It is a monumental task being a living witness of Jesus Christ. The world is not interested in the subject, and the people are offended when they hear the briefest presentation. The man of God, therefore, studies his subject to honor God and win souls. No man is won, however, by logic, persuasion, manipulation, coercion, or salesmanship.
The souls of people are saved by the work of our Triune God. God the Father has chosen who will be saved (2 Thess 2:13; Rev 13:8; 17:8), and who will be punished (Mt 25:46; Jude 7). God the Son has been given the souls of God’s elect (Jn 6:37; Jn 17:2, 6, 24). Jesus Christ saved them by an act of redemption (Rom 5:8; 1 Cor 6:20; 7:23). The Holy Spirit saves, by regenerating the souls of God’s elect, redeemed (Eph 2:5; Col 2:13; 1 Pet 1:3). Thus, it is God who plans, executes, and applies salvation to whom He wills (Jn 1:12–13; Rom 9:16). Salvation belongs to God (Ps 3:8; Jon 2:9; Rev 19:1).
The Bible teaches us the total depravity of humanity (Gen 6:5; Jer 17:9; Rom 3:10–12; 8:7; Eph 2:1–3). Man is not willing nor able to come to Jesus Christ, the only Savior (Tit 2:13). The natural man is not willing because he loves sin and hates God (Jn 3:19; Rom 1:30). He is not able to meet God’s requirement (Rom 8:7). Sinners do not seek God (Rom 3:11), and therefore, it is vanity for the church to create worldly gimmicks to try and attract people by distortion and dilution.
God has saved His people, by means of the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Rom 1:16–17; 2 Tim 4:2). The elect hear and believe the Good News (Rom 10:14–17), of what God has done, from beginning to end, to save His people from their sins (Mt 1:21). They believe because God appointed them to life (Acts 13:48), and that life is in His Son (Jn 3:36; 1 Jn 5:12).
God’s Spirit and God’s Word give life (Jn 6:63), which is abundant and eternal (Jn 10:10; 17:2). It is new life, that is, life from the dead, for those born again of God’s Spirit (Jn 3:1–8; 1 Pet 1:3). The new creature is Christ-focused (Heb 12:2). The new man learns Christ through sound doctrine, taught by the Spirit, from the Scriptures. This man grows in grace and knowledge of the wisdom of God, by the will and power of God.
With the Spirit of truth, as his Teacher (Jn 14:26; 16:13), the Christian is guided by the truth, as it is in Jesus. The saint is sanctified, that is, set apart from the world and for God, by the Word of truth. Simply put, God’s Word makes one to be holy (Jn 17:17). There is no performance in this exercise. It is pictured as a meal with Jesus, throughout the Bible. If you want to be holy, then hang out with Jesus, taking in His Word.
There is a pretentious piety that masquerades as holiness. Its source is not the Word or the Spirit. It is the re-introduction of religion, the opiate of the flesh. It turns Christianity into a regimented work.
The Christian knows the unregenerate sinner has no capacity to merit salvation, by works of the Law. Roman Catholicism follows the error of Judaism in this futile endeavor of religious labor. Arminianism also follows with its abbreviated work of decision making for Jesus.
The back-door return of religion into denominations, local churches, or individuals is a cancer to the body of Christ. It delights in putting Christians back under the Law (see Galatians). It denies that it is doing this devious act, but one who has ears can hear it, “Now that you are saved, Bob, God has given you the ability to keep the Law.” How did that work out for the Apostle Paul? See Romans 7.
Christians, living under this type of teaching, are thrust right back into the rivalry of keeping up with their religious neighbors at church. The legalist spirit can possess both Arminian and Reformed congregations. Presenting pious appearances, especially in so-called “accountability groups” keeps the focus right where religion wants it…on man.
Arrogant Christians are an oxymoron. Religion only produces pride. How silly is the picture of a pompous sheep? How ruinous to the flock is Law-keeping competition? No one can keep the Law, whether he is unsaved or saved. His efforts to do so only makes him a competitive Pharisee, looking to make a show of himself.
A far better course for the Christian life, is the maintaining of a low view Christians. The low view of the natural man (totally depraved) is transferred over to the resting sheep motif. Man can do nothing to save himself, and Christians are similarly non-performing in sanctification.
The sheep motif is helpful for dispelling performance Christianity, in all of its ugly manifestations. Sheep eat grass. Christians feed on Holy Scripture. Sheep are protected by the Shepherd. Christians are protected by the Good Shepherd. Sheep have no performance expectations. Christians have no performance expectations.
The Good Shepherd moves His sheep around to graze in different green pastures, but the Christian life and witness is simply us…in His care. That is it. There is nothing else. God does His good work in us, and by extension, through us (Eph 2:10; Phil 2:13). When God does His work to benefit His people, it is called, “grace.” It is all grace, my dear reader. Have you entered into this rest? Are you still working to merit salvation? Are you still working to gain favor with God, as a high-performance Christian?
If we maintain a low view of our fellow Christians, including and especially oneself, then we can focus more on Jesus Christ. This is what we were re-made to do (Heb 12:2), as vessels of mercy being prepared for glory (Rom 9:23). May God grant us the grace to focus on Jesus, not one another, especially considering our pathetic performance results.
Spokane Valley, Washington
December 8, 2020