Either a man believes that he is worthy to stand before God based on something within himself OR he rejects any hope in himself and casts his faith upon the total sufficiency of Christ.
Salvation, in a nutshell, really boils down to this.
Without the Shedding of Blood
In Genesis 4, we see that Cain trusted in the value of his own works before God. Bringing the best of his grain to the altar.
But God rejected his offering.
His offering was in contrast to that of Abel who had faith in God’s method. Abel trusted that the blood of the lamb was sufficient to please God.
We are never told that Cain failed to offer his best. Although many incorrectly teach that the level of their devotion was the difference between the offerings of the two brothers.
The difference was between blood and faith. With Abel having faith in the sufficiency of the blood to cover his sin.
“And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.” (Hebrews 9:22)
The Fruit of the Spirit OR Dead Works?
Likewise, any works that we do, even as Christians, are those that must be done through the power of His Spirit within us. Although those works have no bearing whatsoever on our salvation; nor to bring us closer to God.
They do, however, provide evidence to the world around us that we have placed our faith in Christ. Revealing that the Spirit of God dwells within us and is working through us to produce spiritual fruit.
(This, by the way, is what the book of James is saying. That we are not saved by works. Even though good works do provide evidence that the Spirit of God indwells a believer. All the good works in our lives will never be something that we can bring to God to “prove” our worthiness of salvation. They are fruit which God gives to help those around us to believe.)
These works of the Spirit are different from the works done by those who are not saved. Their works are “dead works”.
In Hebrews, it says, “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Hebrews 9:14)
God does not want us to produce works in our own strength. He is not glorified in that.
Because He is not made manifest through us, “in our mortal flesh“, by our own self-determination, self-discipline, and a thousand other “self” motivations that we might use to work the works of God.
“Jesus answered and said unto them, ‘This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.’” (John 6:29).
“…But without faith it is impossible to please him:” (Hebrews 11:6a)
“… for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” (Romans 14:23b)
The work of God is accomplished by faith. One cannot truly occur without the other. Even though counterfeit works are common in the church.
Repentance from sin is the other component of salvation.
Repentance is always based upon the point that the Lord has brought us to at any given time.
He reveals to us our sins and we confess them to Him. Openly and honestly we ask Him to change us to what He wants us to be. Desiring to stop doing what He hates and to start doing what He loves.
It is our turning away from our sins, our confession to the Lord Himself of our sins, and our dependence on Him to live His life through us. To live the life He has commanded us to live.
Or, more accurately, it is a turning away of our dependence on our own “Christian flesh” or “religious flesh”; turning away from trying to live for God out of something we try to work up within ourselves. Turning away from trying to stir up and motivate ourselves by some “natural way” which we have learned from business, or athletics, religion, or sales.
By our own force of will.
Which is like the “Psychology of Winning” — a popular behavioral-modification technique often employed to change ones “spiritual life”.
Or by trying to create spiritual fruit through the popular practices of the “Spiritual Disciplines”. Which are increasingly being taught in Evangelical circles. Commonly known as the Contemplative practices.
The true origin of these “disciplines” is from the ancient Eastern mystics. Whose practices were adopted and modified by Catholic mystics and spread to the Protestant denominations. And which are now widely accepted in mainstream Evangelical churches.
The result of these variations using ones “Christian flesh” will always be dead works. They may look great to the pastor, to the deacon, and to the Sunday school teacher, but they will not be fruit that the Lord has produced through us.
So How is the Work of God Done?
It is the word of God, by the Spirit of God, which creates faith in what God has said and done. And, in this way, we are born again by the word of God.
Then, faith grows as the believer regularly studies the word of God and stores those words in his heart.
Faith is also created when the church regularly teaches and preaches the word of God. Deeply and comprehensively.
Because, for a church or a believer to do the work of God, the Spirit of God must create that work within the believer.
There is no other process God has established for the work of God to be done. This is a purely Spiritual work that only God can do, based upon our faith in His word.
Therefor, how critical it is that our first priority must be to feed the flock, tend to the flock, and protect the flock.
“Jesus saith unto him, ‘Feed my sheep.‘” (John 21:17b)
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