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Come and See---Salvation and Good Works

For a long time I have great difficulty reconciling salvation and good works. My reasoning goes that if salvation is a gift and through faith why do good works? Why be a busybody? Why try to be a “do-gooder”?

The Bible says it very clearly that salvation is not through good works but through faith and the grace of God. As St Paul says Salvation is a gift from God, "For it is by grace we have been saved, through faith--and this is not from ourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no one can boast." (Ephesians 2:8 TEV)

But, what sort of faith? What sort of belief? Jesus illustrates to us in the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11—32 see footnotes) that all God requires of us is that we come to ourselves, we come to our senses; we rise up and return to Him and He will come running down to forgive us and give us the ring. We become His children and heirs again. It is as simple as that if we take Jesus at His words. But God does not force us as God gives us the choice to come to Him or not. Do we believe that? Can we believe that God loves us so unconditionally?

See how Max Lucado explains the parable:

When he was still a great way off, his father saw him.’ The dad was looking for the boy, always craning his neck, ever hoping the boy would show, and when he did, when the father saw the familiar figure on the trail, he ‘had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.’

“We don’t expect such a response. We expect crossed arms and a furrowed brow. At best a guarded handshake. At least a stern lecture. But the father gives none of these. Instead he gives gifts. “Bring out the best robe. . . a ring. . . .sandals. . . . And bring the fatted calf. . . and let us eat and be merry” (Luke 15:11—23 NKJV). Robe, sandals, calf, and. . . Did you see it? A ring.

“Before the boy has a chance to wash his hands, he has a ring to put on his finger. In Christ’s day rings were more than gifts; they were symbols of delegated sovereignty. The bearer of the ring could speak on behalf of the giver. It was used to press a seal into soft wax to validate a transaction. The one who wore the ring conducted business in the name of the one who gave it.

“Would you have done this? Would you have given this prodigal son power-of-attorney privileges over your affairs? Would you have entrusted him with a credit card? Would you have given him this ring?

“Before you start questioning the wisdom of the father, remember, in this story you are the boy. When you came home to God, you were given authority to conduct business in your heavenly Father’s name.

“When you speak truth, you are God’s ambassador.

“As you steward the money he gives, you are his business manager.

“When you declare forgiveness, you are his priest.

“As you stir the healing of the body or the soul, you are his physician.

“And when you pray, he listens to you as a father listens to a son. You have a voice in the household of God. He has given you his ring.

“The only thing more remarkable than the giving of the ring is the fact that he hasn’t taken it back! Weren’t there times when he could have?

“When you promoted your cause and forgot his. When you spoke lies and not truth. When you took his gifts and used them for personal gain. When you took the bus back to Las Vegas and found yourself seduced into the world of lights, luck, and long nights. Couldn’t he have taken the ring? Absolutely. But did he? Do you still have a Bible? Are you still allowed to pray? Do you still have a dollar to manage or a skill to use? Then it appears that he still wants you to have the ring. It appears that he still believes in you!

“He hasn’t given up on you. He hasn’t turned away. He hasn’t walked out. He could have. Others would have. But he hasn’t. God believes in you. And, I wonder, could you take some of the belief that he has in you and share it with someone else? Could you believe in someone?

“There is such power in belief. Robert Schuller said, ‘I am not who I think I am. I am not who you think I am. I am who I think you think I am.’ (You might want to read that twice.) Right or wrong, we define ourselves through other people’s eyes. Tell me enough times that I’m stupid and I’ll believe you. Tell me enough times that I’m bright, and I might agree. Or as the German poet Goethe stated, ‘Treat a man as he appears to be, and you make him worse. But treat a man as if he were what he potentially could be, and you make him what he should be.’

“Robert Rosenthal demonstrated this in a famous classroom study. He and an elementary-school principal tested a group of students. They then mentioned to the students’ teachers that some of the kids had done extremely well on the tests. The teachers were led to believe that five or six of the students had exceptional learning ability.

“What the teachers did not know was that the names of the ‘exceptional’ students had been chosen entirely at random. They were no different from the others, but since the teachers thought they were, the teachers treated them differently. By the end of the year the ones the teachers thought were brighter actually were! They scored ahead of their peers and gained as much as fifteen to twenty-seven IQ points. The teachers described the students as happier, more curious, more affectionate than the average, and having a better chance of success later in life. This was all due to the attitude of the teachers! The teachers thought the students were special, and the students lived up to their treatment. Rosenthal wrote:

The explanation probably lies in the subtle interaction between teachers and pupils; tone of voice, facial expressions, touch and posture may be the means by which---often unwittingly---teachers communicate their expectations to their pupils. Such communication may help a child by changing his perception of himself.” (A Love Worth Giving, 132-134)

 

 

Now that we have our salvation through faith, what do we do then? There are three things we can do.

