“…how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” (Hebrews 9:14)
We can assume dead works are ‘high church’ religious observances – what we sometimes refer to as ‘smells and bells’. We may become rather smug, thinking how free we are. But ‘dead works’ actually means a lot more than this.
As the term suggests, ‘dead works’ are deeds we do which have no life in them, done simply by going through the motions without exercising any faith. We can do all manner of church activities out of habit, or maybe out of a sense of duty because we feel we ought to.
Another example of dead works is ‘presumption’; we simply assume that God is with us. An example of this is in the Old Testament: shortly after the Israelites won a famous battle where the walls of Jericho fell, they assumed they could go to battle against the city of Ai with just a few thousand men in order to give everyone else a rest. However, they failed to consult God first and discovered He was angry with them because of sin in the camp. This story can be found in Joshua 7.
The obvious question to ask is “did God tell you to do it?”. It may seem to be a noble task you are about to undertake, but has God asked you to do it? He has a specific plan for each one of us. This does not mean that we wait for a definite ‘go ahead’ for everything that we set out to do, but it does mean we should pray about our plans. God will clearly guide us if He doesn’t want us to proceed.
In 1 Corinthians 13 the apostle Paul talks about being able to speak in tongues, having great prophetic gifts, and giving everything we have to the poor. But if we don’t have love then these are all dead works too.
If we are at all unsure of our acceptance in Christ, we can quite easily fall into a works righteousness pattern, attempting to impress God or other people. But as we have seen over the past few weeks, grace makes us completely free from having to earn any credit at all. A lovely little verse to hold onto (amongst many others) is this:
“Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness.” (Romans 4:4-5)
How amazing is that? We don’t work, we trust God, and it is credited to us as righteousness. As I have mentioned before, the more we read God’s word, the more this truth will become a part of us and set us free.
These thoughts have been taken from Terry Virgo’s fantastic book ‘God’s lavish grace’ which I heartily recommend. You can order the book by clicking on the links on the left.