Works: Good or Bad?
Revelation 2:2-3 ESV
“I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary.”
Jesus knows our works, and “works” are not all a bad thing, as some people would have you believe. Yes, we are not saved by our fleshly works, by our own human efforts to be approved by God, but works are part of our salvation, they are part of our walks of faith in Jesus Christ, but they are the works of God which he prepared in advance that we should walk in them.
[Eph 2:10; 1 Co 15:58; 2 Co 9:8; Gal 5:6; Php 2:12-13; Col 1:9-14; 2 Thess 1:11-12; 2 Tim. 2:21; Tit 2:11-14; Jn 15:1-11; Tit 3:8; Jas 2:17]
So, God does approve of some works, provided they are the works he has assigned us to do for the glory of God. For, we are instructed of God to be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord our labor is not in vain (1 Co 15:58; 2 Co 9:8).
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. And as we have always obeyed, so now, we are to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in us, both to will and to work for his good pleasure (Eph 2:10; Php 2:12-13).
We are to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. And we pray that our God may make us worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power (Col 1:9-14; 2 Thess 1:11-12).
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives while we wait for Jesus’ return. For Jesus gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works (Tit 2:11-14).
The Love You Had at First
Revelation 2:4-5 ESV
“But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.”
It is possible, though, to do a lot of the right things, and for the right reasons, but to not have Jesus as our first love anymore, to not have him in the position of first place in our lives, with our lives fully dedicated to him and to his service. For other things may have come into play which have replaced him in our hearts, which may have moved him to second place.
For to love with agape love is to prefer what God prefers, which is what is holy, righteous, honest, moral, decent, upright, and pure. And it is to make the Lord our preference above all others. He is to be in first place in our lives. He gets top priority above all else.
But in the busyness of life with all its stuff which pulls us here and there, even to good stuff, even to showing God’s love to others and doing kind things for other people, it is possible for us to lose sight of making our Lord first place in our lives to where he gets top priority over all else.
We can be so busy doing the good that we ought to do that we don’t spend the time with our Lord in his word, and in prayer, and in stillness listening to him speak truth to our hearts, then doing what he has for us to do at this moment, at this time in our lives, on this particular day of the week, etc.
We can get so busy making our own plans, without consulting him to make sure they are his plans for our lives, that we run ahead of him and we do the right things, but perhaps not the best things at that moment in time. For, if Jesus is our Lord, our lives are to be directed by him moment by moment.
We are to be listening to our Lord, sensitive to his promptings, and willing to change our plans, if necessary, to suit his plans which are higher than our plans, even if our plans are doing good things, even good things for others. For, we can get so caught up in the doing of good things that we lose sight of him and of what is his best for us at this moment, on this day.
We can get so caught up in the “doing” that we neglect our personal relationships with the Lord, the intimacy of divine fellowship with him, and the sensitivity to the Spirit’s voice to obey him moment by moment in doing what he wants us to do at this moment in time.
So, if that is where we are, even a little bit, to where the intimacy of our relationships with the Lord are being neglected, and to where we are not being sensitive to his voice to obey him moment by moment, but to where we are determining our own steps, making our own schedules, then we need to repent, and to return to making him truly #1 in our lives.
Yet This You Have
Revelation 2:6-7 ESV
“Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.”
I find this particularly interesting how the Lord then added an additional word of encouragement after the rebuke. It is as though he knew they would need this additional encouragement. And I am glad that when he rebukes us, if indeed we are his, and if indeed we are doing the things he has called us to do, that he does encourage us, too, so that we are not disheartened.
But sometimes we need to be rebuked. Sometimes we do get off course, maybe just a little, maybe a lot, and we need to be reigned back in. We need to be reminded of our “first love” or the “love we had at first.” We need to be reminded that Jesus is to be our Lord (owner-master) and that we are His, and that we are here to do his will, not our own.
So, this is a reminder that we need to be listening to our Lord, that we need to be sensitive to the Spirit’s promptings, not just to not sin, but to do whatever it is the Lord wants us to do each day, and each moment of each day, for not every day is the same, and we may be called to do one thing one day and to another thing on another day.
Our walks of faith are to be moment by moment, listening to our Lord, doing what he says, fulfilling his calling on each one of our lives. So, we must guard against going ahead of God, doing the right things, mind you, but leaving him behind, not listening to his promptings, and not putting him and his immediate will for us in first position.
So, what we need to conquer is self and self-will, making our own plans without consulting the Lord to see if those are his plans. Even if what we plan to do are good things and right things, we need to make certain they are God’s best for us at that moment. Jesus needs to be owner-master of our lives every day, and we need to follow him each step of the way.
O For A Thousand Tongues To Sing
Lyrics by Charles Wesley, 1739
Music by Carl G. Glaser, 1828
Oh, for a thousand tongues to sing
My great Redeemer’s praise,
The glories of my God and king,
The triumphs of His grace!
My gracious Master and my God,
Assist me to proclaim,
To spread through all the earth abroad,
The honors of Thy name.
Jesus! the name that charms our fears,
That bids our sorrows cease—
’Tis music in the sinner’s ears,
’Tis life, and health, and peace.
He breaks the pow’r of canceled sin,
He sets the pris’ner free;
His blood can make the foulest clean,
His blood availed for me.
He speaks, and, list’ning to His voice,
New life the dead receive,
The mournful, broken hearts rejoice,
The humble poor believe.
Glory to God, and praise and love
Be ever, ever giv’n
By saints below and saints above,
The church in earth and heav’n.
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