The first step in doing most things is often the hardest. Once you take it, you’re usually good for doing the next thing. That is also true about loving and serving God and others, which is the theme of this series.
If you haven’t read the first part of There’s Work To Be Done, please do that now before proceeding to the second part. Click here to read Part 1.
[Podcast version available at the end of this post.]
God has a unique purpose for our lives –
“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”Ephesians 2:10
That powerful statement about God’s purpose for our lives follows the method He uses to save us from His wrath –
“And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”Ephesians 2:1-9
Such an interesting plan! We are not saved by works, but we are saved with a view toward good works. We cannot work for our salvation; we do not deserve our salvation. God saves us by His grace through the faith He gives us to believe. Salvation is a gift of God, not of works. So, what do we do ‘after’ we’re saved by grace through faith?
The Greek words for “good works” are agathois ergois. The idea is doing a task, deed or action that is intrinsically good – good in its very nature. How can people who are “by nature children of wrath” do anything that is good in its very nature?
God, who is rich in mercy, saved us, made us alive together with Christ. We are God’s ‘workmanship’ (poiēma, what has been made) and receive a ‘new nature’ when we are saved by His grace. We are able to do works that are acceptable to God because He has made us new creatures in Christ –
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”2 Corinthians 5:17
So, what are those “good works” that God wants us to do?
The answer is simple and direct – whatever God tells us to do.
How do we know what God tells us to do? Read the Bible and do what He says.
That means reading the Bible in context and using it correctly –
“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” ESV
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” NIV
“Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth.” NLT
“Study and be eager and do your utmost to present yourself to God approved (tested by trial), a workman who has no cause to be ashamed, correctly analyzing and accurately dividing [rightly handling and skillfully teaching] the Word of Truth.” AMPC
I want to emphasize the concept of rightly dividing the Word of Truth because so many people don’t know how to do that. Not knowing how to use the Word of God correctly has led to much confusion and wrong doctrine and practice among Christians. Saying something as simple as “do what God tells you to do” can lead Christians in many directions that are oppositional and thus confusing. God is not a God of confusion, but of peace (1 Corinthians 14:33). His will is clear to those who listen carefully.
Now that we know God’s purpose for our lives is to do the things He prepared beforehand (proētoimasen – made ready in advance) for us to do, and know that we need to study His Word carefully and in context, we’re ready to learn what work He has for us to do.
First, we know that everything God wants us to do will be ‘good’ – “good works.” God will not ask us to do bad works, evil works, works that are contrary to God’s Word. That’s helpful because we know the standard for judging our works.
The Apostle Paul explained it this way –
“For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is.”1 Corinthians 3:11-13
God is going to judge our works one day, so it’s good to keep that in mind as we consider our service to and for Him.
Crowds followed Jesus wherever He went. Here’s one conversation that goes to our subject –
“Jesus answered them and said, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.’ Then they said to Him, ‘What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?’ Jesus answered and said to them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”John 6:26-29
Most of us work now, or if retired, worked in the past so we could earn money to buy food, clothes, shelter and other necessary things for living in our society. Jesus was not telling people they shouldn’t work (labor) for food, but that they should understand the difference between working for things that perish and things that don’t perish. The crowds of people were following Jesus because of what they could get from Him (e.g. food, healing). Jesus called that “food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you.”
As we’ve already seen, the primary work of God is to “believe in Him whom He sent.” That’s Jesus Christ. Belief in Jesus Christ is the first and most necessary work of God. If we’ve done that, we can take the next steps. If we haven’t done that, then taking any other steps is a waste of time. Do first things first.
Jesus spent more than a month with His disciples after He was crucified and rose from the grave (Luke 24:44-45; Acts 1:3). He taught them about Himself and the Kingdom of God from the Scriptures (Law of Moses, Prophets, Psalms). Following that unique time of teaching, Jesus led them out as far as Bethany and blessed them. As He was blessing them, Jesus was taken up and a cloud received Him out of their sight (Acts 1:9). What Jesus said to His disciples just before He ascended is our next step –
“And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.”Matthew 28:18-20
Here are some key words for our understanding:
- All authority
- Make disciples
- Baptizing them
- Teaching them
- With you always
We serve the Creator of the universe (e.g. John 1:3; Colossians 1:16-17). The Name of our Creator is Jesus Christ and His Name is above every other name in the universe He created (e.g. Ephesians 1:21; Philippians 2:9). Jesus Christ has “all authority” in Heaven and on earth and on the basis of His superior authority He tells His disciples to go.
We are to be a people “on the go,” which means we should be going important places and doing important things. Why do I describe our going and doing as important? Because of who sends us! We go and do in the Name that is above every other name that can be named in the universe.
Jesus told His disciples to “go” and “make disciples.” How can a disciple “make” disciples? We’ll look into that in the next part of our special series There’s Work To Be Done.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.