Grace or Works?

16 Nov

Let’s revisit one of our foundations…  which is it, Grace or works?

This question is a hot topic in some settings.  There are those who say that after salvation, nothing else is needed, expected or required as we live our lives on earth.  If Jesus’ work on the Cross is “finished”… and if Grace is complete then it doesn’t matter what we do or don’t do.

Well, I have to agree as it relates to salvation… entering the family of God, etc.

“It is not by works of righteousness which we have done but according to His mercy He saved us.” – Tit 3:5
 

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God” – Eph 2:8

So, before we go any further, what is the Gospel?  Let’s ‘nail it down’… because of the Love of God, Grace secured our salvation… nothing else needed… or allowed… for us to become the sons of God.  The Cross and Grace are all we need to be saved.  In fact, anything else added to it nullifies the work of Grace.  Paul makes that point very well in Galatians.  (Gal 2:22; Gal 5:4, etc.)  So we’ve locked that in!  We’ll not question that truth anymore! 

But, there are plenty of verses on how to live out our salvation, that apply to ‘works’.  And these verses… although they aren’t addressing salvation… are addressing what should be a natural outworking expression of the truly saved person. 

Some people have a mindset that says, Grace means you don’t have to do anything ‘good’… or practice ‘good works’, etc…. b/c that’s under the Law.  Having to do something good would be performance, obligation and Law-based, etc.  But if we extrapolate this out into every area of our lives we’ll hit a wall.  Try this…

What if I said, I didn’t want to brush my teeth today (that is too much obligation and performance, law-based mentality)… well, eventually my teeth would fall out.  Or I don’t want to eat today… eventually I would die.  Or let’s get really religious… the 10 Commandments say I shouldn’t commit adultery.  But of course, that’s just the old Mosaic Law… the Old Covenant… so today, I’m going to commit adultery because I’m not under the Law anymore.  Only the most hardened and deceived would espouse this. 

Then why don’t I do a lot of things that my fleshly appetites or base desires would want to do???  Why?  Because it’s wisdom… and right… NOT to do them!  So when I don’t do them, is it because I’m living under the Law?  NO!  Admittedly, at first, my motivation for not doing them, may be the fear of consequence… or simple realization of the negative disruption that will be caused by these base actions.  But as I gain wisdom about life, love and relationships, etc., I learn that some things are necessary to maintain a healthy and vibrant life.  On this level, the Law is not my motivator to do right, rather, I’m motivated to live right by wisdom, character and the principles of love.  I set my will (just like I set my will to brush my teeth) to do the right thing.

Paul says Grace doesn’t give us license for an unbridled life… rather it helps us to deny our carnal and base appetites.

“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.  It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.” – Titus 2:11–12 NIV

So, if we want to test whether someone understands Grace correctly it looks like we could point to their fruit or works as evidence.  We could say it this way: if you’re preaching grace, and immorality breaks out everywhere you preach, then you’re not preaching grace.  You’re preaching something else.

Not exercising responsibility and mature character responses in matters like this will automatically result in diminishing the joy and reward of living.  Destroyed relationships, reputation, vibrancy, health and joy are the outcome of this unbridled and unwise mindset.  In fact, Jude uses strong language to describe the extremes of this mindset:

“They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.” – Jude v. 4 NIV

I believe that as speakers of Grace we must get skilled at defining the difference between these two very different areas of life:

‘Works’ have nothing to do with the left column… but are crucial in the right column.  True grace says that ‘works’ cannot possibly help obtain salvation and the love of God… but wisdom requires that ‘works’ are necessary in order to have any semblance of a healthy maturing life.  James says it much more bluntly,

“Faith without works is dead.” – Jms 2:20, 26

Much of religion maintains the erroneous concept that our ‘works’ in the right column will gain us ‘points’ in the left column.  This is error!!!  But the opposite knee jerk reaction says that no ‘works’ are important for living.  This is also error.

Let’s create an example that relates to our intimacy with Jesus. 

Some would say that if it’s all Grace, then spiritual disciplines are not necessary anymore.  But ask yourself how that would fly with your spouse.  If you never spent time with your spouse how would the level of harmony and unity fare?  Better… or worse?   Obviously, worse!

So, although I think we could ‘get into Heaven’ without any spiritual disciplines (because Grace secured our ‘ticket’) we may find ourselves in the condition that Paul refers to in I Cor 3:15… “he shall be saved yet as though by fire”.   In other words, all the things a person did or said… or didn’t say or didn’t do… had no positive eternal value, so those works (or lack of them) are ‘burned up’ and that person makes it into Heaven with only his salvation…  having no ‘crowns’ or fruit to show for the amazing gift of righteousness that was given to him. 

