The Purpose of Good Works

“So, what exactly is the purpose of good works in the Christian life?”

 

1) Is it to gain a right standing before God or be accepted by Him? Is it to try and appease His infinite, holy, and just wrath against our sin? Is it to earn our own salvation from the right wages of our sin, spending an eternity in conscious bodily torment as the just penalty for our offense against God?

No, because salvation cannot be earned. Rather, it is a free gift of God. The Word of God reads:

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 6.23

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.” – Ephesians 2.8-9

 

2) Does this question seem irrelevant? Are works to even play a part in the Christian life since salvation is by grace? 

Yes. Works do play a part. In fact, they are a vital part of the Christian life, as they serve to validate the Christian faith:

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? … So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead … For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.” – James 2.14-17, 26

 

3) Is it to make much of the Christian? Is it to make moral the pagan man? Is it to clean up that which would otherwise be filth? Is it to exalt the Christian that he might appear good before others? Is it to puff-up the Christian in order to look down his nose at others?

No. While genuine salvation does cleanse, it is not about spreading the cause of morality or elevating self-image. Rather, it is about making much of God:

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 5.16

 

So, what is the purpose of good works? To point those around us to the Father. This can be evangelistic if we find ourselves in the company of non-believers or it can be for the purpose of building up the body of Christ when in the company of fellow believers. However, it is always to validate the profession of faith we have already made and affirm the salvation we have already freely received, to the glory of God, the Father.

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For Everything There is a Season

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die…” – Ecclesiastes 3.1-2a

This photo was taken of my Dad holding my daughter 2 weeks prior to his death.

I feel like God has been allowing me to live the reality of these verses over the last few months. Yesterday would have marked my Dad’s 69th birthday, but he did not live long enough to see it. On the flip-side, my beautiful baby girl is now 3 months old, an age that we were not sure we would ever see her attain.

The irony of both lives is the timing of it all. It all started this past October. See, my father was not even diagnosed with cancer until he came to stay with us a few weeks prior to our daughter’s birth (October 28, 2011). He was intending to be there to help support our family during our daughter’s birth the birth and subsequent open heart surgery (to correct a congenital heart defect known as transposition of the great arteries). Little did we know that by the time our daughter arrived my Dad would be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and himself hospitalized with only months to live. In the days following our daughter’s birth, we were in-and-out of hospitals visiting our either recovering daughter or weakening father.

By early November, our daughter had grown strong enough to be released from the hospital. Due to the success of her surgery, we were told that she would likely go on to live a full, healthy life. Around that same time, my Dad’s symptoms grew worse so he began chemotherapy. Within a matter of a couple of months, the doctors informed him that the chemotherapy was no longer producing the desired results so they sent him home on hospice.

During the course of those months, I watched the Lord daily strengthen our daughter while I watched my Dad simultaneously (once 6′ 3″ and 220 lbs.) wither away physically. By early January, the doctors informed my Dad that they thought he would only have a couple weeks left to live … they were right: the Lord called my Dad, John Edgar Hart, home to his eternal resting place on January 19, 2012.

For me, God’s mercy and grace have been on full display over these past few months in so many ways. Not only did He graciously allow my husband and I to be entrusted with our precious daughter for now by extending her life beyond birth, open-heart surgery and recovery. However, He also magnified His mercy by allowing my Dad to live a full life all the way to the very end, free from intense pain & suffering. Most importantly, while my Dad’s body was wasting away from cancer’s consumption, God seemed to strengthen my Dad’s faith and cause it to shine all the brighter! I got to see my Dad live-out Paul’s sentiments:

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” – 2 Corinthians 4.16-18

Overall, these last few months have been bitter-sweet in so many ways, but I would not trade them for anything. God has revealed Himself to me in new and exciting ways as I have had to learn to trust Him and His Word in unfamiliar ways. I am so blessed … but I sure do miss my Dad.

