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Sunday, February 19, 2017

God Created You To Be A Good Works Machine - A Sermon

You are God's workmanship created for good works. This is the manuscript of a sermon that I delivered at Christ Church, Los Angeles, CA.The audio recording of the sermon is included in the manuscript.

Ephesians 2:8-10 (NKJV)  For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,9  not of works, lest anyone should boast.10  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

God created you to be a good works machine. The good works are not for salvation, but because of salvation. (FAITH/WORKS)   

Romans 4:1-4 (NKJV) What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.

Works in the Scripture are the product or fruit of salvation, not the cause of it. - The Wycliffe Bible Commentary.

There has always been the debate about whether there must be works I  order for a person to be saved or is salvation by faith alone.  James I believe tells us that while salvation is by faith alone, the faith that results in salvation will be proven by works.   Here is what he said;

James 2:14-20 (NKJV)14  What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?15  If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food,16  and one of you says to them, "Depart in peace, be warmed and filled," but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?17  Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.18  But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works." Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.19  You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe--and tremble!20  But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?

Then he goes on to use Abraham and Rahab as people who because of their faith did something to show that they had faith.  What James is saying here is that there is genuine faith which is backed up by works and there is empty faith which is really not faith at all. The works James is talking about are not done apart from faith but done in faith, they are not done instead of faith but done because of faith.

The Greek word translated “workmanship” is “poiÄ“ma”, and it occurs in only one other place in the New Testament, and that is in Romans, where it is translated, “things that are made.”

Romans 1:20 (NKJV)  For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,

The reference here is to the original creation.  

Genesis 1:1-5 (NKJV)1  In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.2  The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.3  Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light.4  And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness.5  God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day.

Just as God brought about a new creation then, He does it again at salvation.

2 Corinthians 5:17 (NKJV)17  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

That new creation has to get rid of some of the old things and replace them with other things.   

Colossians 3:8-14 (NKJV)8  But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth.9  Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds,10  and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him,11  where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.12  Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering;13  bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.14  But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.

This new creation is made for the good works that God has ordained for us to do?  

Each one of us is completely unique – there will never be anyone just like you. That might be a relief! God knows us personally with all our strengths and weaknesses.  There is a  scripture says that we are fearfully and wonderfully made.
Psalm 139:13-14 (NKJV)13  For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother's womb.14  I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well.
All the frailties and strengths we have are not accidental – they may be influenced by our environment and setting, our biology, our culture and so forth but God knows all this and factors it in. God has made us, we are His work and He has a purpose for everything he makes. Whether that purpose is fulfilled as God would have it ideally fulfilled is another story. He has given us freewill so whether we accomplish His purpose in and for us is to some degree up to us.

What are these good works?

Let’s go back to the second chapter of Ephesians for a minute and start at the first verse so that we can see what they are not.

Ephesians 2:1-3 (NKJV)1  And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins,2  in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience,3  among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.  

Paul identifies some of the works of the flesh in

Galatians 5:19-21 (NKJV)19  Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness,20  idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies,21  envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Jesus, said that you could identify people by their works, or their fruit.  

Matthew 7:15-20 (NKJV)15  "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.16  You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles?17  Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.18  A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.19  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.20  Therefore by their fruits you will know them.

If you can recognize these people by their works or actions then it stands to reason that the opposite would be true as well. As God’s new creation, you, should be known by your work, but in your case those works would be good works.  These good works God has prepared for us to do are in direct contrast to the works and lust of the flesh.  

These good works are the result of the seed of the fruit of the Spirit sowed in you at salvation.

Galatians 5:22-23 (NKJV)22  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,23  gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.

The fruit of the Spirit is the result of the Holy Spirit's presence and working in the lives of believers and as we mature the fruit becomes more developed.

I said at the very beginning, salvation is by grace and entirely of God, but so are the good works that follow salvation. Just as we cannot claim any glory for ourselves in our salvation, we can’t claim any glory in our good works.

Titus 2:11-14 (NKJV)11  For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men,
12  teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age,13  looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,14  who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.

Grace saves, but also teaches and trains in godly living.  Good works are the fruit of the Spirit, the seal of God's ownership.
The Heidelberg Catechism of the Catholic Church gives us a good summary of what Scripture teaches about good works.
  1. Good works, they arise out of true faith. True faith in Jesus Christ is what produces good works. Faith is what connects us to Christ and so when we are connected to Christ, what’s happening is that Christ is living in us and he’s doing the good works!   We saw that in what we read in James about showing our faith by our good works
  2. Good works, they conform to God’s law. Everything we do has to fit within the boundaries, the parameters of God’s law, or the Law of Christ.  We identified the law of Christ last week.  
The Law of Christ is to love God with all of our being and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves is the law of Christ.Love is to be our motivation for our good works.
Mark 12:28-31 (NKJV)28  Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, "Which is the first commandment of all?"29  Jesus answered him, "The first of all the commandments is: 'Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one.30  And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.' This is the first commandment.31  And the second, like it, is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these."
  1. Good works, they are always done for God’s glory.
Colossians 3:23-24 (NKJV)23  And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men,24  knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.
Ephesians 6:5-9 (NKJV)5  Bondservants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ;6  not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart,7  with goodwill doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men,8  knowing that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free.9  And you, masters, do the same things to them, giving up threatening, knowing that your own Master also is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him.
We want God’s name honoured! We want His kingdom advanced! We want the world to know that God sent his Son to save and that we have the privilege to do good works for him!

Most of us think these good works are: attending worship services, praying regularly, studying Scripture, giving generously from our financial resources, joining a small group, going on mission trips, caring for the poor, working for justice for the oppressed, loving our neighbors, etc. These are certainly among the good works that God has prepared for us, but if we stop with them we miss the complete purpose of what God has prepared for us.  Our good works are not  just religious activities but a lifestyle.

This means that we don’t just do them in our spare time. Walking in good works means that this is what we do every day and in every situation. This means that your good works can include that which you do at work, in the classroom, on the football field, in your neighborhood, and in your community associations. If you're a boss, part of your good works involve the way you manage your employees. The more we grow in our faith, the more we see ourselves as God's masterpieces, the more we will indeed do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, by his strength, under his authority, and for his purposes.

We are God’s workmanship. God knows everything about us… every detail of our lives. He formed every part of us and planned every day of our lives before we were born.

Psalm 139:16-18 (NKJV)16  Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them.17  How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them!18  If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand; When I awake, I am still with You.

Sermon Audio

Charles Spurgeon summarizes these good works as, works of obedience, works of love, works of faith, and acts of common life (Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit [Pilgrim Publications], 31:152-153). By works of obedience, he means obeying the commands of Scripture. Works of love includes both love for God and love for our fellow man, with an eye to God’s glory. Works of faith refers to all that we do in reliance upon God and His promises. By acts of common life he meant whatever we do at home, at work, traveling, or on a sick bed, that we do all to the glory of God. In other words, the entire bent of our lives after we have been saved by God’s grace should be lived with a God-ward focus, to please Him. - FROM THE SERIES: EPHESIANS Lesson 15: Salvation and Good Works (Ephesians 2:10) by Copyright, Steven J. Cole, 2007, All Rights Reserved.
PRAYER:   Help me, Lord, to walk in the good works you have in store for me. Help me to be open to all that you would have me do. Teach me to see my whole life as you see it. By your Spirit, may I come to see every moment of every day as an occasion to do good works—including good work—for you. Amen. - From What Are the Good Works God Has Prepared for Us?Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling

Romans 15:5-6 (NKJV)5  Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus,6  that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

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