We had an interesting discussion in our Sunday School class recently. One member said it seems that Lutherans often emphasize justification (the fact that Jesus died for our sins and thereby restored our relationship with God) and minimize sanctification (the ongoing process of becoming more Christlike). That’s probably true. We want to be sure people are aware that their good works don’t earn them God’s favor and are not necessary for salvation. However, that doesn’t mean they aren’t important. After all, the Bible tells us that:
“… we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10
The good works we do will benefit us and others. It pleases God when we seek to do His Will — and isn’t that what the Christian life is about? If we repent, and yet make no plan to amend our behavior, is our repentance genuine? Here’s a quote from my devotional reading that addresses that question.
“This doctrine (the intention to please God) does not suppose that we have no need of divine grace or that it is in our power to make ourselves perfect. It only supposes that through the lack of sincere intention to please God in all our activities we fall into irregularities of life that by the ordinary means of grace we should have the power to avoid; and that we have not that perfection of which our present state of grace makes us capable because we do not so much intend to have it.” From a Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life by William Law
In other words, if we’re honest, we often repent without any real desire to do better in the future. We know we are sinners (and that’s good) and since we can’t change that, we don’t even try. So, next time you examine your life and confess, take the second step — ask God to help you make a plan to avoid that sin next time. Intend to change. God will be pleased.
For more posts about good works see:
Good and Bad Fruit
Luther on Good works
Study to Do Good
This book was previously reviewed by one of our other authors, Michele (Sick of Me – Book Review). It sounded interesting, so I thought I would take a look for myself. Here’s the book in a nutshell:
- Whitney was “just plain sick of myself”
- The cure for being sick of yourself is to become more like Christ
- Becoming more like Christ is a process called sanctification
This is repeated in different ways throughout the book. According to Whitney, most of us are quite happy to be “transparent”…. i.e. to admit to our sins. The problem is, we’re also pretty happy to stay the way we are! This is not the life God wants for us. We’re called to be holy, not happy. We’re called to be at odds with the culture, not adapt our behavior to it. We’re called to mature in the faith, not stay spiritual infants.
In an engaging, easy to read style, Ms. Capps defines and helps her readers understand a number of important theological terms: regeneration, justification, sanctification, condemnation and conviction. If you don’t know what they are when you start, you will by the end of the book. Her emphasis is on the need for Christians to go beyond recognizing their sin to a true transformation in the way they live. This isn’t easy and it doesn’t happen overnight. In fact, none of us will be totally sanctified in this life.
I found her style a little flippant for such a weighty topic, but many will like it. It makes for an easy read, but one that is also meaty and informative.
VERDICT: 4 STARS. I didn’t learn anything new, but well presented and clear.
The final step in the environment’s transformation is to give yourself in friendship to the people there. Win their hearts by showing a genuine care and concern for them. A true friend does not force her views on others, but works patiently with them, helping them to question the values of the world, maybe even the values for which they have been living. Years ago I was in a neighborhood Bible Study. The leader told me that one of the members had originally joined only because she was suffering from depression and was looking for any activity that would get her our of the house. One day she was feeling so sad she called to say she just couldn’t make herself get out of bed to come. The other women decided it wasn’t enough to pray for her–they went over to her house, cleaned it and cooked dinner. Their love and compassion had a lasting impact. She saw something in their lives that she wanted. She became a Christian because, as she put it, “Who wouldn’t want to be part of this?”
As we become more Christlike ourselves, and as we influence our friends and others around us toward the Christian ideal, our environments will change. If you open a Via de Cristo Pilgrim’s Guide, the first thing you see, even before the table of contents are these words:
“To be on a pilgrimage is to go through Christ to the Father, under the impulse of the Holy Spirit, bringing others along with you.”
Each one of us is on just such a pilgrimage every day of our lives.
Environments are not changed suddenly or by magic. You cannot change the world, but you can change yourself; and as Paul says in the book of Galatians, “a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.” Allow God to use you and you will be the leaven that raises the bread.