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Great Prayer Points for Parents

My husband referred this blog post to me almost a year ago and I have been so blessed by it. I have since printed it off and keep it in my daily reading Bible to pray through for my own kids now (and for myself!). I pray that this will be helpful to you.

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Tikvah = HOPE (Update #5)

We are so grateful to be able to report that Tikvah Hadassah Kirkland was born on Friday, October 28, 2011. After about 2 hours of active labor and 2 pushes, she entered into the world weighing 7 lbs., 13 oz. and measuring 19″ long.

The NICU team whisked her away after a brief “hello” in order to stabilize her and confirm her diagnosis of transposition of the great arteries (TGA). They found everything as anticipated and scheduled her for surgery the following week.

On Wednesday, November 2, 2011, Tikvah had open-heart surgery to correct the placement of her arteries. The Lord brought her through the surgery and immediate recovery with flying colors. After waiting a couple of days to allow her heart’s swelling to subside, they were able to surgically close her chest cavity by Friday, November 4, 2011.

The next goal was to try and remove the breathing machine and begin weaning her off some of her meds. By Monday, November 7, 2011, she was completely off the breathing machine and off of all of her medication.

The final goal before the hospital could discharge Tikvah into our care was to get her to feed orally. It is not uncommon for babies to loose their ability to coordinate the suckling, swallowing, and breathing reflexes successfully enough to be able to feed from a bottle following such extensive surgery. However, God displayed His amazing grace once again in allowing Tikvah to take to the bottle right away. By Monday afternoon, she was feeding orally from the bottle and able to keep everything down. Today, we tried nursing and she latched-on right away!

Now, they are planning to discharge her as early as tomorrow morning! To God be the glory for the great things He has done in the life of this little soul. We are so incredibly humbled to have witnessed first-hand His amazing hand at work in the life of Tikvah Hadassah Kirkland. It will be such a joy to see the rest of His plans for her life unfold in coming weeks, months and (Lord willing) years!

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Tikvah = HOPE (update #4)

Scheduled to arrive this Thursday, October 27, 2011 (by inducement), we are looking forward to discovering how our great God is going to answer all the prayers and petitions that have gone up on behalf of little Tikvah Hadassah Kirkland.

Specifically, these are some things we have been praying for:

DELIVERY
1) God would uphold the health of mother-and-child during labor so that Tikvah might be born “naturally” (without the need of a cesarean).
2) There would be no additional health complications during labor/delivery.
3) God would bring the right team of doctors together to address Tikvah’s needs following her delivery.
4) God would give the doctors wisdom to determine exactly when it would be the optimal time to schedule the surgery.

SURGERY
1) God would begin (even now) to prepare each member of the surgical team for the surgery they will be performing on Tikvah (i.e. providing them things like appropriate research, information, experience, adequate rest, heightened awareness, ability to focus, etc.).
2) Clarity and communication among the members of the surgical team before and during the surgery.
3) The heart-bypass machine transfer goes smoothly.
4) Steady hands for the surgeon.
5) Connection of pulmonary arteries is straight-forward. (Apparently, this is one of the most crucial aspects of the entire surgery.)
6) Wisdom for the team of anesthesiologists in responding to any potential “surprises” during the surgery.
7) God would fuse all of the new placement of Tikvah’s arteries and not allow for any leaks.

If you would like to join us in prayer, we will be sure to post how God answers these prayers so that you can rejoice along with us in our God’s great goodness!

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God is an end in Himself

After being convicted recently about my lack of consumption with God’s glory (namely, His personhood), my husband wisely pointed me to one of his theology books, Christian Theology by Millard Erickson. Skipping straight to the section on “What God is Like,” I have since been soaking in the seeming simplicity and vast complexities of our great God. However, one section in particular really seemed to strike the point of my conviction and that was the following:

