Good Works are Good

IMG_0102 copyFor Lord’s Day, January 5, 2014

Dear Saints,

In Sabbath Class last week, we in part studied chapter 16 of the Westminster Confession of Faith, “Of Good Works”.  I pointed out that too many Protestant Evangelicals today live out the Roman Catholic caricature; that is, sinful living and neglect of good works will be the result of teaching justification by faith alone.  The Reformers answered this accusation saying that saving faith is never alone, but will naturally be accompanied by good works.

Good works are the fruit of faith’s roots.

As part of my devotions this week, I noticed an emphasis on good works as essential for God’s people in Paul’s letter to Titus. When I preached through this letter a while back, we noticed in the opening verses that Paul makes it clear he is outlining an equal concern both for correct belief and correct behavior.  The phrase, “good works” occurs five times:

  • A lack of good works is evidence that some are simply not truly Christians: They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate. (Titus 1:16).  A related theme by Paul is a concern to not blaspheme God with a bad witness by a lack of Christian integrity (See 2:5 and 8, for example).
  • Following the example of older men, the young men are to be, In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: …  (Titus 2:7).  Good works are not something our young people are exempt from until they “mature”; rather, they are equally to be examples of such.
  • As we saw in Ephesians 2:8-10 last week, good works are what God has eternally purposed to save us to be about: [Christ] gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. (Titus 2:14). Notice, not only are we saved to do good works; if we are saved, we should be good work zealots (more literally in the Greek).
  • So Paul closes his letter with this concern: let ours also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful. (Titus 3:14)
  • Thus, just before these last words on Christian good works, Paul insists on pastors regularly emphasizing good works to be done by true believers: This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men. (Titus 3:8)

Now, we must emphatically insist that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone without any of our own works as meriting eternal life with God.  However, if we are truly saved in Christ, we will be eager to do good works as a witness to His work in our lives.  As James writes,

  • Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my [good] works. (James 2:17-18)
  • Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. (James 3:13)

Beloved, good works are good.  They do not save. But without good works, and without a zeal for them, no one should think he or she is saved.  So let me heed Paul’s command to pastors, and affirm that you be careful to maintain good works.  And may you return the favor and pass it on to all the brethren: And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: (Hebrews 10:24)

Or, to put it another way, as we have often quoted Paul elsewhere, “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25).

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

What Are You Doing for Jesus?

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For Lord’s Day, September 29, 2013

Dear Saints,

This Lord’s Day evening, we will further consider what is forbidden in the 6th Commandment, “Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13).  We will focus on this clause of the answer for Westminster Larger Catechism 136: ” … the neglecting or withdrawing the lawful and necessary means of preservation of life”.

Our featured Scripture will be Matthew 25:31-46, where Jesus talks about coming back to judge the world as He separates the sheep from the goats.  The sheep go to heaven, the goats go to hell, and both destinations are related to their contrasted relationships with Him as evidenced in how they met the basic life needs of the least of His brethren (vs. 40). I was reminded of this dramatic interpretation of the text by the incredible Christian songwriter and pianist, Keith Green (now with the Lord).  I encourage you to watch the linked YouTube clip. It’s powerful.

What made me remember this live performance (I have the album) is what Mr. Green said at the end of it: “The only difference between these two groups of people, according to these Scriptures, is what they did and didn’t do.”

Jesus said that as much as you do, or do not do, to the least of His people, so you do or do not do directly unto Him.  Paul knew first hand the truth of killing Christians being synonymous with crucifying the Body of Christ (Acts 9:4-5).  Jesus says in Matthew that neglect and withdrawal from taking care of His people is just as serious to Him.

Beloved, what are you doing to Jesus right now?  The answer is in how you treat His Church.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

 

How to Witness in Your Job and Keep It

Dear Saints,

Do you want to get a job?  Keep your job?  Advance in your job?  Increase your pay?  Improve your benefits?  Receive favor by your boss and work well with your co-workers?

Over the last two weeks, the Westminster Larger Catechism sermon series (Q&A’s 127-128) has instructed us how to do this.  Below is a business marketing e-newsletter I received this week by Roy Williams that I thought was a poignant message well worth forwarding to you in light of the honor you and I owe to our superiors as we transition tomorrow night into the duty our superiors owe to us (WLC Q&A 129).

