Why Do Christians Do Good Works?

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Why Do Christians Do Good Works?

James R. Aist

Why do we do good works after we are saved? There is a correct answer to this question, and there is an answer that is unequivocally incorrect. It is important for us to know the incorrect answer, so that we can avoid falling into a dangerous heresy.

Let’s consider the correct answer. God created us to reflect and magnify His own glory (Isaiah 43:7 and 21; Ephesians 1:12). All of our good works – e.g., acts of praise, worship, obedience, generosity, compassion, mercy, sharing the Gospel of Christ, making disciples – have one thing in common: they all ultimately reflect and magnify God’s glory. The Bible says that God has prepared – in advance – work for each one of us to do, and that, in doing these things, we are fulfilling the purpose for which God created us (Ephesians 2:10).

But, it is all too easy for us to fall into the mindset that, in doing good works, we are repaying Jesus for what he did for us. After all, shouldn’t our gratitude for Jesus saving us motivate us to do good works in response? That seems logical, doesn’t it? But, that cannot be the reason we do good works, and here’s why: we are saved by grace… it is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8). And, if it is a gift of God, then there is nothing for us to repay; gifts are free. In the same way that we cannot do good works to earn salvation (Ephesians 2:9; 2 Timothy 1:9), so also we cannot do good works to repay Jesus for the gift of salvation after we receive it; both would be a form of the “salvation by works” heresy. When Jesus died on the cross to pay for our sins, our debt was canceled, not mortgaged! No, we do good works because that is what God saved us to do: the work that he prepared in advance for us (Ephesians 2:10).

If there is a debt, it is only a debt of gratitude, not of good works.

(To read more of my articles on Biblical Teachings, click HERE.)

Settling Matters with God

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Settling Matters with God

James R. Aist

When the times are tough and you don’t know why,

So you cry out to God “Please, help me to see”,

Is the silence you get just a heavenly sigh,

Or, is He saying “Dear child, trust fully in me”?

Often we are slammed with trials and tribulations in this life. When that happens, we may be tempted to ask God, “Why did you allow this?” But, when we really know God well enough, all He really needs to say is, “Trust Me, my child.” We must walk in this fallen world by faith, trusting God our heavenly Father to know what’s best for us and that He will do it. To do this, we need to settle some core issues with God “once and for all”, so that we are no longer double-minded, easily tossed to and fro like a leaf in the wind whenever confronted by the trials and tribulations that are inevitable in this life (John 16:33).

Now, what do I mean by “settling matters?” A wise friend of mine once said, “When you find the truth, stop looking for it!” So, when you have searched out and discovered the truth about these matters, it’s time to stop searching for the truth and move on. Just believe the word of God (1 Thessalonians 2:13) and make peace with it. Don’t keep asking over and over again the same questions you have already found the answers to. Consider these things to be settled between you and God.

What, then, are some of the most important matters that we, as born-again Christians, must settle with God in order to ride out the storms of life without losing our peace and our joy as God’s chosen people? Here is a short list that I have come up with:

The Bible is God’s word. I can trust the Bible to be the authentic word of God to me. It is God-breathed (or inspired) by God Himself (2 Timothy 3:16), not a fanciful invention of mere mortals (2 Peter 1:16). In the Bible, God says what He means and means what He says. This is where I should look first and foremost for answers to the important questions about truth, morality, myself, my future and God (2 Timothy 3:16; Hebrews 4:12).

God is sovereign. He is the creator of the universe (Colossians 1:16), and He rules and reigns over everything (Exodus 15:18). With God, nothing is impossible (Luke 1:37).

Jesus is God’s Son. Jesus claimed to be the only begotten Son of God (John 3:16), and God the Father identified Him as “…my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (2 Peter 1:17). Jesus is the only way to God the Father (John 14:6), and no one comes to Jesus unless the Father draw him (John 6:44). Jesus is the Messiah, the promised savior of the world (1 John 4:14). As a born-again Christian, I know that I have eternal life (1 John 5:13).

God loves me. I am created in the likeness and image of God (Genesis 1:26-27) to be in personal relationship and loving fellowship with Him (1 John 1:3). My true destiny (i.e., the reason God created me in the first place) is to honor, praise and worship God and to obey Him in all things. He hears and answers my prayers (Psalm 143:1). I am so important to God that He sent His only begotten Son (Jesus) to die for my sins, making peace with me forever (John 3:16). He loves me with a steadfast, everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3).

God is on my side. Through His gift of faith in Jesus Christ, God has made peace with me (Romans 5:1); I am no longer subject to the law of sin and death (Romans 8:2). Jesus calls me “friend” (John 15:15) and “brother/sister” (Mark 3:35), and I am His co-heir (Romans 8:17)! God actually takes pleasure in making me prosper (Psalm 35:27).

God is faithful. God does not change (Malachi 3:6), and He is not a liar (Numbers 23:19). He will never leave me nor forsake me (Hebrews 13:5). What He has promised me He will do (Isaiah 46:11b; Hebrews 6:13-15).

