Wellington, New Zealand Photographer: Pavel Špindler
The idea that we are created and called for good works shows us that God is good. God wants to use us to preach the good news of Christ, make disciples, build community, love the poor, give hope to the hopeless, experience his love by loving others, and to be a force on this earth for justice and good works. God wants us to participate in His kingdom works because He loves us. It is clear from the scriptures that we are not at all justified by our works, but instead works follow the true believer in Christ. Martin Luther calls this ‘fides viva’, a living faith.*
Although the idea of doing good in the earth is an attractive idea it is all too easy to crowd out God’s work from your life. G.K. Chesterton said “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.” When Jesus gave the parable of the sower He tells us that some hear the word of God and rejoice but are later choked by the cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and do not mature.
So how can we live a life of good works? I believe the answer lies in Paul’s letter to the Galatians. He tells the church to be filled with the Spirit and tells them if they sow to the Spirit, they will reap from the Spirit. Being filled with the Spirit means many things, singing songs to God, praying, reading the scriptures, serving others, thanking God, among many other things. One thing living by the Spirit certainly does not mean is living your faith privately and inwardly. Our faith is to be active, relational, and full of service. God calls each of us to make an impact to those around us.
In the Middle East is the biggest hypersaline lake in the world, the Dead Sea. The sea has a depth of 997 feet deep and is 9.6 times saltier than the Ocean. Very little aquatic life can live in the sea due to the high saline levels. The reason the sea is so salty is because it is an endorheic lake, which means water only flows into the sea and not out of it. This causes mineral build up including the salt. If an outlet existed there would probably be abundance of life in the sea.
The Christian life I have found has some resemblance to the principles at work in the Dead Sea. If we are living a life that only receives but is not active with the works of the kingdom we will eventually find ourselves dead inside, just as the sea is dead. The trend I see in myself and others is then to be more cynical, legalistic, prideful, and jaded. My knowledge of the Bible puffs me up and gives me a false sense of healthy stewardship. I know God intellectually but not in a way that is Biblical. Another trend I see is just to make my faith a completely inward institution that is divorced from the principles of the gospel. My faith ends up being a unsatisfying, unfruitful, singular narrative about my relationship with God, my wants, my desires, my life’s cares, and it blinds me to the hurting of this world.
Jesus loves us and wants us to participate in His kingdom and live fruitful lives. The Christian life looks outward to the world and cares deeply to make an impact. The apostle Paul tells the Phillipian church to do nothing from selfishnes but count others more significant than ourselves. Jesus tells us tells us in the book of Mathew that “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
*What is saving faith? R.C. Sproul Jun 23, 2017 Ligonier Ministries website.