Days 74 & 75: Grace and Works

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 2:8-10, ESV

 

Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

John 6:28-29, ESV

 

One of the things that many have misunderstood down through the years is the relationship between grace and works. Some have concluded that works are unnecessary because Ephesians 2 tells us that our salvation is not the result of works. However, Jesus is recorded in John 6 as stating that the work that God requires us to believe in the One He sent... so which is it? We all know that belief is required for salvation, but Jesus Himself calls belief a work, and the Apostle Paul said that salvation was not a result of works, but grace. Does the Bible contradict itself on this?

 

The answer of course is no, because the Word of God does not teach error. The point of the two passages above, I believe, is that works are needed, but can never be enough by themselves to save. That's where grace comes in - it fills in the gaps between the work that God requires us to do, and the state of perfection that God also requires, but that our works can never be enough on their own to maintain.

 

The reading for these two days is from John 6 & 7. It contains many teachings that Jesus made to help us to better understand the relationship between God's role in salvation, and ours.

Day 73: Human Nature

So the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.” But he answered them, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.’” They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place

Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.”

The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him.

John 5:10-15, ESV

 

This is a strange event, when you think about it. A man who could not walk was healed by Jesus. I'm sure that he was grateful, but then the man did something that was very ungrateful: He gave the Jewish leaders more of the fuel they wanted to condemn Jesus so that might put Him to death. You see, Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, and the leaders had wrongly decided that this was a sin that had to be stopped at all costs. So the man went and found out Jesus' identity so he could turn Jesus in for the good He had done to the man that was healed.

 

Weird, isn't it?

 

Yet we see two things that are very typical of human nature in this brief event: First, those who seek power are threatened by the power of God, and will therefore try to minimize His power. Second, those who benefit the most from God's blessings, are often the very ones who will turn against Him in order to ingratiate themselves with the powers that be. The ironic thing is that by fighting against God they end up harming themselves, for those who oppose God lose out on the blessings that could have been theirs had they simply stopped fighting God.

 

It's something to think about whenever we are tempted to take the side of men over the side of God.

 

Today's reading is from John chapter 5. It contains some powerful insights into the nature of man that are worthy of reflection.

 

 

 

Day 72: It's Time to Do What God Has Called Us to Do

Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.

John 4:35, ESV

 

Maybe it's time. We all get so busy with our physical pursuits that we occasionally forget that we were not placed here on earth to just keep house. We were put here to serve God!

 

Part of that service involves getting ourselves ready for heaven. Other parts of that service are to get others ready. One of the main focuses of Christ's teaching was to prepare us to do that very thing. In fact, Jesus gave one parable after another designed to encourage us that the time was at hand, and that we need to get about the business of serving God. He let us know that the time is shorter than we think, and that the time to start is now.

 

Think for a moment what the Judgment will be like. Think about the overwhelming joy and peace you will have when you and your loved ones hear, "Well done, good and faithful servant!" But what if we don't hear that? What if instead we hear Him say, "Depart from me, I never knew you"? Were that to happen, our lives would have been a failure. Even if we had heaped up piles of wealth and had lived a politically correct life that the mass of people greatly admired - even if that happened - we would still be lost.

 

But God was determined that this not happen, so He sent Jesus to warn us and to plead with us to get ready. The fact is that the fields are ripe for the harvest, but we have to get to the work of the harvest. That harvest is one of souls, and the souls are our own and the people we love.

 

But the time to get serious about all of this, we are told very plainly, is now!

 

Are you doing what you were put here to do? If not, there will never be a better time to begin than right now! Today's reading in John chapter 4 is an encouragement to do that very thing.

Day 71: How to Be a Born Again Christian

Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.

John 3:3-5, NKJV

 

Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Acts 2:23, NKJV

 

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new

II Corinthians 5:17, NKJV

 

For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 3:26-28, NKJV

 

Born again! It sounds appealing, doesn't it? We live in a world where everyone seems to be beaten down, tired, and old. But Jesus offers us a chance to be born again! It is a great offer of salvation, and the way to go about it is really quite simple and readily understandable.

 

God's plan of salvation is as simple as it is beautiful. Jesus tells us we must be "born again" of water and of spirit in order to enter the kingdom. Peter tells us that this requires not only a baptism, but repentance as well. Paul tells us that it requires faith, and Jesus in the same conversation with Nicodemus that He tells us to be born again also refers to this belief (John 3:16). Paul refers to this being born again as "a new creation" stressing in the II Corinthians passage above that it is only for those who are "in Christ", and then telling is how to get "into Christ" in Galatians.

 

Are you born again? Not only is it required, but it will give you that re-birth that mankind so desperately needs in this sinful world in which we live.

 

Today's reading is from John chapter 3. It has some of the most familiar and most important teachings ever made by Jesus, and it is certainly worth our time to read it!

 

Day 70: Have We Forgotten How to take a Stand for God?

The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers at their business.

And making a whip of cords, he drove them all, with the sheep and oxen, out of the temple; and he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, "Take these things away; you shall not make my Father's house a house of trade."

His disciples remembered that it was written, "Zeal for thy house will consume me."

John 2:13-17, RSV

 

I think that many Christians in our modern day and age have forgotten how to take a stand for what is right. They have forgotten how to stand up for the lives of the most innocent among them. They have forgotten how to take a stand for their families. And, they have forgotten how to take a stand for God.

 

They have especially forgotten how to take a stand for God!

 

You may think that this is an unfair assessment, but do you see many taking righteous stands today? We see abortion being committed to the point that it has become a race to kill before a child can come out of the womb. We see perversion being forced onto society, where we now are told by those in authority that we must let boys into our girls' locker rooms, and men into our wives' bathrooms.

 

And we are told that we must not pray in public, and that we must not ever let anyone catch us with a Bible in school or at work, and we must never talk about Christ outside of church for that could make people uncomfortable. And we are told that we must not talk about sin anymore, because people seem to think that the only sin in our open-minded, moral-free, modern world is the suggestion that there is sin.

 

So people mock God, and we say nothing for fear of being criticized.

 

Jesus, we find, did not stand idly by... He took a stand!

 

Do you think that we might learn something from Jesus, so that we might know how God expects us to act today? Or, do we think that God will permit us to live a faith that is limited lip service only?

 

If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.’ ” Isaiah 7:9(b), NIV 

 

Today's reading is from John chapter 2. It reminds us that there are some things worth taking a stand for.