready for that encounter.
Walking Daily in a Pathway of Good Works
“That We Should Walk in Them”
And it's a pathway of good works, it says literally that we should “walk in them.” The NIV just simply says for us to do. I like "walk in” better so I like quote the NIV until I get to the end of that verse and say that we “should walk in them.” Is that okay? Anyway, that's what I do. “For we are God's workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance that we should walk in them.” So, again, I get this picture of like tunnel vision, and this is the road ahead of me and I need to do these good works, this is how I'm going to make my way through my life. And Mondays works are not Tuesdays works and Tuesdays works are not Wednesdays works, and I can never go backward and do yesterday's works and I honestly can't go ahead and do tomorrow's works. I've got today's works to do today. And so we need to redeem the time, don't we? We'll get to that in Ephesians 5, but we need to make the most of every day, “redeeming the time because the days are evil.” So what kind of good works?
Well, he didn't say what kind, but I'm going to break them into two categories. Here in our church, we talk about the internal journey and the external journey. The internal journey is sanctification, or growth in Christ-likeness, growth in holiness, sanctification and good works. And then the external journey, is works you do in service to other people. You could say external, what either external to me, it could be both Christians and non-Christians are external to the church is non-Christians as we're reaching out. Okay, so two categories that I'm commending to you. Sanctification and service. Those are two main categories of good works that God wants you to do, that you should walk in, or another way to put it would be works of growing and works of going. So if you like the alliteration, I will give you two versions of alliteration. Sanctification and service if you like the letter S, growing and going if you like the letter G, and you like the rhyme. But the point is that you would be “growing in grace in the knowledge of Christ” internally and going out to serve other people in whatever way God has determined. Both are needed.
Now, concerning the internal works, you are to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling,” you are to “grow in the grace and the knowledge of Christ.” How do you do that? Daily quiet times. Get up and have a time in God's Word every day, and have a time in prayer every day. Also you're to grow by being a covenant member of a good, local church and receiving the benefits of the Body of Christ as they pour into you, as people hold you accountable, as people speak into your life and you do the same, so good works of growing that will feed your soul. You have to, by the Spirit. Romans 8:13, "by the Spirit put to death the deeds of the flesh.” That's a work you have to do, if you're tempted in some area of lust, or weakness, or sin, you have to work and put that sin to death that's something you do by the power of the Holy Spirit. So those are works of sanctification.
And then there are works of service. So everyday life, just deeds you do with your hands, with your mouth, with your feet, things you do to serve others, and they could be menial and mundane. It could be just everyday stuff you do around the house. It could be like emptying the dish-washer or loading the dishwasher. It could be vacuuming, it could be chores. It says in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God,” the name of Jesus Christ. Do even the most menial things, those are some of the good works that you do. And we don't neglect them. But we also do good works toward other Christians by means of our spiritual gifts and so we're going to get to that later. I'm not going to say much about spiritual gifts now, but Ephesians 4, is all about it. But there it says in Ephesians 4 that, “to each one of us grace has been apportioned as Christ measured it out,” that Christ has given you. Each of you, a spiritual gift package, by which you can serve other brothers and sisters in Christ and advance the Gospel. And so you need to know what your spiritual gifts are and do your spiritual gift ministry.
And there are other things that don't have anything to do directly with spiritual gifts but just ministries of care and compassion for other Christians, ministry of mercy. Going to visit people in the hospital, making a meal for a couple that just had a baby, or it has a medical need, there might be works of financial generosity where you see a financial need and you meet it financially. Home fellowship starts tonight. The works of just getting the house ready and hosting a home fellowship are good works that God's prepared in advance for you to walk in, beautiful works that bless others. Works of hospitality.
Then there's works of evangelism and missions, reaching out to lost people. And that's something I just have a heart for in our church, that's the future of our church that we would grow and flourish more than ever before. In works of outreach of evangelism, external journey ministry. I am yearning for us to help, like the elders, to help people become better evangelists in their world. It's staggering to me, all the different mission fields you folks are going to go scatter to this week. All the workplaces, and schools, and neighborhoods, and malls, and shopping areas, and all these things. You're going to go throughout this week, and it is up to us to prepare God's people for works of service, “so that the body of Christ can be built up,” it says in Ephesians, get you ready for that.
So one of the things that I would commend to you is the idea in terms of evangelism, say, "Lord, I want to be a witness. Would you please today give me someone to talk to? Just give me someone to talk to. And Lord, make me alert to it, I pray for that, and I want to be faithful, I'm willing to be bold but I don't need to even share the Gospel, I just want to talk to somebody knowing that my desire is to be evangelistic, but I want to just be more social, more outgoing and connect with somebody. Connect that also if you would with a challenge I'd like to give to each member of our church. That a year from now, somewhere between now and a year from now, you will develop a list of five people that are lost, you know them to be lost, by name that you're praying for, for them to come to Christ. I'm not saying you should evangelize them. I'm kind of saying that, we'll get to that another time, but I'm just saying that you're praying for them now, that's all, you're just praying for those five names. Now if you say, "I don't have five names,” then just go get them. Go to the same convenience store every week until you know the name of the person who's there on Monday evenings, find out what his name is or her name is. Ask if there's some way you could pray for them. They'll usually tell you something, even if they shut you down, you can still get their name. And just they're one of your people and then just until you've got five, all of us can do this. And then Home fellowships, I urge you to just hold each other accountable, who are you five? Well, I've got two, great praise God. Be positive, no guilt, just positive. Great. Who are you two? I'll pray for you for those two. So, we're going to do in our home fellowship this year and it's something I want to urge you to do. We are God's workmanship created for evangelistic good works, which God has prepared in advance for us to walk in. At some point as you're pleading with God to send some missionary or evangelist to this person, it might be you and God might just work that in your heart. So, assess yourself. As you listen to this sermon, assess yourself.
It says in 1 Timothy 6:18, “they are to do good and to be rich in good works, to be generous, and ready to share.” Talking about the rich there, but I think it's true there. Are you rich in good works? That's what I'm asking you, just look at your life. Are you rich in good works? Do you feel a sense of excitement about God crafting you to do a specific array of good works today and in your lifetime? Do you look at every day as unique in terms of God going ahead of you, preparing good works for you to do? Are you doing the daily good works of internal holiness, daily quiet time, Bible intake, prayer, putting sin to death by the Spirit, is that happening for you? Are you feeding on God's word? And are you using your spiritual gifts? Do you have a spiritual gift ministry here at FBC [First Baptist Church of Durham]? Are you doing a pattern of good works? If not, just find out, say, "Lord I want to, give me a ministry here,” and then evangelistically reaching out, as I've shared. Close with me in prayer.
Father, this is such good news, it's such a blessing to know that you have eternally significant, good works for us to do that we're not justified by works, we are no more children of God because we do the good works than before we did them, and we're no less if we should miss some, and we feel terrible, and we ask forgiveness for being selfish, or we're cowardly and not doing the good works, but Lord, we're secure, we're children of God, but Lord, we want to please you, and we want to do these good works. Lord, open our eyes to them, and help us by the Spirit to walk in those good works in Jesus' name. Amen.