And to take the imagery of intimacy with Jesus even further, consider Jesus on the dance floor… He asks us out onto the floor with Him in an intimate time of exchange… He’s offering ‘secrets’ (Ps 25:14) and opportunities to do exploits with Him (Dan 11:32), etc.   But we tell Him that we are now free from the law of having to do spiritual disciplines and we (in misapplication) quote His word back to him, “it was for freedom that Christ has set us free.”  We stay on the sideline in our ‘freedom’ and obviously we now miss out… not on our salvation… but on the further life source that Jesus wanted to impart out on the dance floor. 

To be sure, we are free from the Law, and salvation is full and FREE… no strings attached.  But if we are not inclined toward walking out our faith by our works, then one might legitimately question whether we are married to just a grace theology… or to a Person… the One who is Grace… Jesus.  To be married to Grace and not express good works would make one question if they were really ‘married’.  In fact, Paul says that this is what we were created for…

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” – Eph 2:10 

So works prescribed by Law are a thing of the past.   But now, works as a fruit of the Spirit being manifest through us gives evidence that we are sons.

“These are the sons of God, they which are led by the Spirit of God” – Rms 8:14

I believe we must get better at our talking points.  We must discover a better way to communicate the distinction between these two areas of our lives so that we are skilled heralders of this astounding Grace while valuing the practical building blocks of ‘works’ which lead to maturity and give evidence of maturity. 

— MLH

7 Responses to “Grace or Works?”

  1. JIm Alexander November 16, 2021 at 6:07 PM #

    Outstanding We need to talk but I want to give Susan a chance to read it first.

    Love Ya’ll Jim

    • Mark Hendrickson November 17, 2021 at 1:00 PM #

      I love our new topics and activities revolving around the ascended life themes… but it’s imperative that the elementary Truths remain central and active in our lives.

      Let’s talk… been way too long. We may be coming to Dallas in April… I know that’s a long way out, we’ll know more after the first of the year.

      Love to both of you!!

  2. Mel Wild November 18, 2021 at 4:12 PM #

    Good word, Mark!

    Another verse to add:

    “10 But God’s amazing grace has made me who I am! And his grace to me was not fruitless. In fact, I worked harder than all the rest, yet not in my own strength but God’s, for his empowering grace is poured out upon me. 11 So this is what we all have taught you, and whether it was through me or someone else, you have now believed the gospel. (1 Cor.15:10-11 TPT)

    Paul saw Grace as empowering us to live God’s life, and when we find that sweet spot, according to our design, we will “work harder than the rest,” but it will be a very different kind of work. It will be a labor of love empowered and made alive by His Spirit! This is the way of living Paul wanted his followers to imitate. And no circumstance could thwart Paul because He was energized and empowered through living in that “sweet spot” in the Lord! It’s what truly makes us feel alive. Yay God!

    • Mark Hendrickson November 19, 2021 at 9:03 AM #

      Thanks Mel!

      That verse in Passion translation lays it out so succinctly.

      I’m frequently reminded that as we move into ‘higher territories’, it becomes important that we still venerate, adhere to and practice the foundational truths that this ‘building’ is built upon… the central essentials of the Gospel, Godly character, personal devotion disciplines, good fruit, etc.

      Miss ya buddy. Gotta connect again soon.

      • Mel Wild November 19, 2021 at 1:26 PM #

        Amen. Yes, we do need to connect. Have not been able to be on your ALC classes but I’m spending a lot of time there! 🙂

  3. David V December 29, 2021 at 7:04 AM #

    “One might legitimately question whether we are married to just a grace theology.” So good Mark! You’re my hero 😁

    • Mark Hendrickson December 29, 2021 at 4:51 PM #

      Thanks David. We must belong to the same mutual hero club!!! 🙂

      Yes, Jesus, the One who is Grace… the One who loves and is Love… will automatically make us tender, humble, and teach us not to sin… and at the same time, He’ll empower us to walk on our high places and do exploits.

      The other ‘grace’ is just a theology which is cold and indifferent… and if we work it just right… with very strategic ‘snowflake’ reasoning… we can manipulate this ‘grace’ to give us license to be licentiousness.

      In the end, the reality of which one of these ‘graces’ resides within us, becomes overtly manifest in the way we live our lives… because they are starkly different, even diametrically opposed to each other.

      I think I know which ‘grace’ I want… The One!!!

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