Does our Justification Lead to Inaction? Part 1 of 3

Thankfully, very few Christians today would say that the doctrine of justification[1]gives us permission to sin.  This lie definitely has been used by the Devil to derail many believers, but I am not so sure that this is his lie of choice in evangelical churches today.  Instead, I am concerned that we emphasize so much that Christians are not saved by good works that we are suspicious of “good works” altogether.  A common refrain in American churches is that we need to “preach the Gospel to ourselves every day.”  When inquiring among our brothers and sisters about a career choice, we often are assured that the Lord is no more or less pleased with us and we are free to choose any option.  However, when young people are considering missions, we are quick to examine their motives to make sure they are not trying to atone for some hidden sin or win the approval of God.  We grow concerned that the super zealous guy in church is not be resting in the fact that he is a perfect son in God’s eyes, but might be wearing himself out to “stay in God’s favor.”

Now I believe that it is good to preach the Gospel to yourself!  However, I also believe the pendulum has swung too far if the doctrine of justification leads us to a “take it or leave it” attitude towards good works.  Specifically, I am convinced that we are being deceived when we believe the following 3 lies of Satan:
1) God is Indifferent Towards Good Works. 
The Devil may whisper to us, “God is equally as pleased if you go visit that shut-in as he would be if you stayed home and watched TV, so why not watch TV?”  Now certainly it is permissible to watch TV, but the Lord expects us to zealously pursue good works as a lifestyle. No, not to earn our salvation, but instead because we are freed up from our selfishness and are now able to do good works. Consider the following verse:
For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.  Galatians 5:13
My freedom is not for me and my flesh, but instead my freedom is so that I can serve.  So that I can spend my time visiting shut-ins, bearing other’s burdens, praying for others, sharing the Gospel, and so on.  Doing good words is not how God saved me but instead what he saved me for (see Ephesians 2:8-10).
God cares so much about his children doing good works, that he commanded us to be devoted to doing them:
And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works. Titus 3:14 
Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit,serve the Lord. Romans 12:11   
God does not call us to a life of introspection, but instead to a life that is filled with zeal to teach our kids the Bible, to start backyard Bible clubs in our neighborhood, to help the poor, to speak up for the oppressed, and the list could go on. 
Let me put it another way, if the Lord is indifferent towards my real-time life and how I live it (I mean, I am perfect in his eyes, right?), then…
·         Why did he put so many imperatives in the New Testament?   
·         What is the role of the “be ready for Christ’s return” parables that Jesus told in the Gospels?  “You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” Luke 12:40 
·         Why did the Lord tell us that we will be judged as Christians?
“So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.  For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.”  2 Corinthians 5:9-10    
·         Why did the Lord tell us that there will be rewards in Heaven?  
“[The rich] are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future.” 1 Timothy 6:18-19  

Answer: so that we would be busy doing good works!

I would argue that God expects Christians to actively pursue good works and that he gives us imperatives, incentives, and warnings to propel us to do so.  We have been given every reason in the world to zealously pursue good works. 
As a final note under this point, we are in fact given the title and status of sons of God, but that is not the only title we are given as Christians.  We are also given the title of servants or slaves of God sent out to do his bidding.  The implication is that servants work hard.  Scrubbing the floor for our Master is now and the inheritance of the palace comes later. 
“OK, OK, you might be thinking, good works are important to God, but he feels the same way towards me whether I zealously pursue them or not…right?”  Herein lies another lie from Satan…(look for Lie #2 coming soon!)

[1]Namely, that those who believe are fully righteous before God because of Christ’s death on their behalf

Author: Stacey Hare

Stacey is a servant of Jesus Christ as well as a wife, mom, linguist, and Bible translator among the Kwakum people of Cameroon.