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“Works” is Not a Bad Word

by | Oct 14, 2013 | Blog, Redemption, Theology

Aaron Wilson is an Exodus Church member who is writing his first book titled, God is NOT a God of Second Chances…and Other Good News from the Gospel. The following is an excerpt from his book, releasing early 2014. 100% of the royalties from this book will be given to the Exodus Northlake church plant.

For more information, visit www.godisnotagodofsecondchances.com

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock… everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand” (Matthew 7:24–26).

“But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing” (James 1:25).

“So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:17).

Growing up, my grandparents would treat my siblings and me to an annual beach trip to a small island off the coast of South Carolina. During the three-hour drive there, I would wear out my bright red Sony Walkman by playing my favorite cassette, a beloved edition of “Wee Sing Bible Songs.”  One familiar tune on it contained the chorus, “The wise man built his house upon the rocks, and the house on the rocks stood firm. The foolish man built his house upon the sand, and the house on the sand went CRASH!”

Whether or not this song was a part of your childhood, you’re probably familiar with the four-verse parable it comes from in Matthew 7.  “Build your house upon the rocks, not on the sand,” it says.  The lesson being, a good foundation is important. As simple as this message is, few of us bring any real application from this story into our lives. Think about it. Can you put your finger on any real change that you have made in your life based on hearing this story?  If not, it’s probably because of the ambiguity we bring to the bedrock that Jesus is talking about.  If you were to ask most Christians, “What is the rock, the solid foundation that we are to build our life on?” most would respond, “Jesus.”  Although that’s not a wrong answer, this parable goes further than that.  According to Jesus, the solid foundation of a Christian’s life is hearing and doing the words of God (Matthew 7:24–26).  The rock in this parable is not just Jesus, it’s obedience to Him.

The reason this is important is because talk is cheap. It’s easy to say that you are a follower of Jesus. It’s something entirely different to take sacrificial steps to actually follow Him.  However, it’s these steps that confirm our saving relationship with the Lord.

Understand that obedience does not save. Christians are saved apart from works and through the grace of Christ. This salvation will be facilitated through faith and repentance though, and repentance is shown to be genuine through works. In other words, works don’t save, but they are evidence that we have been saved. This is why Paul and James can use the same Scripture in the Old Testament to prove that, “one is justified by faith apart from works of the law” and that “a person is justified by works and not by faith alone” (compare Romans 3:28 and 4:3 with James 2:23). Confusing? A little. Crucial truth to understanding the gospel?  Absolutely!

Confusing grace with works is a heresy that has spawned countless cults, religions and self-help philosophies. Banking your life on grace that is not accompanied by works makes you a happy-go-lucky fan of Jesus instead of a true follower. These two fallacies are where we get pharisaical religion and cheap grace. Both miss the cross from opposite sides.

Are you saved? God implores you to make sure. 2 Peter 1:10 says to “be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election…” And how do we confirm this?  By examining how our works are being shaped by the Gospel. Peter finishes the verse, “…for if you practice these qualities [see verses 5–7] you will never fall.”  Our works confirm that we have been saved.

There is a storm of God’s wrath brewing. It starts in this life and finds its full strength on the Day of the Lord or the day of your death. But there is good news! There is rescue! There is solid ground on which to build a house whose walls offer warmth and comfort in gales of the tempest. Is God, through His Gospel, building this house for you?  Look to your works as a warning or as a confirmation. For the Christian, works are not (contrary to popular belief) taboo. They are like fruit to a farmer who is inspecting his crop, determining if his plants are living or dead. In light of Jesus’ sacrifice, build on solid ground today by reading God’s word and obeying it. Take up your cross as a response to the great God-man who hung on one for you.  You will find no better building material!

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