Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Pure Works

Titus 1:15 To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. 16 They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.

15 πάντα καθαρὰ τοῖς καθαροῖς· τοῖς δὲ μεμιαμμένοις καὶ ἀπίστοις οὐδὲν καθαρόν, ἀλλὰ μεμίανται αὐτῶν καὶ ὁ νοῦς καὶ ἡ συνείδησις. 16  θεὸν ὁμολογοῦσιν εἰδέναι, τοῖς δὲ ἔργοις ἀρνοῦνται, βδελυκτοὶ ὄντες καὶ ἀπειθεῖς καὶ πρὸς πᾶν ἔργον ἀγαθὸν ἀδόκιμοι.

I remember listening to a debate in my apologetics class regarding good works.  One classmate made the point that Mother Teresa never did anything good because she did not have a regenerated heart.  This is a controversial statement for two reasons.  The second is that most people assume that she was a Christian because of her works, though that is debatable based on her writings and what she professed.

The other is this notion of what is "good."  The point my classmate made was that apart from the blood of Christ none of our works are "good" in the sight of God.  He is right about that, but he took the argument too far.  If an atheist gives food to a starving man it is still an intrinsically "good" act.  The starving man would certainly think so.  However, it is also true that this act is not going to change the atheist's standing before God.

What's the point of this?  Why do we worry about what is καθαρος?  This has great bearing on our evangelism. Let's say you have a coworker who does not profess any faith in Christ.  As far as you can tell, He has no place of prominence in his life and he is living for himself.  He comes in one day and proudly talks about how he served at a homeless shelter over the weekend and how he felt like that was a good thing that he did.  How do we respond?

This verse gives us a clue.  We can commend him for volunteering as that is a good thing.  Many people were likely helped by this act of service.  However, if we are to remain true to the gospel we also have to make sure that he does not try to reassure himself by the merits of this work.  Why?  Even something selfless like that does not tip the scales of merit in his favor.

Life is not about good works.  It is about Christ's perfect work.  Then we respond based on that work in our lives.  We need to keep the order straight, amen?

1 comment:

Ian said...

The way I look at it is "why am I performing this 'good deed'"?

Am I performing it for those around me - such that they will know that I am a 'good person'? Then I am doing it out of pride.

Am I doing it to ease the pain or suffering of another person? Then I am doing it out of compassion, but not selflessly as by completing the act I am easing my own conscience.

Am I doing it to please Christ, or somehow repay Him for His gift of salvation? Then I am as a homeless man who is given a 10,000 sq ft mansion and in response offers to pay the giver for the house with my shoes and the change in my pockets. There is no more offensive act than to attempt to pay back a gracious gift.

Am I completing this good deed because I am wishing to work FOR Christ, working off my sins until I can be forgiven again at confession or mass, then I've missed the point of grace entirely and my salvation then hinges on my own works, not that of Christ on my behalf.

If I am doing this good deed, however, in light of what Jesus has done for me on my behalf, and I choose to humble myself as He did in service to others - partnering with Him in the work that He began, then I am doing a truly good work in that I point all of the benefit not to myself or to my own credit, but to the One who has already completed a good work within me. My 'good deed' then becomes a reflection of His good work and my involvement is produced as a result of the Holy Spirit leading me in service, to make Jesus' name great and to glorify the Father in Heaven.

Great post!