1)     Do nothing and carry on as usual

2)     Glorify God more by going to Church more, read the Bible more, spend more silent time listening to God and be more pious

3)     Try to be an instrument to bring others to glorify God. How to do that? That’s where the good works comes in.

We are told to reach out and consciously do good works. As Jesus instructes us how to bring others to glorify God, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Mathew 5:16 NKJV)

But what sort of good works?

Mother Teresa says, “It may happen that a mere smile, a short visit, the lighting of a lamp, writing a letter for a blind man, carrying a bucket of charcoal, offering a pair of sandals, reading the newspaper for someone—--something small, very small—--may, in fact, be our love of God in action.” (A Life for God, 77)

Father Henri Nouwen shows us how we can choose good works of love in the little things we do every day: “We choose love by taking small steps of love every time there is an opportunity. A smile, a handshake, a word of encouragement, a phone call, a card, an embrace, a kind greeting, a gesture of support, a moment of attention, a helping hand, a present, a financial contribution, a visit---all these are little steps toward love.

Each step is like a candle burning in the night. It does not take the darkness away, but it guides us through the darkness. When we look back after many small steps of love, we will discover that we have made a long and beautiful journey.”  (Bread for the Journey, June 15)

 

We are to give generously. Give our encouragement, smiles, time, money, talents, care, compassion, praises and patience. Come and see what Christians are doing below.

 

The passages below are taken from Max Lucado’s book “A Gentle Thunder,” published in 1995

 

THE FIRST ANSWER given the first doubter is the only one necessary.

When Nathanael doubted that anything good could come out of Nazareth, Philip’s response was simply, “Come and see.” (John 1:46 NCV)

Nathanael’s question remains: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Have two thousand years of Christianity changed this world? Is the life of the young Nazarene carpenter really worth considering?

The question still lingers.

And the answer of Philip still suffices. Come and see.

Come and see the rock that has withstood the winds of time. Hear his voice.

The truth undaunted,

grace unspotted,

loyalty undeterred.

Come and see the flame that tyrants and despots have not extinguished.

Come and see the passion that oppression has not squelched.

Come and see the hospitals and orphanages rising beside the crumbling ruins of humanism and atheism. Come and see what

Christ has done.

Come and see the great drama threading through twenty centuries of history and art.

Handel weeping as he composes The Messiah.

Da Vinci sighing as he portrays the Last Supper.

Michelangelo stepping back from the rock-carved David and bidding the stone to speak.

 

Can anything good come out of Nazareth? Come and see.

See Wilberforce fighting to free slaves in England---because he believed.

See Washington at prayer in Valley Forge--—because he believed.

See Lincoln alone with a dog-eared Bible—--because he believed.

 

Can anything good come out of Nazareth? Come and see.

Come and see the changed lives:

the alcoholic now dry,

the embittered now joyful,

the shamed now forgiven.

Come and see the marriages rebuilt, the orphans embraced, the imprisoned inspired.

Journey into the jungles and hear the drums beating in praise.

Sneak into the corners of communism and find believers worshipping under threat of death.

Walk on death row and witness the prisoner condemned by man yet liberated by God.

Venture into the gulags and dungeons of the world and hear the songs of the saved refusing to be silent.

 

Can anything good come out of Nazareth?

Come and see the pierced hand of God touch the most common heart, wipe the tear from the wrinkled face, and forgive the ugliest sin.

Come and see.

Come and see the tomb. The tomb once occupied, now vacant; the grave once sealed, now empty. Cynics have raised their theories, doubters have raised their questions. But their musings continue to melt in the bright light of Easter morning.

Come and see. He avoids no seeker. He ignores no probe. He fears no search. Come and see. Nathanael came. And Nathanael saw. And Nathanael discovered, “Teacher you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” (11-13)

 

 

Footnotes---Parable of the Prodigal son (Luke 15:11—32 NKJV)

“Then He [Jesus] said: A certain man had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.' So he divided to them his livelihood.

And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living. But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want. Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.

But when he came to himself, he said, 'How many of my father's hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! 'I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.'

And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.' But the father said to his servants, 'Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' And they began to be merry.

Now his older son was in the field. And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, 'Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.' But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him. So he answered and said to his father, 'Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.'

And he said to him, 'Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.'"

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