May 232013
 

serviceGrace doesn’t only provide for our salvation and forgiveness of sins; it releases us to serve God and His people with grace gifts that have been provided for us.

Grace doesn’t mean we sit back and do nothing; it should motivate us to great works that please our saviour; as I stated in last week’s blog, never because we “ought to” but rather out of a desire to please Him.

Now we are followers of Jesus our calling is to serve Him.

And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul”. (Deuteronomy 10:12)

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms”. (1 Peter 4:10)

Every one of us has received gifts to fulfil the tasks that God has given us. These gifts are received by grace and they are acted upon with grace. It is an absolute privilege to participate in the building up of God’s church and to contribute towards the knowledge of His good name throughout the earth.

It is important to note that the gifts we receive are not rewards. They are not given as a result of reaching a certain level of maturity in our christian walk. Just as grace is given freely, so are these gifts given to us freely.

The apostle Paul was not afraid of hard work but his hard work was only accomplished through grace.

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.” (1 Corinthians 15:10)

An important question to ask from this passage is “how can God’s grace be without effect?” Or put another way “how can our response to His grace frustrate the work of His grace in our lives?”

I believe there are a number of ways this can happen:

(1) Grace is ineffective when we don’t believe it.

Doubt can be a major problem in accomplishing what God has given us to do. For example, God chose Moses who came up with a load of excuses about how unqualified he was (and God got quite angry); God called Gideon who was doubtful, saying he was the least in his tribe. Thankfully both Moses and Gideon pushed through and received God’s blessing, but it is possible to disqualify yourself through lack of faith. If God says you can do it, don’t argue; His promises are true and faithful.

(2) We can overdo grace and lean into licence.

Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.” (1 Peter 2:16)

Don’t have an attitude which says “it doesn’t really matter, I can just do what I like….”

(3) Legalism

I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” (Galatians 2:21)

You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.” (Galatians 5:4)

It is very easy to slip into legalism, but if we do we will become ineffective.

(4) Laziness

Hard work is no enemy of grace. The apostle Paul did not seem to mind speaking about his hard work (see previous verse quoted-1 Corinthians 15:10).

Keep going! If grace is central, you will be able to persevere. Life can get really hard at times and serving Jesus can be quite a struggle. As we have already seen, Paul was working tremendously hard, and on top of that he had a “thorn in the flesh” to contend with, but that didn’t stop him:

“…But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Also in 2 Corinthians 4:16 it says

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”

If you are beginning to lose heart I pray these last few posts will really help you to keep going. Don’t forget, His burdens are light (Matthew 11:30) and He only wants you to keep doing what He has given you to do, not what you feel you ought to be doing.

 May 23, 2013  Posted by at 7:59 pm Grace, Reward No Responses »
May 092013
 

rewardsLast week we looked at the whole subject of dead works and what they are. But did you know that whatever work we do which is not a ‘dead’ work will be rewarded?

The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work.” (1 Corinthians 3:8)

Each one of us will have our works examined and we will give an account to God for them. Later on in the same chapter of Corinthians it says what will happen to all of our works:

But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value. If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward. But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames.” (1 Corinthians 3:13-15)

All the dead works we talked about last week will be burned away.

We get an idea of how Jesus is going to judge our works in Mark 12. Jesus was watching the people putting money into the temple treasury: “…Jesus sat down near the collection box in the Temple and watched as the crowds dropped in their money.” (Mark 12:41). He saw the actual gift, the motivation and resourcefulness of each person. He also observed the attitude of people as they made a public show of their ‘generosity.’ Jesus did this through His limited human nature, but one day He will do it as God, the all-knowing judge who knows every motivation of our hearts.

As we come to realise that Jesus is the one who judges us rightly, we are released from what others may think and say about us. The apostle Paul puts it clearly in 1 Corinthians: “I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself.My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.” (1 Corinthians 4:3-5)

The bible also encourages us to carry out our works in secret as our heavenly rewards far outweigh any rewards this earth can offer: “…And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:5-6).

It is clear throughout scripture that Jesus is for rewards. We really shouldn’t be too pious to dismiss them. Our motivation, of course, is always to please Jesus but we should also be eager to receive the gifts He has promised. By playing down rewards we are playing down the joy of the Giver who is outstandingly generous and delights in giving extravagantly.

The apostle Paul didn’t seem too worried about working towards and gaining a reward:

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:7-8)

The danger of ‘ought to’.

Finally on this whole subject of our works: It is a very common trap in Christian circles to busy ourselves doing things we feel we ‘ought to do’. In fact we can burn out by attempting to do everything that needs to be done, feeling overwhelmed by our task. It is so important that we find out exactly what God’s will is for our lives and concentrate on that. We will always find good and noble works to do that occupy our time. God has not called us to save the world on our own – He has a specific plan. Be like Jesus: “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish His work.” (John 4:34)

After all, He said that His burden is light (Matthew 11:30). He has uniquely gifted you for the task He has given you to do. It may be hard but it is do-able, because a loving father would never give his child a task to do that the child is not suited to. If you find your work load impossible, you need to go back to God and ask Him what it is that you are doing that maybe He has called somebody else to do.

 May 9, 2013  Posted by at 8:21 pm Grace, Reward No Responses »