What are you supposed to do with your life once you accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and are born again? Are you just to put your feet up and wait for the glories of heaven or, does God invite you to something more? In the Protestant world, good works are almost frowned upon, as if they are a bad thing. We have catch phrases (that do not come from the Bible) like, “Christianity is all about being and not about doing”. Is that a Biblical attitude? Let’s turn to the Word of God and find out.
I. We are reconciled to God to work
The Apostle Paul addresses this issue in the book of Ephesians. Ironically, many Protests use this passage today to bash works in relation to salvation.
10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. (Ephesians 2)
Salvation is an act of God. He does the work. We receive the results of that work. But, salvation does produce good works in us and through us. In fact, the Greek word that is translated “work” in this passage and the passages that will follow, is “ergon” and it could be translated as “occupation” instead of a simple action. God saved us for a reason, to walk in a new occupation on this earth. The same Apostle Paul explains what he means by believers having a new occupation when he wrote to the church in Corinth.
18 Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation,
19 namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (II Corinthians 5)
Our new calling is to be ambassadors of Jesus Christ. Our new occupation is to share the good news of reconciliation to God via Jesus Christ. This work has been committed to us and it is our new occupation. This is God’s plan for every single born again believer. We do not have to sit around and pray and wait for God to reveal His will for our lives if we are followers of Christ.
Jesus worded it a little differently in the Great Commission, but the idea is still the same. We are to be about the business of making disciples. Our new occupation as born again believers is to make disciples. In order to do that, we need to be discipled, we need the Holy Spirit, we need the Word of God, and we need people around us who need to hear and believe the message.
II. Paul’s example
After the Apostle Paul was born again, he received a new occupation. Before his transformation, his occupation was persecuting Christians. Once he was changed, he became a proclaimer of the message that caused Christianity to spread. In Acts, we see that Paul and the believers of the early church understood that their new life was also a new occupation. Before, they were fishermen, religious people, tent makers, tax collectors etc. Once they accepted the message of the Gospel, the became proclaimers of the Gospel who happened to make tents, catch fish etc.
2 While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” (Acts 13:2)
As Paul and Barnabas were walking with the Lord, they were ministering. Walking with God cannot be separated from works. If your love (serve) the Lord with all your heart, you will serve (love) your neighbor. The two are inseparable. While doing this, the Lord called Paul and Barnabas and set them apart to go and “work”. This is their occupation. They are totally dedicated to it.
Later on in Acts, we discover that there are some who do not want to fully accept this new occupation, for whatever reason. John Mark was one of those people. Here is what Paul says about the people who do not want to fully accept this new occupation of ministry/disciple making.
38 But Paul kept insisting that they should not take him along who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. (Acts 15:38)
A person who does not want to walk in the good works which God prepared for born again believers to walk in is useless. Paul cannot trust this type of person, especially when his life is on the line for his new occupation. Praise the Lord that John Mark was confronted by Barnabas, repented, and was restored to his new occupation and he continued to walk in the good works prepared by God. The good works are God’s plan. Choosing not to walk in them is an option, but, know that if you do, you become useless. I do not know about you but, I do not want to be there.
This is exactly what Paul taught his disciples. This was not just for the apostles or church leaders. This was the way of life for every born again believer.
20 but kept declaring both to those of Damascus first, and also at Jerusalem and then throughout all the region of Judea, and even to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance. (Acts 26:20)
III. Jesus’ teaching on HOW to accomplish the good works
His teaching is found in the Sermon on the Mount. This is the calling that every follower of Christ has until the day that they die or, the day that the Lord returns.
17 “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. 18 “For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 “Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5)
Christ explains that the good works that God has prepared for us to walk in during our lifetimes as believers is to keep the Word of God. As we apply the Word of God to our own lives, we are motivated and moved to teach the Word of God to others. If we do this, we will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. On the other hand, if you annul the Word of God, which means to separate yourself from the Word of God and teach others about God using something other than the Word of God, then you will be called least in the kingdom. Both teach, but, one uses the Word of God while the other separates his teaching from the Word of God. This is how we make disciples. This is how we share the Good News of reconciliation to God. This is how we live as ambassadors of Christ.
One final word, from the Apostle Paul on the subject of good works.
10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me. (I Corinthians 15)
I am able to do what I do because of the grace of God and the fact that God is working with me and through me. I do not do it all on my own and God does not use me like a robot. We work together to accomplish His Good Works.