How Works Fit Into the Chirstian Life
If you ask the average person why God should let them into heaven, they would probably say that they have tried to be good and live a decent life. But the Bible makes it clear that no one is good enough on their own to inherit eternal life. For instance it states: "As it is written, there is none righteous, no, not one. There is none that understands, there is none that seeks after God...For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:10,11,23). In the book of Ephesians it clearly states that salvation is by grace through faith. (Ephesians 2:8,9). Grace can be defined as unmerited favor. It is something that God gives us that we didn't earn. These verses further state that salvation is a gift. A gift is something that you don't pay for. It is given out of love. Titus 3:5 also says: "Not by works of righteousness that we have done, but according to his mercy he has saved us..." These and many other verses show us clearly that the Bible teaches that a person can never earn their way to heaven.
I. Works are the Fruit of Salvation
With all of that being said, works do play an important role in the Christian life. Works don't save you. But they are the fruit of those who are truly born again. To be born again is a phrase that Jesus used in John 3 to describe the new life that a believer receives from God. Before salvation, man is seen as dead in trespasses and sins. In other words we are spiritually dead and separated from a holy God. But once we receive Jesus Christ as Savior, He gives us new life, and we become the Sons and daughters of the living God. Those are some big claims. But is there any empirical evidence that this is true? Yes there is! Just like you know a tree by its fruit, so you know a Christian by his works. If the apple tree is alive, ultimately it will blossom and apples will appear. If it is dead, then it will not produce any fruit. It is the same with Christians. The evidence of our new life is the fact that we are changed and produce good works. That is what is meant in James 2:17,18 where it says: "Even so, faith without works is dead, being alone. Yes, a man may say, 'You have faith , and I have works.' Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works."
I have heard another illustration that is very effective for explaining works. If you have a fire in a fireplace, all who pass by the house will see the smoke coming out of the chimney. They will not be able to see the fire in the fireplace, but will know nonetheless that it is there. Why? Because fire produces smoke. Smoke doesn't produce fire. It is the result of the fire that is already burning. If you have the new life from Christ that only He can give by his grace, then all who see you will see something different. They will see your good works and know that what you are saying is true. There is an old song that says: "Love and marriage, Love and marriage, go together like a horse and carriage." Well faith and works go together as well. You can't have one without the other. Faith, naturally produces works.
II. The Christian and Self-Examination
It was the Apostle Paul that said to: "Examine yourselves, whether you be in the faith" (II Corinthians 13:5). We all need to ask ourselves if the faith that we have in our Lord Jesus Christ is genuine. If we can say that we are born again and we can still live like the rest of the world, then it is time to ask if we are merely fooling ourselves. If our faith doesn't radically change our life, then maybe we don't really have faith in the first place.
Let us all examine ourselves today. And if our lives are reflecting the new life in Christ, may we not become proud or boastful about it. May we continue to give glory to God and thank Him that He is making us into vessels of honor, to give Him praise for all eternity.