Determined to Pursue Godliness

Too many of us are lazy Christians. I’m including myself in this, too. We think we’re not doing too bad at following God. We avoid big sins, we pray a couple times a day, carve out 1/2 an hour for Bible study, and go to church. We may even do something particularly virtuous and pat ourselves on the back certain that God’s pleased with us. But perhaps our expectations of ourselves are too low.

When the apostles asked Jesus to increase their faith, He asked them a question. “Which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and sit down to eat’?” The implication is that none of them would. Instead, they’d expect the servant to make them dinner and serve them before eating his own supper (Luke 17:5-8)

Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not. So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.’” (Luke 17:9-10)

Doing the bare minimum of what’s expected doesn’t earn us praise and it doesn’t do much to increase our faith. True faith before God doesn’t rest in simply doing what we’re told. It involves pursuing a higher standard.

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In the book Misreading Scripture With Western Eyes, Brandon J. O’Brien and E. Randolph Richards talk about a tendency in Western Christianity “to restrict the Christian life to avoiding vices.” However, “In scripture, the godly life is portrayed as a lifelong work, not a list of don’ts.” It’s not enough to avoid vices. We also have to put on virtues and cultivate right living as a habit instead of seeing virtues as spontaneous acts (p. 182). Read more

The Role of Works

We are not saved by works. We all know this — Jesus Christ is the only path to salvation and we are saved as a gift of God. We can’t earn it. We agree on that, but not every Christian agrees on what our role is in this process. Are you saved when you accept Christ? When you covenant with Him at baptism? some other time? Is salvation a permanent state or can it be withdrawn? Does salvation require good works, result in good works, or have nothing to do with works at all?The Role of Works |

God offers salvation freely as a gift, but we aren’t forced to accept the gift. It’s a choice that’s part of Him giving us free will. Choosing salvation involves more than a verbal acknowledgement of Christ as savior. God doesn’t just care about what we say. He cares about the state of our hearts and how that translates into the way we live our lives. The Bible is very clear that there will be people who think they’re following God, but who won’t be in His kingdom because they’re not following Him in the way He commanded.

The Gift of God

The key passages discussing grace and freely given salvation also have quite a bit to say about works. In Romans, for example, we’re told “the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many” (Rom. 5:15). It doesn’t stop there, though. Paul anticipates his readers’ questions, asking, “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” and “Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace?” Both are answered with an emphatic “Certainly not!” (Rom. 6:1-2, 15). This phrase is also translated “God forbid!” (KJV), “By no means!” (NIV), and “May it never be!” (NASB). When the gift of God frees us from servitude to sin we become servants of God, and servants are expected to work (Rom. 6:15-23). Freedom from sin gives us the ability to obey God, not license to disobey Him. Read more