Wishing for a “to-do” list?

for todayAfter the previous article, I am sure some folk think I am pretty self-righteous.

I assure you that is the farthest thing from my mind. In fact I have been really wrestling with this idea of works vs. faith, or more accurately, where do faith and works truly coincide?

Thanks to a discussion over at “The Old Adam” I have been reminded that we humans are always trying to add something to what Jesus has already done. Didn’t Jesus say “It is finished”?

Do you ever wish, like I do at time, that God would just give you a “to-do” list every morning? One that would simply list your responsibilities for the day, such as:

1.Get up early today. You need time to prepare for step three.
2. Make sure to tell your wife you love her and kiss her twice before leaving.
3. Do not catch the 6:55 train this morning. There’s a person I want you to talk to on the 7:05, so sit in the front, near the last door. They will say “Excuse me” after sneezing. That’s how you will know them. I’ll take over from there.
4. Walk up 5th instead of 3rd today. Give the lady sitting by the dumpster at Yamhill $5 and bless her with a short prayer.
5. You’ve got problems at work. The person who irritates you the most is going to try your patience today. Make sure you keep a smile on your face and BE NICE!
6. and so on…

But, God doesn’t work that way, does He? Jesus said “Each day has enough trouble of it’s own.” We are to “Watch and pray.” It would be nice to know exactly what God’s will is evey moment of every day, but Paul says “…try to discern what the will of the Lord is” and “set an example by doing good things when urgent needs arise”.

Central to my own walk is the lingering inclination from my warped upbringing to base my confidence and assurance of salvation in what I do. Did I pray long enough? Did I remember everyone I should have. Oh no! I woke up late this morning and barely had time to shower much less pray like usual. Is it enough to get me through the day?

I am slowly (thank you Lord!) coming to realize that my faith must only be in the “once for all” sacrifice of Christ Jesus for my sins. Read Hebrews 10 again, and again. We do not and cannot save ourselves. Our works are not a means of grace; they are the fruits of grace and the Holy Spirit. Too many times I have beat myself up, or let Satan do it, because I felt I wasn’t doing enough. At the same time I have people reminding me that they wish they did as much as I do. I feel that I am lazy and unambitious, to be honest. But one verse keeps popping up for me:

So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.'” (Luke 17:10 ESV)

We are to always “be ready”! Ready for what?

“…for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

ready to share

ready for every good work

– in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching

We have to continue…..in what?

– in His kindness

– in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard

– steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving

– in faith and love and holiness, with self-control

– continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it

The emphasis throughout God’s New Covenant through Christ Jesus is that we continue to hope, believe, love and trust in HIM. Yes, we are to pursue holiness. Yes, we are to be angry and sin not. Yes, we are to care for widows and orphans. We are to also pray for all the saints and our church and secular leaders.

Trust in God, not in yourselves or your own works.

When Christians make the mistake of thinking that they must do this or do that in order to gain God’s favor, they have entirely missed the point. We are not saved by, nor do we earn favor by what we do. No, we evidence God’s favor by always wanting to be used by God when God is ready and presents us the opportunities. Once we cross the line of checking off a list of our own or a list someone else puts up for us, we are fallen into legalism, a self-righteousnes based on what we do. That is the “un-gospel”.

Everyone of us who puts their faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ Jesus must continue to base our faith and hope in HIM alone! That doesn’t mean we sit on our lazy behinds and do nothing.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7 ESV)

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19 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by indywatchman on September 19, 2009 at 5:42 pm

    Prodigal,

    It is not unusual, especially these days, to find that saint who has slid into apostasy, who once was a shining star. Take Solomon as my example; he was the gifted son, the wisest of the wise, who became a charismatic philosopher, who became the rejected apostate. The Book of Ecclesiastes is the autobiography of a man confused in the midst of great wisdom, and bordered madness.

    Solomon’s sin is my sin, and the sin of every man who will try and reason his way to an understanding of God’s mind. Solomon cursed “living” as most of us have. Trying to live for God is going to be the death of me, and many simply cannot go on, and find Solomon’s words to be the true gospel, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity, and a chasing after wind.” Solomon could no longer discern good and evil, and his mind whirled with his great intellect trying to nail down something, with his mental abilities, that was in the beginning a gift, not something he discovered through deduction or experimentation.

    Eating from that tree, the one that now allows us to know both good and evil, was a very bad idea, as we have come to find out. Where once our grand parents had instant access to truth and knowledge, and never quibbled about whether this was best or that was best, they simply knew. Since that time every simple question has to be rationalized, questioned, bisected, run past the board, checked on the internet, taken to our “pastor”, and prayed about.

