Yesterday we were talking about the importance of helping the poor, widows, and orphans. I even threw out the harsh statement that if we fail to do these very things, then maybe, just maybe, we are not Christians after all.
If you have not read yesterday’s post, I encourage you to do so now.
Today, I wanted to tackle the issue that is no doubt running through many of your minds: How can failing to serve the poor and such mean I am not a Christian when the only requirement is a belief in Jesus Christ.
Merriam Webster’s definition of Christian: one who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ.
I would say that this definition is slightly wrong in the fact that in order to be a Christian you not only have to profess a belief, you actually have to believe in the teachings of Jesus Christ.
How do you know if you or someone else believes in the teachings of Jesus Christ?
Matthew 7:16-20 (NKJ): 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them.
As David Platt so clearly puts it:
“The faith in our hearts will be evident by the fruit in our lives”
As we discussed yesterday in Matthew 25, God is adamant that those who fail to give food, water, clothes to those in need will not enter the gates of Heaven. This should be an eye opener for us, yet for most of us, it does nothing because we are resting on salvation based on grace.
I agree whole-heartedly with David Platt with his statement in Counter Culture regarding grace and salvation:
The only basis for salvation is the work of Jesus in and through his life, death, and resurrection, and the only means to salvation is trust in him. The good news of the gospel is that based on what we have done and everything Jesus has done-by his grace alone, through faith alone in him-God will declare us right before him. In this way, the gospel frees us from any and every attempt to earn God’s acceptance through our work. (p. 30)
Okay, then how does this fit where I was going?
Well, that is because grace is not the end of the story. I know that will not be a favorable statement, but bear with me a moment.
As Mr. Platt indicates in Counter Culture, there are two definitions of works in the bible. One being actions done in the flesh in order to earn God’s favor. As we just discussed, such works are completely insufficient to earn salvation. All our best, most radical works will never be enough to merit salvation and allow us to stand before a holy God. However, the Bible also refers to works in terms of actions fueled by faith in order to bring glory to God.
1 Thessalonians 1:2-4 (NKJ): We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers, 3 remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father
2 Thessalonians 1: 11-12 (NKJ): 11 Therefore we also pray always for you that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness and the work of faith with power, 12 that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Galatians 5:6 (NKJ): 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.
Furthermore, while most of us can recite Ephesians 2:8-9 by heart ( For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.) Most of us cannot tell you what the following verse states.
Ephesians 2:10 (NKJ): We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
Yes, we were created for good works!!!
Good works are not something we do to earn Heaven; good works should be our fruit, the product of our salvation.
..We realize that caring for the poor in not only necessary evidence of faith in him; it is the natural (or supernatural) overflow of faith in him. Doesn’t it make sense that those of us who love God as our Father would subsequently live as ‘imitators of God, as beloved children,” walking “in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us” (Ephesians 5:1-2)? As people whom Christ has cared for sacrificially in our poverty, aren’t we compelled to care for others selflessly in their poverty (p. 31-32)?
In other words, if we truly believe in the teachings of Jesus Christ, shouldn’t we then not only follow the teachings of Christ, but be imitators of Christ, doing what Jesus did: helping the poor, widows, and orphans? Please note that we are not to care for the poor, widows, and orphans because we “have to.” No, that would be works in the sense of gaining favor from the Lord. Rather, we care for the poor and such because it is a natural “want to” compulsion as evidence of our salvation (our fruit).
Caring for the poor, widows, and orphans is the evidence of our salvation not the means to our salvation!
This is definitely got me thinking, praying, and seeking the Lord. I pray it does the same for you.
Be blessed this day!