Works and Fruit
Why do we do the things we do? Those who believe in Grace and Eternal Security are often maligned for being too libertine, and those who say they are just trying to "live for Christ" are accused of legalism. So...what's the difference?
Well, I got to thinking...
First off, Titus 2:11, 12 says: For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age.
According to Paul, a proper understanding of grace will produce righteous actions. But there's that issue again - the "doing" issue. We are all the time occupied with the "What does God want me to DO" question. Personally, I think the question is short-sighted. God's intentions for us go far beyond "doing." His plan for us is about "being." It's about what/who we "are" in Christ.
But Jesus said, "If you love Me, keep My commandments." That means I've got to do something. Right?
Galations 5 has two lists: the works of the flesh and the Fruit of the Spirit. The entire scope of our contribution is on the first list, and God's on the second.
Works and Fruit - an interesting juxtaposition. One is produced by effort and the other is natural, intrinsic. Interesting if you apply it to the topic at hand. One is about doing, and one is about being.
The exertion of our efforts produces what? Well, let's look at the list: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like. Not a very impressive list. These are what my "works" will produce. Try as I may, all I can produce is destruction.
That's an interesting word, because biblically speaking, God is the only One who is CONstructive. God is actually the only Entity in the entire universe actually "doing" something. My efforts only produce the un-doing of what God has done. Sin produces nothing, it only causes pre-existent things (our God-given desires, for instance) to become undone, to fall apart, to dis-integrate (In Him all things consist).
So what does that say about me trying to "do" something for Christ? The obvious answer is: I can't!
Now, hold on a sec, before you blow your stack...
Fruit on the other hand comes without effort. Trees and plants do not have to try to be fruitful. Fruit happens. A gardener can help cultivate fruit, but the fruit will come all on it's own. Dare I say that an apple tree is "predestined" to bear fruit (Rom. 8:29, 30).
But, hold on just another sec...
"If you LOVE Me, keep MY commandments." Love. Hmmm. Now where did I see that. Love. Which list is Love from.
(Finger snap) That's it!
Love is a Fruit of the Spirit! It's a Fruit, not a work. (Chew on it for a minute.) Fact is, I am incapable of love apart from the God Who is Love. Love comes from the sanctifying presence of God's Holy Spirit within me. So...if I need love to keep His commandments, and love comes from Him...then my keeping of His commandments begins with Him, not me. He does it in me. All I have to do is get out of the way.
I frequently ask people a question along these lines - let's use prayer for instance. "The desire to pray, does it come from the flesh or from the Spirit?" The Spirit, of course. So then, prayer begins with God, not me.
"Yeah, but I say 'yes' to the Spirit," will be the Arminian objection. There they go again...I, me, my. "What about me?" Me, me, me. They just can't see beyond themselves. Sad, really. This is why self-effort is like walking on a treadmill - expending all kinds of energy and never getting anywhere. Sure, you get stronger...at going nowhere.
"But, but...We gotta work out our own salvation with fear and trembling," they will say. Curious that they rarely include the balance of that thought: "for it is God who works in you both to will AND to do for His good pleasure." He makes me want it and gives me the love to do it. See. It's all Him.
Stop trying to steal His glory! Let Him do it and give Him all the glory. This is grace. This is truth.