    I guess what I am trying to say is that most, if not all, of us just think way too much about doing good, instead of just doing it. Our minds are very active and wear us down, and wear us out. Jesus says, “Come unto Me and I will give you rest.” “If a man knows to do good and doesn’t do it, to him it is sin,” that simple. If we don’t know what to do, or we can’t discern truth, there is only one answer, look at Jesus. He is the answer that takes us away from all the reasoned arguments and text book answers. “Follow me” He say, even when it doesn’t make sense, even when it goes against the status quo, even when it means poverty and death, it is the only right way out of the deep dark woods, everything else is a lie.

    I struggle with all the same questions that you pose here, and have for years, and my answer is the same as Solomon’s, just give up, and follow God’s lead. Just “rest” and follow Jesus.

    Steve Blackwell
    http://www.IndyWatchman.com

  2. I’m with you on this, Steve. I’m am so tired of beating myself up and feeling like I don’t measure up. I never will!

    Thank you God our Father for Jesus! Or, as Paul says,”But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” (Romans 8:25 ESV)

  3. ProdigalKnot,

    You have hit the ball out of the park with this post.

    I’m sure you have stated what so many others feel about never really having assurance when ‘good works’ are put into the mix.

    As you so aptly put it, “Our works are not a means of grace; they are the fruits of grace and the Holy Spirit.”

    Thanks for the encouragement PK!
    I always need it!

    (and thanks for the plug!)

    – Steve

  4. I am learning to just let God give me the opportunities to let Himself show up in other people’s lives.

    I appreciate you orthodox Lutherans standing for what you believe and defending the Bible. Now if we could only see everything the same way!!

    And…you are welcome!

  5. I don’t even see everything the same way as my pastor! But we are very close.

    And I think you and I are close, too.

    One Day, it will not matter. We will all be on the same page.

    Thanks, PK!

  6. Posted by sreneetn1 on September 30, 2009 at 2:48 am

    Thanks PK for this post, as I have (I think?) shared with you before, this too is one of my hang ups…what, when, where, and how LORD? I daily plead with God to guide me to be in His perfect will, but yet often feel incomplete with my own assessment of how inadequate I am, as if I have lost favor in God’s eyes for not measuring up – it is physically and mentally exhausting at times, and if not careful can land me right into a “self-pity” party – which is of no good use to anyone!

    However, I have to say that the following Scriptures are what trip me up, for I just want to be in line with what God sees as “good works” – I want to please my Maker – though I do not want to lean too much to the “works” direction, I also do not want to lean the other way and become complacent and abuse the grace issue. Whew!

    Matthew16:27 Revelation 2:2, 2:5, 2:9, 2:13, 2:19, 2:26
    Revelation 3:1&2, 3:8 and3:15 Revelation 20:12,13

    Again, thanks for this post – I have been blessed by this post and the replies.

    Sherry

  7. Posted by indywatchman on October 3, 2009 at 9:44 am

    Sherry,

    There is an answer to this dilemma, and you are not alone in this problem. Regardless of our understanding of Scriptures and how often we have proved to ourselves that “works” have no part in our salvation, we continually slip back into the “works” mode. Why is this? Because we have been deceived by the Devil and because we are a works orientated race. We see something that needs to be done, so we do it, and we simply can not imagine the concept of free freedom, there has to be strings attached, and we don’t allow God to operate outside of our plan of salvation; we must be doing something to validate this “freedom.” Of course all of this human thinking and striving only leaves us in bondage and confused, and this is where we find the vast majority of Christendom today. When we find ourselves in this condition we must confess that we do not understand God’s words or His plan. Understanding of Scriptures can not come apart from a correct view of the human condition: study won’t get you there, praying real hard won’t get you there, going to the mission field won’t get you there, singing in the choir won’t help either, or giving alms. Nothing we can do can cause us to understand what Jesus and the prophets were talking about, nothing.

    Below is a verse of Scripture from John 3:20-21, and it reads:

    “For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”

    We are suffering, along with many others, from a severe lack of “abundant life” because we do not comprehend the words of Jesus here and other places.

