now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. [galatians 3:23]
two options: slavery to sin under the law, or freedom by faith in Christ
we all have two options: we can either be judged by our works or by the work of Christ through faith in him. we cannot serve two masters! either call the work of Christ good and your works rubbish, or call your works good and the blood of Christ rubbish! either the blood of Christ is sufficient, or it is worthless. we cannot trust in both God and our works.
why do good works then?
if faith in Christ counts our righteousness according to Christ’s holiness and not ours, then why should we bother laboring on in Christ’s service? the fact that we naturally ask that question shows the remains of sinful flesh in us. sin tells us that we have to do to get. shame tells us we’ll never do enough to get that which will make us satisfied. pride tells us we can do enough to get that which satisfies. but Jesus tells us we don’t have to do anything to get satisfaction in Christ!
the rest of the fallen world lives thinking they have to do enough to get enough, but we are the only ones who get to do because of what Jesus did. do you see that reversal?
here’s a real-world example. while the world loves romance and rags-to-riches stories, there is hardly ever any thought given to the story after the story. we love these stories because they give us hope that we too have hope of achieving like they do. that thing we long for, that dream we’re waiting to achieve, these stories stir a longing in our hearts to see them come true! but what do we do once we’ve landed the girl, got the dream job, or bought the dream house?
outside of Christ the lost will always be working for that next thing they think will really satisfy them, but no next thing will ever deliver the contentment it promises! and that cycle of always seeking something more leads to all kinds of sin – from idolatry to overworking to gambling to affairs.
as believers, we are not called to that endless, unsatisfied ambition. we have already been given everything in Christ:
for all things are yours, whether paul or apollos or cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s. [1 corinthians 3:21b-23]
in Christ we are called to a holy satisfaction:
“if you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘give me a drink,’ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water….everyone who drinks of this [well’s] water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water i give him will never be thirsty again. the water that i will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
–Jesus [john 4:10b, 13b-14]
how are we to strive to do good then? not by doing good as a means to an end, be it more recognition, some achievement, or better standing with God. we are to work because we have already been given all mercy and grace, infinitely beyond what we deserve.
go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do. let your garments always be white. let not oil be lacking in your head. enjoy life with the the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun.
what God has already given us—that is what is sufficient for us; what God will give us in the future—that is what will be sufficient to sustain His peace that passes all understanding the rest of the days of our life. enjoy your good work, for if you believe in Jesus’ name, He has already called you beloved, approved, and righteous.
~ stephen hall