A lot of people have this idea that they can earn God’s love and rewards based on their own good works, on their own performance, that if they do “such and such” for God that he will in return give them what they want. So, they “do” for God hoping to receive rewards from God, but that is not how it works. That is not God’s design. That is humans’ design.
For, we can’t approach God on our own terms. We can’t even believe in Jesus Christ unless God the Father first draws us to Christ, i.e. unless he persuades us to forsake our sins and to follow him in obedience. Even the faith to believe in Jesus comes from God and is gifted to us by God, and Jesus is the perfecter of our faith. This faith is, thus, not of ourselves.
[Eph 2:8-10; Heb 12:1-2; Jn 6:44; 2 Pet 1:1]
I am reading in Colossians 1, and I am struck by how much this passage of Scripture describes God’s role in our salvation and in our sanctification:
• Being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might
• God who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints
• He has delivered us from the domain of darkness
• He has transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son
• In Him we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins
• All things were created through him and for Him
• He is before all things. In Him all things hold together
• He is the beginning.. that in everything he might be preeminent
• Through Him to reconcile to himself all things
• Making peace by the blood of Christ
• He has now reconciled you in His body of flesh by his death
• In order that He may present you holy and blameless before him
• Paul, a minister according to the stewardship from God for you
So, we can’t do anything in ourselves to deserve or to earn our own salvation and eternal life with God. We can’t love God in ourselves in order to gain his rewards. We can’t even love God in our own flesh because the kind of love God says we must have for him comes from him, too. We can only love God because He first loved us and because His love is now in us.
In other words, he gives us the gift of love, and he gifts us with faith, and he grants us repentance, etc. Everything we are as believers in Jesus Christ comes from God and is not of ourselves lest we should boast that we somehow did something to earn or to deserve our own salvation (See: Eph 2:8-9). But… it doesn’t end there.
God gifts us with all these things, but they are things we must put into practice in our daily lives. Still, the strength, the power, the wisdom, the courage, etc. for us to be able to put these things into practice all come from God. We just have to appropriate them to our lives by surrendering our lives over to God’s will and purpose and by letting him do his work within us.
• Epaphras is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf
• Epaphras has made known to us your love in the Spirit
• Pray you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will
• So you can walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him
• Bearing fruit in every good work, increasing in the knowledge of God
• Giving thanks to the Father
• Jesus has reconciled you in order to present you holy…
• IF indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast
• Not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard
• Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone that we may present everyone mature in Christ
• For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works in within me
So, you see that it is God who gifts us, who strengthens and empowers us but then we have to do what he says, but not in our own strength, but in his strength, under his guidance and direction. And all this is for his glory, not for our glory. The goal of it all is to be pleasing to God for his praise and glory and for his purposes and will and for the good of our fellow humans.
Yes, there are rewards involved. But we don’t work just to get rewards. We work because it is God working in us working his will and purpose in our lives which is for his praise and which is for the good of others. We do what he says because we love him and we want to obey him and because we love our fellow humans and we want what is best for them.
And this is because it is God working in and through us and it is not us, in our flesh, doing this, if indeed it is God working in us and it is not us in the flesh trying to earn our way to heaven. We have to cooperate with God. We must do what he says. But he is the one directing it all and he is the one empowering it all, so it is him working through us for his glory.
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph 2:10).
He “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” (Titus 2:14).
“…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Php 2:12-13).
So, you see, we can’t work for God independent of God. We can’t just do “good deeds” of our own choosing hoping that will get us rewards in heaven. That is based on selfishness. And Jesus said that if we are to come after him we must deny self, take up our cross daily (daily die to sin and to self) and follow (obey) him (Lu 9:23-26). But again it is Him working through us.
So, choosing to love and obey God is selflessness, not selfishness, because it involves full surrender to Jesus Christ, submitting to Jesus Christ as Lord, leaving our lives of living for sin and for self behind us, and following our Lord in surrender and in obedience to his will for our lives. It is us dying with Christ to sin and to self and letting God work his will and purposes in and through our lives, which is for his praise and glory, not for ours.
Yes, we must surrender, and yes, we must repent, and yes, we must obey, but none of this originates with us or is done in our own power and strength, and it should not be done for our own praise and glory if it is truly of God and if it is done in his power and strength and wisdom. So, it all comes from God and it is empowered of God, but we must yield control to God.
Breath Of Heaven (Mary’s Song)
Songwriters: Amy Lee Grant / Chris Eaton
I have traveled many moonless nights
Cold and weary with a babe inside
And I wonder what I’ve done
Holy father you have come
And chosen me now to carry your son
I am waiting in a silent prayer
I am frightened by the load I bear
In a world as cold as stone
Must I walk this path alone?
Be with me now
Be with me now
Breath of heaven
Hold me together
Be forever near me
Breath of heaven
Breath of heaven
Lighten my darkness
Pour over me your holiness
For you are holy
Breath of heaven
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