    The passage begins with “For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.” When we have sin to hide we do not come into the light–we shun the light, that is, everything that would expose us. Stay with me here, I am getting to the point. The verse goes on to say, “But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.” There is something significant here that the Holy Spirit want us to get. You may naturally think that the opposite of doing “evil” is to do “good,” but that isn’t what it says. We want to think that those who do “good” come to the light. The alternative to evil, that God give us here, is not doing “good,” but rather doing “truth,” that is, being honest in regards to our evil. Because we are evil we naturally feel that now that we have come to the light we must do good: trying to be friendly, where we have been un-friendly, trying to be un-critical where we were before always critical, to be kind where we were un-kind, etc. We could do all those things and never be repentant or even saved, or have cleansing or peace in our hearts, and feel guilt and shame and confusion.

    What God ask first of all is “truth,” the way David described it, Ps 51:6 “Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.” The works God wants first is the inward work of “truth,” plain truthful repentance and frank confession of sin. The truth of who and what we are is much over looked and ignored, and most of what we do is to coverup, sooth, and appease a guilty conscience.

    Well, enough. I am not trying to come across as a know it all, but, I am only trying to share what almost forty years of being a professing Christian has finally brought me to, a needed “rest” from my labors.

    Shalom

    Steve Blackwell
    http://www.IndyWatchman.com

  8. Posted by sreneetn1 on October 3, 2009 at 2:51 pm

    Steve,

    Thanks so much! I cannot even convey the blessing your reply has been – I know that what you say is true!

    Sherry

  9. Sherry, dear sister,

    I agree a lot with what Steve said and I have been kind of on this same wavelentgh lately.

    Like you, I am always on God’s case about “OK< what IS it you want me to do, Lord? Who do I donate to? What person should I talk to? And all this does is make me feel useless and depressed.

    But, I have recently come to comprehend what Steve is saying: Jesus came to SAVE sinners….NOT to SAVE the righteous. He wasn't being coy; He was simply saying, in a different way "Blessed are those who are hungry and thirst for righteousness, for THEY shall be filled." People who think they have to be good enough, try hard enough, and so on, are not letting God work in them "to will and do His good pleasure". God wants us to simply rest in Him and let Him do His work through and in us. We do nothing but surrender to His will, His timing, the opportunties He gives us. Our part is to always be ready, in season and out, to be used. USED!

    I'm not sure how to express this, but 2 Corinthians 5:21 says it best "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”

    There is no goodness in us except the Spirit of God. Now I know I have to write the next post….

  10. Posted by sreneetn1 on October 6, 2009 at 4:26 am

    PK.

    It has been a slow and painful process with me gaining full comprehension with what Steve shared with me in his reply…but glory to God; He is cultivating this out in me! And at the risk of sounding arrogant to some, though I assure you that my intent is only to give God the glory and acknowledge His power…but this post, and especially Steve’s reply, seemed as if it were personally catered to me. I cannot even express the affirmation that God has given me through this…and yes, I know these words apply to all of us – but I am just overwhelmed by the supernatural power of it that I cannot help but feel that it was placed especially for me. I hope I am not misunderstood by this comment – in no way do I want to elevate myself – I want this to be all about His power – I am so thankful!

    sherry

  11. Posted by indywatchman on October 6, 2009 at 3:39 pm

    Sherry,

    Sometimes I wonder what one sinner has to say to another sinner. We all fight battles on our own front lines, sometimes giving ground, and sometimes taking. Whether we are winning or losing any particular battle, we have within us the necessary resources to win, if we can comprehend the mystery. Through the providence of God we all share in the mystery, helping wherever we can, even while fighting for our lives to overcome some great sin, or little sin. It is absolutely mandatory that we understand the mystery, but then we are told that we can not understand unless it is revealed to us. The mystery is spoken of plainly, yet it remains a riddle to most; very few will grasp it, even though it is simple. How can something so simple be missed by so many? Because the “something” is completely foreign to our nature and it demands something totally against our human abilities of rational thinking and reasoning. This makes it all sound so –difficult and hard. All the Old Testament speaks loudly that it is God who accomplishes the impossible in our behalf, and that it is not us at all. Yet by the time we get to the practical application of the New Testament with all of our traditions so carefully defined for us so as to negate any act of real “faith” we are left with only a remnant of believers like yourself who know that there has been some grave mistake in our “believing.”

