Sunday, July 19, 2015

The "Why" and "How" Of Good Works #JesusFollowers

Jesus tell us that we are to perform Good Works in our lives. They are not optional, nor are they something God believes we can dispense with. They are not something we can inherit, or acquire from others. Our acts must be our own.

But WHAT, exactly, ARE "Good Works"? WHY are they important? And HOW are we to do them? Jesus and the Scriptures he knew and studied were very clear in explaining these vital questions.

Why are they important? Good Works are the key way in which we make God's Kingdom visible here in this life, on Earth, in this time.

Jesus, our Teacher, tells us, "Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." (Matt. 5:16)

And the teaching of Jesus, consistent with the prophets before him, is that God will reward us for our actions.

Jesus' righteous Good Works always pleased God. (John 8:29) Obedience to God and to obeying His commandments are the basis upon which we will be judged worthy of eternal life with God after this earthly life ends.

When we commit to follow him, Jesus becomes our template, our model for how we are to act in this world. And Jesus taught us that we can do all that he did.

What Jesus means by "Good Works" are our own acts of righteousness. They exist only as acts, and we cannot claim another person's righteousness as our own. We are responsible to God for what we do, and only what we do.

The Hebrew Scriptures proclaim that God is pleased when we follow a righteous path in our lives.

"Yahweh is righteous; He loves righteous deeds; the upright shall behold His face." (Psalms 11:7)

"Turn away from evil and DO GOOD!" (Psalm 37:27)

"Take courage!" says the prophet Azariah, "Do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded."  (2 Chron. 15:7)

The proverbs proclaim: "One who sows righteousness gets a sure reward." (Prov. 11:8) "To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to Yahweh than sacrifice." (Prov. 21:3)

When King David repented and did what was right in the sight of God, he wrote, "Yahweh dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he rewarded me. (Psalm 18:20)

Jesus calls us to work righteousness in all we do, taking the form of service to others.

He teaches that obedience to God's moral Law, God's commandments, is the key to eternal life (Mark 10:17-19; Luke 18:20; John 12:50)

We are called by Jesus to not lay up for ourselves "treasures on earth," but instead, to "lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal." (Matt. 6:19-20)

We store up these treasures when we serve others, when we feed and clothe them, when we comfort them, and when we encourage them to also seek Righteousness.

"Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness" he says (Matt. 6:33) And "Where you treasure is, you heart will be, also." (Matt. 6:21)

When we actively have our heart set on righteous Service, we are becoming Spiritually Complete people, and are living the life God wishes for us, and the life Jesus modeled for us to follow.

When we give to the needy, when we pray, when we give others food and drink and even when we are persecuted for doing Good Works, we therefore receive a reward in Heaven.

But while we are promised that God rewards our Works, Jesus teaches us that we are not to be prideful of them.

"Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven." (Matt. 6:1)

While our acts become lights to the world, we must not do them just to put on a show, or to make us seem more holy or better than others.

In the same way, we should not be in the business of judging others' Works and acts.

Jesus warns that we should not judge - looking for the sawdust of bad actions in others' eyes when we have a log of worse behavior in our own (Matt. 7:1-3)

It is not our place to judge others' actions as "worthy" of reward, nor must we arrogantly claim that OUR OWN actions are fully pleasing to God.

God alone is our Judge. While we surely should be encouraging others to be Righteous, not one other human being gets to judge us as God does, nor can we judge another. It is enough that we serve God in spirit and in truth and in great humility and reverence.

We cannot earn our heavenly reward by demanding it from God, nor can we simply act as if we are accruing a certain number of good deeds to purchase it. God calls us to act and then trust Him to judge whether we are worthy in the next life. It is not for us to know how God determines that worthiness.

But let us not pretend that our Good Works count for nothing, or are not required from us, because they serve the purpose of building God's Kingdom in this life.

We must therefore fully trust in God to determine our eternal destiny. In the meantime, we should tend the sheep who follow Jesus alongside us, and seek to spread God's love throughout the world by our acts, each and every day.

Let's be assured that Good Works of Righteousness are the way of God and the way to God. They aren't simply the extra decorations we put on for show, they are the vital cornerstone of our lives as Jesus Followers.

Good Works are a blessing, when we DO them. We must have the courage and the strength to put them into action, otherwise they remain unfulfilled in our minds.

If we act righteousness through our Good Works, we both transform ourselves, and bring in God's Kingdom.

We should always be mindful of God and of the one He chose and sent out to preach to us, Jesus, who showed us how to Do Righteousness and follow the path God wishes for us.

Good Works of Righteousness bring us joy, as much joy as they bring to God, and are worth pursuing.

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