We will continue to see in both regards that treating our superiors and inferiors in a God-fearing, Biblical way serves our own best interest, as evidenced below. And as demonstrated below, we will continue to see in the evening sermons that follow that such submission and leadership always is primarily a matter of our hearts.  Mr. Williams summarizes in his article the need for attitude adjustments in this sentence:

“Employees don’t lose their jobs because they lack skill. They lose their jobs because they don’t have a good attitude.”

Folks who can’t stay in one place often have an attitudinal issue with submitting to authority, or with being good and proper authority figures.  May we learn better and better from those whom God sets over and under us how to honor Him by honoring them, that:

  • … the word of God be not blasphemed. (Titus 2:5)
  • … that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you. (Titus 2:8)
  • … that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things. (Titus 2:10)

As Peter also commands: Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king. (1 Peter 2:17)

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

The MondayMorningMemo© of Roy H. Williams, the Wizard of Ads®

The Insightful Advice of David McInnis

I’ve had a handful of memorable moments.

Among them is a meeting with Zig Ziglar in 1986. Zig stood at a whiteboard and smiled at the 20 of us staring back at him with big eyes. Zig had written several bestselling books and created America’s most popular sales training program. The 20 of us were neophyte managers, trembling with excitement at having been chosen to be in that room.

Marker in hand, Zig said, “Name for me every attribute of the perfect employee.”

As we called out attributes Zig wrote them down. We had nearly 90 on the board before we began to slow.

“Can you think of any others?” We painfully named two dozen more.

“Think hard. I want you to describe the perfect employee. I need every attribute.” We studied that whiteboard until we began to sweat. We got to 114.

Pointing now at the first word on our list, Zig asked, “Is this a skill or an attitude?” We said it was an attitude. Zig wrote a big “A” next to it. Pointing at the second word, he asked, “Skill or attitude?” Another big “A.”

Twenty minutes later, Zig tallied the final score: of the 114 attributes on our list, only 7 could be classified as “Skills.” Five were “Skills/Attitudes,” and a whopping 102 of them were purely “Attitude.”

Zig could have saved himself 30 minutes by just blurting out the punch line: “Employees don’t lose their jobs because they lack skill. They lose their jobs because they don’t have a good attitude.” But Zig didn’t want to say these things and then try to convince us of their truth. Zig wanted us to say them, and thus convince ourselves to “always hire people who have the right attitude.”

I sat there drenched in realization and recalled a few lines from Elbert Hubbard’s famous rant of 1899, A Message to Garcia.

“I know one man of really brilliant parts who has not the ability to manage a business of his own, and yet who is absolutely worthless to anyone else, because he carries with him constantly the insane suspicion that his employer is oppressing, or intending to oppress him… Tonight this man walks the streets looking for work, the wind whistling through his threadbare coat. No one who knows him dare employ him, for he is a regular fire-brand of discontent.”

Twenty-five years after that meeting with Zig Ziglar, I had a similar moment with the great David McInnis. “I finally figured out how to improve employee morale,” David said, “Productivity skyrockets and everyone loves coming to work. It’s a program that never fails. Works every time.”

I stood there looking at David.

He stood there looking at me.

Finally, I raised my shoulders and turned my palms upward. Looking steadily into my eyes, David said, “Fire all the unhappy people.” Those words struck me with such comical force that I began to laugh. But David wasn’t laughing.

None of us wants to run a sweatshop. None of us wants to be that hard-hearted boss who fails to appreciate the humanity of employees. None of us wants to abuse our people with the cold pragmatism displayed by Wal-Mart.

And this is why so many businesses become country clubs for employees.

Here’s how it happens: a whiner makes a reasonable request and you grant it. That request is expanded upon and accelerated until it ceases to be a privilege granted to employees and becomes an inalienable right. And that was only the first request in an unending stream of others brought to you by an increasingly dissatisfied staff. And you, sadly, are now seen as the oppressive King George.

But this revolt is unlike that famous one of 1776. This time it will be King George that delivers the declaration of independence to the whiner.

David’s advice, and mine, is that you identify the “firebrand of discontent” within your company – if you have one – and give that person a smiling declaration of independence as you shake their hand, thank them for their months of service, and say, “You are now Free… free to go.”

It’s a plan that never fails.

Roy H. Williams