    Every person pulls behind him or her a wagon, and in that wagon is all their attitudes and accomplishments, all their strengths and weaknesses, all their dreams and goals, all their abilities and powers. Then we meet a Man who tells us to leave it all and come through the Door and cross the threshold into a Way, a narrow Way, and that none of that stuff will be needed their. So what do we do? We hold on to that wagon, we can’t let go; it is all we have; it is everything to us, because it is US, and it must be left behind, it must die. But, we have this “scent” of another life that we can’t let go of, and we are caught between two worlds, and we must make a choice. Most people, because of tradition and indoctrination, choose to hold onto their talents and abilities and enter into a life of fantasy, a life of religion, where they can use their talents and abilities to build something for God. Does this sound familiar? It should, because this is what we are surrounded with today. All the activity in the “Church” has the fingerprints of men all over it. The landscape is scattered with towers of Babel all reaching up to God, proclaiming a way, around the Cross. It is very easy for me to see, but to ask people to “die” and become nothing, and that even their “desires” need to go, when they have such talent, and can offer so much to the “Church” is incomprehensible and unimaginable to the CEO of any organized Church. But, inside we know it is the truth, and that that is what the Bible says from beginning to end, but they feel it is more than the Lord should ask of such weak creatures, but He ask none the less, and He pleads, and assures us that it is the right thing to do, and He proved it to us by His own example, and He says “follow me.”

    We will always be confused until we let go of the wagon, because we have not trusted Him yet. The wagon is our backup plan, our contingency plan, our plan “B,” our just in case plan. Once we have trusted Him, then our real life has just begun. With the one major victory behind us and that greatest of all revelations (that Jesus really lives in us) we now have the real earnest of God that all things are really possible to those who “believe.” It is a wonderful life, not a life of perfection, but a life of really doing what God intended; allowing Him to live through us. Then we begin to understand many things, like the prayer of Jabaz who prayed for God to extend his boundaries, and our boundaries, and engage the enemy, (the sin that so easily besets us) and take back ground from the Devil, and we enter into death, the death of the flesh, and our spirit soars. But, God test us when He senses pride, and we find ourselves face-down in some sin where we thought we were strong, and so goes our life, the rest of our life.

    Our life in Christ is a life of revelation, a stream of spiritual information leading and guiding and informing. We seek Him, we crave Him, and when He is far from us we wither. Our life is in Him now, only Him, and now we know that we are nothing apart from Him, He is us, He is our freshness, our air, our food and water, He is our joy and our sorrow, and now we know for sure that He hold us up and brings us down; He sustains us because we are His children and He loves us.

    We can not be a Christian by going to Church or doing a bunch of good things, or singing real loud, or praying all day long. We are Christians because He wants us, more than we want our little red wagon. We are Christians because He loves us, and we understand the mystery because He reveals to us all things.

    I don’t know you, but in a way I do, because I have been where you are. Others too can relate and feel the things you are dealing with, they are good things, and He is waiting. I will pray for you, although I feel the heavens are brass right now, but I know He hears.

    Steve Blackwell
    http://www.IndyWatchman.com

  12. Wonderfully said, Steve!

    I feel the heavens are brass lately, as well. I have really been wrestling with God over this, but prayer doesn’t seem to be the answer, in and of itself.

    I am just plodding on, not feeling very much in a position to be useful or used, but I carry on, thank the Lord.

    But, these verses have been haunting me for the last several weeks:

    “The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. ” (John 8:35-36)

    “For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:2)

    “So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 6:11)

    “and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.” (Romans 6:18)

    “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

    and “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:3)

    It is very liberating to understand that Paul is not saying we are unable to sin, or are perfected. What he is saying is that sin can no longer rule or condemn us. If we can just grasp that beyond the carnal idea of “So I can do whatever I want?” and realize that laws are for law breakers, and we are freed from the consequences of sin because we are free from the law of sin (“The soul that sins will die.”) we are under the “law of liberty” – not to sin, but to no longer have to worry about where we stand as long as we keep faith in God through Christ Jesus.

    I was raised in a non-charismatic Holiness church and it took me forever to actually understand what sin was (beyond the obvious lying, stealing, adultery, etc.) and that I was guilty of it every day. It always rubbed me wrong to have people admit they were sinners and still claim to be Christians. But, things began to impress me in scripture that none of us are perfect, but we are acquitted in spite of our faults because of Christ, not simply given another shot at the impossible task of being perfect.

    See! You aren’t the only long-winded person around these parts! 🙂

  13. Sherry,

    It is so encouraging to have you around again! Thank you for dropping by and for your encouragement. God is good!

