PASSAGE 3- The Fruit of Faith Produces Obedience
Ephesians 2:8-10 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
This last passage is one that will take some very special and careful explanation. We all love this verse- how can it be any clearer? Our justification is purely Christ alone! Nothing can be added to Christ as the atonement for our sin. He paid it all and we simply receive this immeasurable gift by trust. We can not work or earn God’s favor- we do not merit it by good deeds- we can not add to it.
But the Scriptures do present a part 2. We do not believe in faith plus works- but we do hold to a faith that works. The amazing forgiveness we receive and the indescribable love that accomplished this feat compels us to follow the one who gave so much. Over time- an understanding of the gospel and the presence of God’s Holy Spirit should produce a general trend of obedient and abundant living. It is a slow process, it is a frustrating up and down, forward and back, existence- but there is ample Scripture to show that Christ died so that we may live- not to our ourselves- but to Him.
POTENTIAL PROBLEMS IN APPLICATION OF A SANCTIFICATION STANDARD OF OBEDIENCE
Now, the biggest mistakes we make in this area is when we (1) try to sanctify others or (2) buy into a false belief that education equals reformation.Let’s take these two things separately. As soon as I begin to grow in obedience and receive the blessings of living within God’s design I want others to join me. Often, this is a good intention- and it can serve a dual purpose: I want to celebrate success and bring someone with me. But before long I see a subtle and sinister root take hold- I begin to expect things in others that I have done myself. I begin to compare my successes with failure in others and at some point I begin to demand in others MORE than I expect in myself. In a short amount of time- I have walked away from the gospel of grace and built a prison of legalism and instead of loving others, I am oppressing them. How quickly I have abandoned salvation by grace through faith.
The second mistake is to accept the notion that education is the key to reform. This is a tough one, because my entire professional life has centered round the value of education. There is a noble use of education and also a diabolical one. In its purest noble application, education is about teaching skills of observation, communication, thinking logically, reading, writing, and mathematical computations to allow for a greater degree of knowing God and evaluating all of life by His truth.The potential problem of education and its diabolical application is producing knowledge that creates pride and artificial division of people. A Christian is NEVER anti science/technology/or knowledge- but he must see this pursuit as what it is- a result of the Biblical mandate to subdue and rule the earth as a good steward and not a power grab.
I guess the clearest example of this is what has transpired to human society in the wake of the enlightenment- once we elevate education over piety – it creates and unintended competition where we judge men according to academic credentials and not the content of character. And we begin to believe that advancements in knowledge will solve man’s biggest problems. The enlightenment, with all of it’s great achievements, unintentionally lifted up elites and gave them a voice based on knowledge, but not necessarily wisdom or morality. High intelligence has a hard time keeping an ego in check- and slowly trades questioning to cynicism or skepticism- and enthrones reason.As reason generates knowledge- it also creates power- and power in the hands of a man, especially one without a moral compass – can quickly generate oppression and greed.
Now, let me stop here and clarify what I am NOT saying. I am not saying that education is evil. I strongly lament the retreat that has happened in the evangelical world in regards to educational excellence and participation and I sadly admit to the intellectual laziness that places God in the gaps of knowledge and indulges in distraction and distaste for hard questions- we have no excuse here. What I am saying is that the church continues to evaluate progress on the city of man’s standards of intellectual arrogance and not the humility and gratitude of acknowledging that ALL TRUTH IS GOD’S TRUTH and placing everything under the authority of His Word.
Here is a subtle hint of how this is not ingrained in our current thinking. What do I spend the most time on and give the weightiest praise to? My daughter’s knowledge of the high priestly prayer in John 17 or her ACT score? What gets me more excited- her ability to speak in Spanish or her ability to quote Romans 1? Again- we should praise God if our children make a 29 on the ACT and get excited about foreign language… but wouldn’t it excite us if they loved the Bible so much that they read it….memorized it…used it… taught it…? And believe me, I am condemning myself as a parent as I write this.