A few weeks ago, before my summer got really busy, I asked the public to tell the world what they thought was wrong with the church. Here is one response:
Religiosity- Trying to cultivate our own righteousness when we have none of our own- Christ is our only salvation. Even those who reject works as a means of justification can still fall into a pattern of action that might suggest they are somewhat prideful about their sanctity. We all, especially those who love the intellectual challenge of the bible, can fall into the the same trap of the Pharisees, presuming ourselves in God’s favor because we follow the letter of the law and not the heart behind it. This occurs to the point that we argue over whether babies should receive communion whilst there are hungry to be fed and sinners to be saved.
Addressing this issue? Humble ourselves, repent of our pride. Getting all who need to to do this is the problem. I don’t have the answer.
Hmm… this is a tough one! One of the most common questions and places of error in the church is the whole sphere of righteous works and actions.
Can we attain righteousness by being good enough? Plainly, we cannot. Romans 3:20 says this:
“Therefore, no one will be declared righteous in his [God’s] sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.”
Plainly, we cannot attain any righteousness on our own simply by doing a whole bunch of good things. Yet, my original question was “What is wrong with the church?” Should Christians do good works and pursue them as if they are important?
The answer is, in short, yes.
We are declared to be righteous by God through His grace in Christ Jesus and through our faith. This is justification and it is what saves us. After we are saved what should we do?
There are, broadly speaking, three options:
- We can continue to do everything the same as we did before we were declared to be righteous.
- We can commit even more sins because now we have been forgiven.
- We can attempt to live in a way which reflects the grace of God in our lives.
Which of these is the correct option? Quite obviously we must reject the second option. The first one is also not to be accepted because the nature of repentance, which is part of the ‘process’ of salvation, requires a change in lifestyle. So we are left with the third option. Christians should attempt to live in a way which reflects the grace of God in their lives.
However, this is where the problems begin. People are easily led into the trap of doing good things in order to please themselves and other people. Good works and a lifestyle which is built around pleasing ourselves and other people -even if the other people are nice, good and Christian – is not what the Christian life is about. There is a simple word which sums up the Christian life:
“What?!? Surely not THAT word!?!” Some people will object in precisely this way to such a term. “We are free in Christ!” they say. “It is for freedom He has set us free!” they proclaim. Yet this is only a portion of the picture. Are we free in Christ? Yes, we are.
Free from what?
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.”
We are not free in Christ from all obligations to righteousness. We are not free in Christ from the duty to obey God. We are not free in Christ from the commands of the Spirit of God.
We are bound to all of the above.
We are set free from sin and death and released into a life which is given over in slavery to Christ. By necessity this new life in Christ must produce good works in us. If it does not do so then something has gone wrong and we are defective.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from 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 for us to do.”
Plainly, Christians have good works to do.
The key thing to remember is that these good works are the works of God and not ourselves. These good works are not the works of the church. These are the works of God. Here we should be looking to the Bible to tell us what God requires.
“He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
Perhaps I could go on. Yet the point must surely be clear by now. The good works we are meant to be doing as Christians come from the heart of the Father to love people. If our good works are solely focused on building ourselves up into our own ideal Christian or living in such a way that other Christians think we are the ideal Christian then we have gone wrong.
Our focus should be, as slaves of Christ, set on pleasing the Father in all things.