  14. Posted by sreneetn1 on October 9, 2009 at 2:30 am

    PK,

    Yes, it is good to be around again, though I really never left, I would often read your posts, the same with Steve’s and FD – I just would not comment on anything. I do enjoy this communication, this fellowship, for this is all I have at the moment. To be married to an atheist and not to have a “church” family, or any friends that share my thoughts on God, at least to the extent I do, can be lonely and depressing. And forgive me, for I really do not mean to complain, for my burdens are far from anything that so many people have to deal with – I am merely just stating fact, not really whining – though I know I am. With all of that out of the way however, God has been and continues to be so good to me – providing me with the encouragement and comfort that is needed – along with the discipline that is also necessary to bring me closer to Him – to be more like Him. John 3:30 is real in my life and I am ever thankful!

    ….where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty. 2 Corinthians 3:17

    I am becoming more and more acquainted with what this means, though it seems I take a few steps forward only to be followed by a step back. I continue to put myself back into bondage – my way of thinking is hard to purge! Though I want to take hold of what it is to have this freedom in Christ, I dare not want to lose this desire to please my Maker – to have a healthy dose of fear is a must as well…oh to find the balance – to recognize His perfect will daily.

    Thanks for the encouragement, PK – – and Steve, for it was perfect timing – His timing.

    sherry

  15. Posted by indywatchman on October 9, 2009 at 5:13 am

    PK,Sherry,

    I have really enjoyed this open interchange of our hearts and lives. It always amazes me what brothers and sisters in Christ will share with each other, that we would never mention to the world and unbelievers, even some who say they are believers. There is a trust and a life between us that we share. Granted, we are on the internet and have an anonymity that protects us, but in reality the true Church is exactly this way, admonishing and encouraging daily. This is what we seek, daily life together.

    Jesus is the Door-He himself is the Door, Jesus is the Way-He himself is the Way, and Jesus is the End of the Way-He is the Goal of our walk.He is the End, but alas, we put other ends in His place, idols all of them, so easily we allow the things that Jesus can get us: peace, joy, a happy home, courage to do His work, etc., to take His place in our hearts. Sherry you were so right, and I too love John 3:30 “He must increase and we must decrease” all the days of our lives.

    Today you will be on my mind, pray for me.

    Steve Balckwell

  16. Posted by sreneetn1 on October 11, 2009 at 5:26 am

    Steve,

    I too have enjoyed this interchange – and I find it easy to open my heart to you and PK – and can only give that reason to the supernatural work of our Creator. This is fellowship – and yes I know we have this anonymity – but nonetheless I know it is the fact that we are believers in Christ and desire His glory that draws us and allows this level of trust.

    I was first introduced to PK via FD, along with a wonderful sister, Steph, which has also been a blessing, though I am not physically with them, they offer such spiritual encouragement. I simply crave this type of fellowship… brothers and sisters whom seek to please our Father – and possess the love for His truth – and that is also where I see you. This is rare, and I do so treasure it!

    Sherry

    PK, Happy Birthday! 🙂

  17. Thanks Sherry!

    I hate to acknowledge birthdays, but anything that makes people wish others well, is a good thing 🙂

  18. Posted by indywatchman on October 15, 2009 at 12:12 pm

    PK,

    In your response to me above you quoted several verses (John 8:35-36; Romans 8:2; Romans 6:11; Romans 6:18; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Colossians 3:3) that you said “have been haunting me.” I’m not so thin minded to actually believe you meant something evil was tormenting you concerning these words, but it has troubled me somewhat that such liberating words as these are giving you anxiety. Am I right to assume that you want a deeper understanding of these things and want to know the mind of Christ in these verses? I don’t think you put them down just to take up space. If there is more, maybe we can kick the door open for discussion and possibly some revelation.

    Just a thought that has been on my mind,

    Blessings brother,

    Steve Blackwell
    http://www.IndyWatchman.com

  19. Bless you, Steve, but I am just struggling with the things that were ingrained in me from my chldhood exposure to cultish religiosity posing as Christianity.

    I don’t know how to explain it beyond what I did after quoting those verses in my comment. I believe these things, but I struggle grasping what they really mean. Kinda like Romans 7 – before or post conversion? I believe Paul sometimes speaks out of both sides of his mouth (see 1 Corinthians 7)and it’s not always a sure thing to latch onto what you think he’s saying.

    I know many people think they have the answers to all, or most, of these things, but the majority seem to wander a bit into a spiritual ascetism which I am very suspicious of. I’m just trying to simply learn to trust God instead of my intellect, human intuition, or what my emotions try to tell me.

    I appreciate your concern and offer to discuss this. I may take you up on that, but not at present, okay?

    Grace and peace to you, Steve!

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