How we live, as Christians, matters. Why our good works matter, however, is not what you probably are thinking.
Yes, Jesus calls us to obey Him. But He also died for us because He knows just how impossible it is for us to be perfect.
I was thinking about our good works as Christians again recently while reading through the gospels, and I came to this story.
Now it happened on a certain day, as He was teaching, that there were Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting by, who had come out of every town of Galilee, Judea, and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was present to heal them. Then behold, men brought on a bed a man who was paralyzed, whom they sought to bring in and lay before Him.
And when they could not find how they might bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the housetop and let him down with his bed through the tiling into the midst before Jesus. When He saw their faith, He said to him, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.” And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, He answered and said to them, “Why are you reasoning in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise up and walk’?
Luke 5:17-23 (NKJV)
Forgiveness is Vague, Healing is Visible
Obviously, it’s easier to say, “Your sins are forgiven you!”
Because no one can see whether or not it actually happened. For all anyone knew, it could just be an empty promise. Forgiving sin is a vague concept to an unbelieving crowd. What does it even mean?
And, there’s no proof required. you’d never really know if you got forgiveness of sins until you’re standing before God.
Jesus knew this. So, He continued,
But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the man who was paralyzed, “I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” Immediately he rose up before them, took up what he had been lying on, and departed to his own house, glorifying God. And they were all amazed, and they glorified God and were filled with fear, saying, “We have seen strange things today!”
Luke 5:24-26 (NKJV)
Jesus knew he was talking about concepts — the forgiveness of sins, for example — which are a little hard to grasp. These are not ideas you can easily see or touch.
Works are the Proof of Christ’s Message of Grace
To prove His point, to show the unbelieving crowd that what He was saying was real, He had to demonstrate something they could see. He healed the man.
Obviously, it’s easier to say you’re sins are forgiven than to say, “take up your bed and walk!”.
It’s easier to
- tell someone about “God’s plan of Salvation” than it is to live a Christ-like life.
- leave a tract for a waitress instead of a generous tip, and feel like you’ve done your duty.
- knock on a door and tell invite someone to church than to cultivate the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) to your co-workers.
- look down on those who do those things you don’t do as a Christian than it is to have the heart of compassion and grace Christ had.
The Natural Man only Sees Your Works
You may be thinking, as I’ve heard, that it’s not your fault if someone wants to use imperfect Christians as a lame excuse to reject Christ.
Well, Paul addressed that. He wrote,
But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
1 Corinthians 2:14
In other words, someone who is not a Christian, a natural man, who has no frame of reference for spiritual things, is not going to be able to understand spiritual concepts. Their brain and heart are stuck here in the natural world. They are here, in the natural world, only trusting what they can see and experience for themselves.
What they see and experience is the Christians they know and are watching.
Salvation by Grace is Best Preached by Gracious Christians
Before I was a Christian and I was actively rejecting all things Christianity, it was primarily because of what I saw in Christians. How was I to believe the message of salvation by grace through faith if I never experienced any grace at all here in the real world from Christians?
As a Christian now, I understand just how difficult it is to live grace every day.
So. Very. Hard.
Our works are not about spiritual brownie points.
Obviously, we want to please our heavenly Father. But more importantly, we want to demonstrate Christ in our post-Christian culture.