Further, our relationship with God is not merely a one-way street … He is a living, reciprocating being. He is not merely one of whom we hear, but one whom we meet and know. God is to be treated as a being, not an object or force. He is not something to be used or manipulated. While our thinking and practice may at times betray such a view, it is not consistent with the biblical picture. The idea that God is simply something to be used or something that solves our problems and meets our needs is not religion … God is an end in himself, not a means to an end. He is of value to us for what he is in himself, not merely for what he does … it is because of what he is that he is to be loved and served, not only supremely but exclusively. God as a person is to loved for what he is, not for what he can do for us.” (p. 270-271)

That is the rub for me. After reading this passage, I was confronted with the question, “Do I worship God because of all that He is or because of what I think He can do for me?” I want to be able to say that I am a follower of the true and living God for Who He has revealed Himself to be through His written Word, but when I truly examine my “thinking and practice” at times it would suggest otherwise.

May God continue to humble me and reveal areas of sinful idolatry that I may return to a sincere heart of worship before Him … that He may be my supreme end!

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Are You Suffering from the Departure of God’s Arrangements?

And what is one of the chief causes of hindrance? What is it that in these times so often prevents the child of God from “taking heed” unto himself? This: he is far to much engrossed in attempting to “take heed” for others. The woman who has spent much of the day in attending to domestic duties, the man who has been toiling for his daily bread, instead of spending the evening quietly in spiritual devotions, prayerfully studying God’s Word, giving “attendance to reading” (1Timothy 4:13), and thus feeding his soul, removing the world’s stains acquired through the day, and conversing with his family upon the things of God, has a round of religious meetings which he must attend, numerous church duties which he must perform. So it is with many on the holy Sabbath. Instead of that being, as God has designed, chiefly a day of rest, only too often it becomes the busiest of the whole week. No wonder that so many are little better than nervous wrecks! And all because of departing from God’s arrangements.”

-A.W. Pink,

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When was the last time your faith turned into wonder?

In speaking of the believer’s knowledge of God, Bavinck writes:

Their faith turns into wonder; knowledge terminates in adoration; and their confession becomes a song of praise and thanksgiving. Of this kind, too, is the knowledge of God theology aims for. It is not just a knowing, much less a comprehending; it is better and more glorious than that: it is the knowledge which is life, ‘eternal life’ (John 17:3).

-Herman Bavinck

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Do you hold confidence in the flesh?

The flesh “profiteth nothing.” The flesh has no part in the works of God. All fleshly activities amount to nothing where the regeneration of dead sinners is concerned. Neither the logical arguments advanced by the mind, hypnotic powers brought to bear upon the will, touching appeals made to the emotions, beautiful music and hearty singing to catch the ear, nor sensuous trappings to draw the eye — none of these are of the slightest avail in stirring dead sinners. It is not the choir, nor the preacher, but “the Spirit that quickeneth.” This is very distasteful to the natural man, because so humbling; that is why it is completely ignored in the great majority of our modern evangelistic campaigns. What is urgently needed today is not mesmeric experts who have made a study of how to produce a religious “atmosphere,” nor religious showmen to make people laugh one minute and weep the next, but faithful preaching of God’s Word, with the saints on their faces before God, humbly praying that He may be pleased to send His quickening Spirit into their midst.

—A. W. Pink (1886–1952)

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Pain

 

‘Unbearable,’ did I say?
I take it back, Lord;
Forgive me for staining my lips
with the world’s language.

What I mean is
it hurts—it hurts a lot,
and I am having difficulty
bearing up.

But I know
You won’t test me
beyond my ability
to face pain
Your way.

And in time—Your time—
You have promised
to bring relief.
That expectation alone
helps immensely.

Help me also to remember
that others have endured successfully
among whom, principally,
was my Savior Himself,
Who bore all I am undergoing
and much more.

It is He Who sets pain’s limits.
I must try to understand
something of the pain He suffered
for me.

That opportunity makes it all worthwhile
But there is more in this for me.
As at no other time I look forward
to the new body I shall receive,
a body weighed down
with everlasting glory.

As I see this
suddenly, thankfully,
I realize—by comparison—
my pain
is but a temporary, light affliction
that I can endure
for my Savior’s sake,

Amen.

-Jay Adams, September 24, 2011

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