Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A handful...


Anyone who has been a Christian for a while knows better than to say his or her good deeds earned their salvation. I do think, however, many professing Christians struggle with how their works and perceived spiritual accomplishments relate to God's view of them. We may not think our actions earn us favor with God in terms of our salvation, but I do think we often find confidence that God loves us or accepts us more because of the good things we do. If we do our daily devotions God is more pleased with us. If we tithe it counts for something with God. If we help someone repair their flat tire it earns some kind of extra favor with God. I have had momentary lapses of discernment about my works when someone compliments me for something like preaching, teaching, or another other part of my pastoral function. After receiving the compliment, for a moment, I think to myself, "God must be happy with what I just did." Just being honest- I tend to think pretty highly of my "good works" and spiritual "accomplishments" and all too often forget that NONE of my works are meritorious. Any "good" thing I do is only acceptable to God by virtue of His accepting my Savior's righteousness in place of mine (which isn't really any righteousness at all). So my works are redeemed by my union with Christ by faith. Yes, Christians should obey God (do good works), but not with any notion that God loves us based on such works or that we merit favor with God because of them. When we do good works or experience spiritual growth, it is a gift of God's grace, not something we personally mustered as a way to earn favor with God.
* It reminds me...

I have been changing quite a few diapers again these past months. In the past year we have had 7 foster children, several have been in diapers. We have had our current foster baby since March. Changing her diaper has caused many a flashback to some traumatic episodes with my sons. One such episode found me absolutely stunned after cracking open one of their diapers. I couldn't believe how much he had produced. With his diaper still undone I retreated from his diaper changing table and lunged across the room to get some extra baby wipes. Before I could return to hold his hands back and start cleaning him, he had reached down and grabbed a handful of stuff and was holding it up to me like an offering. He had a quirky smile and his hand out with "stuff" in and over it as if I would be happy to take it from him. It was gross, smelly, and a touch disturbing. I had to clean in between every one of his little fingers...

What my son did is the same thing we do every time we think one of our works or actions somehow makes God love us more or is otherwise meritorious. God looks at such works and accomplishments- apart from Christ- as we hold them out to him, and sees them them just as I saw my son's offering for what it was.

Paul was vivid about his accomplishments as they related to God's acceptance of Him-

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ... (Philippians 3:7-8)

As you may or may not know, the word here translated "rubbish" refers to dung.

*Of course, I could never use such an illustration in a sermon...

6 comments:

christianlady said...

You need a share button.

Ray and Janell said...

Well written, Pastor. Your analogy gives way to a related issue all too often ignored by Christians -- pridefulness. Common, are the thoughts of many, which would say "Well now, we are some mighty good people and we're really doing some mighty good things." When in reality we all should be recognizing a higher and higher view of God all the while building a more appropriate view of ourselves. Oh, and way to go on being a diaper changing daddy -- just another good way to demonstrate love and true partnership to your wife.

Malcolm said...

Great sermon, Tony. Welcome back. I can't wait to do the voice work for the intro to the Redeeming hour..."Today Pastor Tony Felich will use excrement as an illustration several times. Please stay tuned for the Redeeming Hour". I also want to see how Brian will approach writing the copy.

Woody Woodward said...

Pastor, I was so moved Sunday by this vivid pictorial image, I couldn’t even shout an amen! O’ of late, how guilty I have been in my stinken thinken’ of the past. That, “Hey God, aren’t you ‘LUCKY’ (such a faithless word of defeat) that I am on Your team!”
After following the Lord for over 38 years, and “trying” to be the best Christian I could possibly be, counting up and keeping track of all my “good deeds” and placing them in my trophy case, I believe I am just now beginning to understand the depth of God’s Grace. Grace is beginning to appear to me in a new light. The more I am growing in the Lord the more I can see how awful a sinner I am. But thanks be unto Jesus, His Grace is far more beautiful than my ugly, horrible sins.

pjw said...

of course, you wouldn't use that illustration in a sermon, Tony, but if you did - it would be mighty effective!

Woody, I am with you on the grace thing. Since being at Redeemer, it has made all the difference to me.

Jerry + Kris said...

What an analogy!!! It really brings us 'down to earth,' in fact, back to the dirt/dust God made us with. Keep up the 'Good Work,' Pastor.