God owns me. Since I am a born-again Christian, God owns me (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). His claim on my life is His right, and my life is His to do with as He pleases. I am no longer living for myself, but for Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:15). I am God’s servant. I have made peace with these realities.

God will reward me. He has promised me that, as one of His chosen ones, my eternal destiny is an everlasting life in heaven with Him (John 3:16), a rightful inheritance that is full of glory, full of peace that passes all understanding and full of joy unspeakable (Ephesians 1:18). And, He has given me His Holy Spirit as a guarantee that He will, in fact, fulfill this, the greatest of His promises (2 Corinthians 1:22). The value of this glorious future reward far outweighs any trial or tribulation that God allows me to suffer in this life (Romans 8:18).

So, here is the conclusion of it all. When you have settled these matters in your mind and in your spirit, once and for all trusting God no matter what happens, then, when the storms of life assail you, your “anchor of the soul” (Hebrews 6:13-20), — i.e., your trust in God — will hold, and, in your spirit, you will be able to live in peace and joy even as you are being buffeted in your soul/mind and body by the storms. Let me illustrate this point with an analogy. Picture a sailing ship anchored close to shore. When a storm arises, the wind will come with a fury and try to break the chain and set the ship loose from its anchor, driving it to a place where it shouldn’t go. You are that ship. Your faith is the chain that keeps the ship connected to the anchor. Your soul/mind naturally does its best to resist and withstand the storm, but it is the anchor that enables you to stay put until the storm passes. Your trust in God is the anchor, and it enables your spirit to remain stationary, calm and at peace while the storm rages. You no longer have a need to ask “Why did this storm come?” You can simply trust that God has a good reason for allowing it, because you have already settled these matters with Him; you know Him.

(To read more of my articles on biblical topics, click HERE)

The Mechanics of Prayer

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The Mechanics of Prayer

James R. Aist

“Your kingdom come; your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” – (Matthew 6:10)

In the model for prayer that Jesus gave to His disciples, Jesus said “…your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” That is a powerful prayer that all born-again Christians can agree on. Won’t it be wonderful when that prayer is fully manifested on the earth, when Jesus comes and removes all wickedness and all evildoers? But, what are we to do in the “here and now”? Is there some way that we can call down the will and the power of God to deal with our needs and troubles in this fallen world until Jesus comes again? The answer, of course, is yes, we can pray. Many true and helpful things have been said and written about prayer, but, out of all that, what I want us to focus on for a few moments is the mechanism of prayer, or, how prayer works. And there are some very clear prerequisites for effectual prayer given in the Bible.

The most overarching prerequisite for effectual prayer is righteousness. James declared that “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man accomplishes much” (James 5:16). And John strongly confirms this point: “We know that God does not listen to sinners. But if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him” (John 9:31). So, be diligent to obey the will of God, especially to accept God’s invitation to accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. That brings us to the second prerequisite for effectual prayer.

Concerning God, John wrote, “This is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us” (1 John 5:14). For our prayers to be effective, we must pray according to God’s will, which He will reveal to us if we are listening. We really wouldn’t want it any other way, would we? To pray effectively, then, we must pray with the heart and the mindset of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane when He prayed. “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me. Nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42). Next, let’s consider some things Jesus had to say about effectual prayer.

In Matthew 18:19-20, Jesus said this to His disciples “Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. For where two or three are assembled in My name, there I am in their midst.” Thus, praying with at least one “prayer partner” is the third prerequisite for effectual prayer.

Now, let’s turn to something Jesus said to His disciples that speaks more directly and instructively about the mechanics of prayer per se. He said, “Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 18:18). When one reads this verse in the immediate context of Matthew 17-19, it becomes obvious that in verse 18, Jesus is giving us an insight into how prayer works: we continue the process by praying to God in heaven (binding and loosing on earth) according to His revealed word to us; then God answers from heaven (binding and loosing in heaven) and accomplishes on earth what we prayed for. Moreover, we see this same insight concerning binding and loosing on earth identified as “the keys of the kingdom of heaven” in Matthew 16:19, where Jesus says, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Jesus’ use here (Matthew 16:19) of the exact same phraseology that He uses in Matthew 18:17-19 identifies this binding and loosing on earth as relating specifically to prayer.

What, then, are “the keys of the kingdom of heaven”? They are not hand tools (keys) by which the gates of heaven are locked and unlocked, as some have imagined. Rather, in view of Jesus words referenced above, the keys of the kingdom of heaven are best understood to be insights into to the mechanism by which God’s will is to be accomplished on earth. Put another way, this is how we can get the will and the power of God applied to our earthly needs. So, taken together, these verses indicate that, in order for us to have God’s power applied to our needs on earth through prayer, we should 1) discern the will of God as He reveals it to us, 2) enlist at least one other believer to agree with us in prayer, and 3) pray according to God’s will. Then God in heaven will do on earth, for us, whatever we asked. And this, according to Jesus, is how the will of God will be done “on earth as it is in heaven.” The critical – and, perhaps, most insightful – aspects of all of this for our present consideration is that God initiates the process by revealing His will to us, and He has given it to us to then respond with prayer so that His will is done on earth as it is in heaven (cf. Matthew 6:10)! Pastor Adrian Rogers put it this way: “True prayer must be mandated by heaven. I’m convinced that the only prayer that gets to heaven is the prayer that starts in heaven. We close the circuit when we pray in faith in the name of Jesus.”

