1 John 4:11
Preparation Verse: (1 John 4:11)
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
Over the past three weeks, we have been doing a fair amount of soul
searching about what the true Spirit of Christmas is all about.
We started off by finding out where Jesus Christ was born, or should be born now. Today, the real place of Jesus' birth should be in our hearts.
We also took a short journey back to Christmas to make sure that no one had left that special gift of God’s love behind. This is the gift that, when accepted, will give us salvation, forgiveness of our sins, and everlasting life.
As we moved into the next week, we made sure that we were still bringing along the true Spirit of Christmas. And when we were sure Christmas was still with us, we started waking up the church, and everyone else we could, for we didn’t want those who were still sleeping, or had forgotten, to miss Christmas.
And while we were in the process of waking up the church, we also took a look at the reason why we do the things we do around the church or in our places of fellowship, and we looked at where we are spiritually. We also touched on this morning’s New Testament lesson verses about Mary and Martha, to see if our priorities were really as God wanted them to be.
And then last week, still with Christmas in hands and hearts, we took a real deep look into ourselves at what this gift of God’s love should be producing in us, and the importance of our sharing that love with others.
Today, I would like us to pick up a few of the loose ends we had in these previous discussions. Let's take a closer look at how this relationship of God's love and grace applies to our faith and works.
Ephesians 2:8-10 expresses this relationship very well. Let's begin there.
8. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of
yourselves, it is the gift of God;
9. not as a result of works, that no one should boast.
10. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Did you see that special Christmas present we have been talking about in
verse 8? “It is the gift of God.”
What is the gift of God?
And what is His grace?
That is a special something He gives to us when we don’t deserve it.
Why does He do that?
Because He loves us very much; so much so, that He sent His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to die for us so that our sins might be forgiven. And, He did it while we were yet sinners. This is true Godly love.
Note that I said, "our sins might be forgiven"; and not, “would be forgiven.”
Jesus Christ did not die on the cross so that all would be saved, but in the hope that all would accept that gift, and thus be saved.
Do you remember what I said previously, that this special Christmas gift can only be opened by faith? Well, that is exactly what this verse 8 is saying. We are saved by grace. Yes, but how? Through faith; our faith in God.
The only faith required is just enough to receive His gift. We don't have to do anything else. And that is what verse 9 is telling us.
Our salvation is "not as a result of works." Being good and doing good things, by themselves, will not get us into heaven.
And why does God say this? Because He knows the intent of our hearts. He knows that many of us would just boast about our works, and the fact that they alone got us into heaven. So, our works have absolutely nothing to do with our salvation.
This is what the Lord was explaining to Martha. When He is speaking to us, He wants us to listen.
If we are too busy to read our Bibles, we are not listening to the Word of God. We are missing the really good things. And what we are doing will be taken away from us; but His Word will never be taken away.
If we are too busy, or have too many other things that are absolutely, positively, without a doubt necessary to do, instead of coming to church or communing with God, we are leaving out the very things that make our efforts most productive.
When we continuously praise and worship God, we will find that the worry, concerns, and unhappiness we had will fade away, and we will be filled with joy and overflowing with love. And if we are also daily reading His Word, we will be fully equipped to do whatever is required.
And what is really required?
As Jesus told Martha, "...only a few things are necessary, really only one...."
And what is that?
He wants each of us to do what He wants us to do.
That sounds too simple.
It really isn't, and God is not really complicated either. He doesn't make things difficult for us. We do too good of a job in that area all by ourselves.
If we go back to our Ephesians verses, and in particular to verse 10, we get the answer to our questions.
When we have totally submitted to God, and are born again, we truly become a new creation. "We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus."
For what purpose? “For good works.”
What good works? The ones that God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
And what was the main work that God did in the beginning? He created the heavens and the earth, and He created it to be perfect, without any pain, suffering or death for any living being (human and animal), where all ate only plant foods.
So the good works we are to do is to help restore creation to the way God created it, and end the cruel and destructive acts that add to the corruption of the earth.
We may not always be able to put specifics on what these individual works may be; but when we don’t do them, God usually lets us know, for we feel guilty; that is, if we have allowed God to soften our heart and soul to the point that we can feel the pain and suffering of all of creation.
God doesn't want us to feel guilty either. He just wants us to hear His call and to listen and obey Him.
Some of us here might not know what God's voice sounds like, or the manner of His speech. Do you know why? It's because we are not reading the instruction manual.
If we don’t read and study the Bible, we can not be sure who is speaking. We can’t tell if that "still small voice" which speaks inside us is really God, or Satan, or our own vain imaginings.
Let's take a look at the second chapter of James, beginning at verse 14.
14. What use is it, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but he has no works? Can that faith save Him?
We saw in the Ephesians verses that the answer is yes, we are saved through
faith. But, at the same time it says that when we are saved we are created
for good works, which is the will of God. So if we are not doing the will of
God, have we submitted to God? And without submission, can there be true
The evidence of true salvation is the witness of that life change, and doing the will of our Father. Let's go back and look at more of those James verses.
15. If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food,
16. and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and be filled," and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?
17. Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.
So, on one hand, we have Martha so worried and concerned about not being
able to get everything done that she doesn’t have time to be with the Lord.
And on the other hand, we have this example of ones who believe, or say they believe, but they have no evidence of that belief, because they fail to do the will of their Father.
Therefore, we are seeing that works without faith are of no value to God and, in a similar manner, faith without works is also useless.
Let's take this thought and reflect on our Old Testament lesson for this morning.
In Isaiah 1:13, God says, "Bring your worthless offerings no longer.”
The key is the word "worship." If what we bring into the house of the Lord is given in love as a “thank offering,” then it is accepted with great joy and multiplied in its use. But, if we give reluctantly, as a form of obligation, then God says that it is worthless.
Why do the church lay readers read? Because it’s their job? Because it’s their obligation? Because they were asked? I pray not!
I pray that it’s because they love the Lord their God, and wish to share God’s Word with everyone. I also hope that as they read, they also offer up a prayer that all who hear will come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, if they haven't already done so; and that if they have, that they would be filled with new insight.
And in a similar manner, do church organists and choirs present their music just because it’s their job? Or do they offer up the musical prayers of the saints to sooth the souls of all who hear as a love gift to both God and the brethren? I pray that it’s the latter.
So, how do we show the love of Christmas to God?
We do so by doing the will of our Father.
What greater gift can children give to their parents than to grow up into the adults that the parents desired, and to have done the will of the parents in the process?
And a great deal of doing the will of our Father is sharing abundantly that Love that He sent to us.
Lord, please don't let any who are here today leave this place with any hardness in their hearts. Help us to truly be a church worthy of Your name, by doing your will and sharing Your love with all those with whom we come in contact, and may it spread throughout Your whole creation until there is no more pain or suffering for any living being.