Posted by: Mike Willoughby | July 6, 2011

Relationship Matters (Acts of Service)

When I began this series in April, I wrote about having an attitude of service and I promised to deal with the actual acts of service at the end of the series.  Here we are at the end of the Relationship Matters Series and I want to spend a few moments on Paul’s directions in Titus 3:4-8 concerning good works.

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people.

This passage is very similar to the more familiar passage in Ephesians 2:8-10.  Take a moment to compare the two passages.

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 his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

In each passage, Paul wants to make sure we do not confuse the purpose of good works.  Good works are not for the purpose of earning favor with God or making up for our bad thoughts and actions.  Our spiritual life is not like a set of scales where we try to balance the side with negative behavior by loading good deeds on the opposite side.  Favor with God and reconciliation with Him comes through Jesus Christ and is freely offered to each of us with no strings attached. 

However, that does not mean God is neutral with regard to good works.  God is very passionate and purposeful about good works in our life.  Notice from the passage in Ephesians that He created us like a master craftsman fashions a fine watch with a specific purpose in mind according to a very detailed design.  My challenge is to discover that purpose in my life as I allow my choices to be influenced by the Spirit of God.

It is also very important that I know who powers my good works and who deserves credit for whatever accomplishments may flow from my life.  We are created in Jesus Christ specifically for good works.  Engaging in acts of service is simply following in the path He designed for me.  Walking in the path God designed for me with a spirit of obedience and submission to His will is a component of my salvation.  Read this passage from Philippians 2:12-15.

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.  Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.

At first blush this passage doesn’t sound like something Paul would write.  “Work out your own salvation” seems at odds with the other passages I’ve quoted in this article.  However, notice who is actually doing the work and who gets the credit.  Paul writes, “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”  This passage is actually in perfect harmony with the Paul’s theology about works.  My acts of service are simply in response to God’s will, God’s opportunity and God’s power.  Good works are about obedience and fidelity to my design and not about justification or reconciliation.  Justification and reconciliation through Jesus Christ comes first, good works follow as a natural response to and cooperation with my salvation.

Finally, Paul reminds me that good works “are excellent and profitable for people.”  These things are beneficial and necessary for the believer but they are also beneficial for those around us.  Obviously there is always a beneficiary of a helping hand offered to someone in need.  Our good works are even beneficial to folks who selfishly live for themselves – folks we might be tempted to write off as hopelessly twisted and crooked.  Your acts of service help you shine as lights in a dark world differentiating you clearly from the darkness.  In this respect, you stand as an example of God’s design for this life and you personally bring the presence of Jesus Christ into the lives of those who need to feel His touch the most.  I believe this elevates doing good works as the greatest privilege we can have in this life.  Through acts of service we get to be the actual hands and feet of Jesus, working for Him in the lives of those we come across every day.

In this life, relationship really matters and nothing communicates love within a relationship as effectively as Godly acts of service!

Until next week,

Meet me at the intersection!

Previous Intersections Articles

Relationship Matters (Courtesy) Three Birthdays Doomsday Preparedness 101

Copyright © 2011 Michael Willoughby. All Rights Reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to author and/or owner with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Responses

  1. Pearls of wisdom. God’s wisdom that is. In fact only wisdom comes from God and then to follow what He says. Thank you Mike for sharing, Every day as a Christian we are challenged to do good works but we know that only God is worthy of that glory and no one else . Have a blessed day in the Lord. Jean

  2. Very well stated, Mike. I appreciate your heart. Good deeds are not essential for salvation, they are indicative of salvation. I think we run into trouble when we determine that religious works such as church attendance, Bible studies, and other rituals are the limit of “good works.”

    As you have aptly stated, relationship matters. In fact, the foundation of the Gospel of Christ is relationship: our restored relationship with God in Christ, and then how that relationship affects our relationships with one another. There is everyday faith to be lived.

    The believing church is so often afraid of doing a “wrong thing” that we neglect to do the good works that can impact our world. In Matthew 25, as Jesus described the separation of the “sheep and goats,” what distinguished the two groups were not their religious works or wicked acts, but their intentional acts of simple kindness – a drink of water, a quick visit, some warm compassion…or a lack thereof.

    You are so right. We are not saved through good works, only through the blood of Jesus Christ. That salvation is proved through good works, for no one can truly encounter the mercy and grace of God and not live a life of gratitude by doing likewise.

    Thank you again!
    michael
    http://www.TheEconomyOfTheSoul.com


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