But what happens when we don’t know God’s will in a particular matter of concern to us? Do we just refrain from praying altogether? Or, has God made provision for us to pray effectively anyway? Yes, He has. Paul states in, Romans 8:26-27, “Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weaknesses, for we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” Here, Paul explains that, when we don’t know how to pray as we ought about a matter, the Holy Spirit (in us) intercedes for us with groanings. Jesus, who searches the heart (Revelation 2:23), knows what the Holy Spirit is groaning about concerning the matter, and He intercedes for us (Romans 8:34), conveying our concern to the Father, according to the Father’s will. So then, when we don’t know for sure what the Father’s will is in a matter, we should pray anyway, knowing that the Holy Spirit and Jesus will partner to convey to the Father a request from us that is in accordance with God’s will.

To summarize briefly, God first reveals His will to us. In response, we pray to God for help, according to His will. From heaven, God hears and responds to our request, unleashing His power on earth on our behalf. In this way we cooperate with God in accomplishing His will on earth. We have the very “keys of the kingdom of heaven” in our hands, and it is up to us to follow through with prayer, as Jesus taught us to do. God never leaves us to fend for ourselves, but is “… our refuge and strength, a well-proven help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). So, let’s be sure to do our part in this process; that is, listen, and then pray believing.

Recommended reading:

Nee, Watchman. 1995. The Prayer Ministry of the Church. Living Stream Ministry, Anaheim, CA. pp. 35-37.

(To read more of my articles on biblical topics, click HERE)

How Could Jesus be “Without Sin”?

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How Could Jesus be “Without Sin”?

James R. Aist

The Bible says that “…all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Yet, Jesus Christ lived on the earth for 33 years as a man, was tempted to sin in every way that all other people are tempted, but was without sin (Hebrews 4:15). How can this apparent contradiction be resolved, and how could Jesus be the only man who did not sin? The full answer to this question may surprise you, as it did me.

The Dual Nature of Jesus

Part of the answer to this question lies in the fact that Jesus was fully man and fully God, at one and the same time. He received His humanity from His mother, Mary, and He received His Divinity from His father, the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:20). With the Holy Spirit as His father, Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit from conception and always had the full power of the Holy Spirit available within Him to resist temptation. Moreover, as the Son of God, Jesus was God, and, as such, it was not in His divine nature to sin, but to be true to Himself as the “Holy One of Israel” (Isaiah 43:3). But, there is another unique characteristic of Jesus that gave Him a “leg up” on the rest of us when it comes to resisting temptation, and it has to do with His humanity. Let’s see what that advantage is and how He came by it.

The “Sin Nature” of Man

When Adam and Eve chose, of their own “free” will, to believe Satan instead of God (Genesis 3), they took on a “sin nature” (Colossians 3:8-10), or a predisposition to sin, that has been passed down to all subsequent generations, including ours. We have inherited, so to speak, from Adam and all subsequent fathers, a “sin nature”, an inborn desire to reject God’s provision and follow our own path in life. This sin nature can also be aptly described as an ever present readiness to do evil (i.e., disobey God). This predisposition to sin is so pervasive as to render us, in our “natural-born” state, in rebellion against, and at enmity with, God. Thus, it is relatively easy for us to yield to temptations to sin; it’s part of the nature of fallen man to do so. Note that it is from (i.e., through) Adam, not Eve, that all subsequent generations of men inherited this sin nature.

Now, let’s “fast forward” to the time of Jesus’ conception in Mary’s womb. Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:20), not by a male descendant of Adam, as were all the rest of us. Thus, the inheritance of the sin nature was not passed down to Jesus. This is huge, because it means that, unlike everyone else since Adam, Jesus was not born with a predisposition to sin, as were all of the rest of us. This is why Jesus could say, in all truth, that Satan has nothing in Him (John 14:30); He did not have the sin nature that Satan takes advantage of when we are tempted. And, I believe, that fact must have had a lot to do with how Jesus could live for 33 years without sin. The “virgin birth” of Jesus achieved even more than I was aware of, until now.

What’s In It for Us?

Well, this changes everything for us, and here’s why. Whereas the First Adam sinned, and from that sin death entered into man’s relationship with God, Jesus, the Second Adam, broke the curse of that original sin by offering up to God a sinless life that enabled Him to pay the price for our sins and restore our relationship with God. Jesus undid the damage that was caused by Adam’s sin! But, without having lived a sinless life, Jesus’ sacrificial death would have paid for His own sins, not ours, and we would still be dead in our sins without any hope of escaping God’s wrath. All we have to do is to put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross and our sin problem vanishes; then we will have been made, in Christ, the righteousness that God requires (Philippians 3:9), and we will qualify for heaven. Have you put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross yet? Why not let today be the day of your salvation?

(To read more of my articles on biblical topics, click HERE)