Whenever you bring up the question of works, you run the risk of igniting the age old debate of what actually saves a person… faith or works?
The danger, of course, is that we’ll be tempted to turn our relationship with Christ into a contract. That is, we will do certain acts of obedience, thinking we have now obligated God to respond to us in certain ways. Salvation by our works is an attempt to control God. God is sovereign and can’t be manipulated. So, pardon the pun—works don’t work.
Salvation comes from God. The Shepherd seeks the lost sheep. Faith is our response to being “found” by Christ. The danger here is that we make faith an individual, internal and emotional response that is never evidenced by a transformed life.
A salvation experience that makes you FEEL different but doesn’t MAKE you different isn’t the salvation of Christ.
How are we to live with the seeming paradox of faith and works? Perhaps an old story will help. In Genesis 22, God commands Abraham to offer Isaac as a sacrifice. While not understanding, Abraham obeys and prepares to offer Isaac. At the last moment, God stops Abraham. God, in His response to Abraham, says something very interesting. “For now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your only son from me.”
Wait a minute. Was there something God didn’t know? Of course not.
God is saying to Abraham, “You passed the test.” “Your faith on the inside has been proven by testing on the outside.” This is how I’ve come to understand the place of works in the Christian life. Works are faith tested in real life. Works do not save us, but in our testing works give evidence—they prove—the reality of our faith.
When you squeeze a tube of toothpaste, what comes out? Toothpaste.
Why? Because that’s what’s in the tube.
And, when life squeezes a Christ-follower, Christ comes out.
Why? Because Christ is inside.
And that’s the key question, isn’t it? When we’re squeezed by life, and our faith tested, is Christ revealed? Think about the last time you were tested. What did your works (the test) say about your faith? If there aren’t works on the outside, there may not be faith on the inside.
“. . .let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)