The Shepherd of Hope blog is here to serve you, to help you know Jesus better and to find hope in Him. This blog relies on the Spirit of God using the word of God to build people of God. All material has been prayerfully submitted for your encouragement and spiritual edification. Your questions and comments are welcome.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

My work or the Work of God?

Then they said to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” – John 6:28


Are you frustrated in your relating to God? Feel overworked and unappreciated? Does what you do seem to never be enough; or at least that’s how you feel? I want to encourage you to consider that perhaps your perspective is a bit off. Jesus said His yoke was easy and His burden light (Matthew 11:28-30). I want to encourage you to come to Jesus for a better perspective.  


Jesus fed 5,000 plus people with five loaves of bread and two fish. It was quite a feat. It moved people to come back for more. When they did Jesus told them, Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him” (John 6:27). Baker’s bread in Jesus’ day had a seal of approval put on it to verify who had baked it. What Jesus was offering had the Father’ seal on it. You can trust what Jesus offers.


Jesus words seem to have had an impact on these people. “Then they said to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” (John 6:28). They were ready. It was as though they were saying, “Okay Jesus, what do you want us to do?” It was good that they came to Jesus, (even if it was initially for another free meal.) But Jesus had to put the brakes on their thinking. That’s because the people came to Jesus with a wrong perspective. The people responded with a religious mindset. That’s a problem.


While it is a step closer, religion is just as futile, frustrating and inadequate as merely living for the things of this world. Religion focuses on the work of man; what we must do to please God. When our focus is on doing a certain amount of good works to “work the works of God” we set ourselves up for uncertainty. That is because when we depend on our works to become righteous we never know how much is enough. There is no concluding word on how many good works a person must do to become righteous. That’s because good works are not God’s means of becoming righteous (cf. Romans 3-5; Gal. 1-4; Eph.2).


It was only natural for these unsaved people to respond with the idea that their destiny depended on something they had to do. This is horizontal plain thinking. But that was how they had been taught. That was the way of the Pharisees and religious order. And as long as our eyes are on the horizontal plain of this world we will never find fulfillment. Jesus alone is who we need.


The Tower of Babel is where the spirit of religion began (Gen. 11). Babel is where humanity began their effort to reach into the heavens. Babel is where people began to rely on their own ingenuity and effort. Babylon is a city born out of Babel. This is the root of all religion. It is the root of all false religions. And the focus is on human works and effort.


Religion is self-reliant and self-promoting. There is a religious element in the church. The spirit of religious “Christianity” is characterized by the embellishment of scriptural truth with human tradition. Religion’s understanding moves us contrary to and outside the lines of scriptural truth boundaries. That is not a place any true Christian should travel.


Religion interprets life in terms of , “what shall we do . . . .?” In Jesus’ day it was bound up in the Pharisees and Sadducees. These groups focused on ritual cleansing and human traditions that created clouds and fog that hindered recognizing Messiah Jesus’ coming. Even today there are people who overemphasize Old Testament feast days and laws. These are a shadow or type that point to Christ. They are of value only in pointing us to Christ (cf. Gal. 3:24). There is no added righteousness in keeping Old Testament Law. Once Christ came these things became obsolete. To focus on them would be akin to coming home and having your spouse bow down and worship your shadow rather than you yourself.


Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God,  that you believe in Him whom He sent.” (John 6:29). The way to being certain of our eternal destiny is through faith in Christ. John in his first epistle indicates repeatedly that a person can be sure of their eternal life with God (cf. 1 John 3:24; 5:13). When our eternal life and righteousness is based on what Jesus has done on the cross we can be certain of our salvation because Jesus’ work is complete; finished. Nothing can be added to the competed work of Jesus (1 Cor. 3:11). Therefore, when by faith we turn from our sin to God and trust Jesus as Savior, the Lord God forgives our sins, regenerates us spiritually, and gives us eternal life (cf. 2 Cor. 5:21). Jesus has done the work for us! (cf. Gal. 3:13). Wonderful!


When someone believes in Jesus as Savior and Lord and is saved from their sins it isn’t something they can take credit for. Salvation from sins isn’t something anyone can boast about. Belief in Jesus is a work of God. Humanity is dead in sin. People are spiritually dead and lifeless. (Eph. 2:1-3). Taking credit for being forgiven for our sins is like crediting a corpse for dressing themselves in a casket.


Salvation from sin is a gift of God’s grace. Grace means an undeserved gift. All humanity has sinned and deserves eternity in a place called hell (Rom. 3:10, 23). God is a Just Judge and He upholds a perfect sinless standard (Psalms 7:11). A day of judgment is coming whereby Jesus is the standard of righteousness (Acts 17:31). By God’s standard and requirement even one solitary sin condemns (Gal. 3:10-13; James 2:10). And the condemnation is an eternal death sentence in hell (Rom. 6:23a). This is the clear and unmistakable revelation of God in His word. The wages or consequence of any and all sin is eternal death, but . . . but God has offered a free gift of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ (Rom. 6:23b). That is grace.


It is an undeserved gift of God’s grace that we are not left in our sin and darkness. By grace the Holy Spirit reaches into our darkness and convicts us of our sin and need of a Savior (John 16:8-11). This is prevenient grace or the grace that goes before. We wouldn’t even be aware of our need and precarious position if it weren’t for God. Without salvation secured we stand on the edge of a ledge of a bottomless chasm of eternal torment without God. Salvation is a work of God; an undeserved gift from God to be received by faith (Eph. 2:4-9). Salvation is through the work of Jesus on the cross (Rom. 3:24-25). Salvation is through faith in Jesus (Rom. 5:1ff.). All the sinner has to do is be willing to turn away from sin and to God through faith in Jesus. We are who we are by the grace of God (1 Cor. 15:10). And who we become in Christ is a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). Through faith in Jesus we receive spiritual life (John 1:12; 3:1-36). When we repent from our sins and trust in Jesus as Savior the Lord God wipes our slate clean of sin and gives us a fresh start and promise of life eternal with Him in glory. THAT IS GRACE!

Now it would be wrong too if we use grace as an excuse to not serve the Lord. Paul says a loud “Certainly not!” to such a notion (Rom. 6:1ff.). God’s love for us and our love for Him should compel us to serve Him (2 Cor. 5:14-16). Serving God is an expression of our appreciation and love for Him. We don’t serve to gain His favor and blessing. He blessed us freely by grace (Rom. 2:4). We are saved by grace and we live on after conversion by grace (1 Cor. 15:10). We need to expect God’s blessing. He loves us and desires to bless us. The giving of Jesus to save us is proof of His love (Rom. 5:8). The cross of Christ is proof that God is for us (Rom. 8:31-32). If that is the case, then stop trying to impress God and gain His favor. You already have His favor. God couldn’t love you more than He already does. It’s not about “my work.” It’s about the work of God. Stop striving with or even for God. Just enjoy His grace. Enjoy His love and live for Him. Live totally for the One who totally loves you. Enjoy!



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