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Good works

How Grace "Works".

How Grace "Works".

There’s a popular idea of karma that if a person can log in enough good, kind, or selfless acts it can tip some cosmic scale in one’s favor. BUT, if you’re a jerk and something bad happens then its poetic justice. It’s the idea that some force in the universe acts as the great equalizer.

Grace on the other hand doesn’t start or end with good outweighing the bad. Yet the danger of contrasting grace with our deeds is that it suggests that one is a positive and the other is a negative. What’s universally true is that grace AND works are irreplaceably needed!

Paul wrote to the young, multi-cultural church in Ephesus saying, “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” (Eph.3:8-10, NLT)

Ephesus was renown for people making art of the Olympian goddess, Artemis. She was considered the daughter of Zeus and the temple was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. The city was full of artisans and tradesmen whose income was creating art of the goddess. Here, Paul uses a play on words in describing grace…

Rather, than people making art out of god. Paul’s describes a God who makes art of people!!

Grace is about a God who comes to us NOT us striving toward Him. We’re saved BY grace FOR good works!  And being part of church should produce something in us. Most notably, Love & Good Works. God seeks to shape you into a masterpiece – to create beauty out of your circumstances as we draw near, love outwardly, trust that God sees the whole canvas.

The Power of Good. Works. An intro to our Rhythms

In 1966, after drawing “only” 50,000 fans for show at Shea Stadium, the Beatles were fed up w touring. In an interview years later with Paul, George and Ringo seated around a table, McCartney said, “We were getting worse and worse as a band while all those people were screaming. It was lovely that they liked us but we couldn’t hear to play.” They could no longer hear the music. When that happened, they lost their meaning. They had to go back to the studio to find their sound again. 

If our faith is the melody and God’s presence is the harmony, how can we hear God’s redemption song despite the insufferable distractions? I like to say that we need to find our spiritual rhythm, if you will—a way to tangibly express our faith and represent the belief we profess. And we need each other so we don’t lose it. 

We all have a desire to grow. Some of us have a plan for it. We have ideas about how to grow a career, our business, net worth, improve our health or relationships…but do we know how to grow our faith? I want to introduce a way of thinking about faith as a way of living.

Jesus said, ‘My mother & brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.’  (Lk.8:19-21). Ancient Israel shared a common understanding of the concept of good deeds. In causal Jewish English, “doing a mitzvot” means doing a good deed, something nice, something helpful to someone, a favor; but these meanings derive from the original sense, “a commandment” from God. It is somewhat shocking to learn that the Torah contains a whopping 613 mitzvot for the Jewish people to obey! 

Central to Jewish people was to live the way of Torah. These ‘commands’ from the first five books of the Bible were God’s design to help us live in harmony with God, with one another, and with the environment. Torah contains all kinds of laws that about the minutia of daily living (Lev.19; 25; Dt.24). Torah speaks to issues about food, possession, neighbors, sexuality, family, business, and clothing – in order to live the way of God. It’s about how to work, treat employees, treat customers, take of others because prosperity was thought of as communal not individual, that if one prospered others should too. And if the community prospered, no one would go hungry. Jesus embraces this inspired Jewish idea when he says, “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your (mitzvot) good deeds and praise your father in Heaven” (Mt. 5:16)  

Many discussions in Jesus’ day centered around which were the most important commands. The better the rabbi, the fewer amount of words and letters he’d use to summarize the commands in the shortest way possible. Daily discussions were held in temple courts around these interpretations and which ones were most important. Debates among rabbis and religious leaders were won with someone’s ability to best summarize God’s intent behind the Laws. In a drop-the-mic, stun-the-crowd kind of moment, Jesus summarizes 613 commands saying, Love God and love others as much as self (Matt.22:24).

Different rabbis would have different interpretations of Torah. For instance, some might emphasize how much a person could lift or how far one could walk on Sabbath and still keep the day as holy. Others might emphasize personal hygiene or acceptable eating habits. And still others might scrutinize care for the most vulnerable in society. Many interpretations were so strict, legalistic, and became a source of pride. What’s interesting is that a rabbi’s interpretation was known as his ‘yoke’. Jesus, a master rabbi himself, comes along and declares, “my yoke is easy (or, useful) and my burden (or, load) is light” (Matt.11:30). Jesus wants to show what it looks like to put these commands on display. He wants to restore harmony with God and creates a tangible, guided way for people to follow. 

At Mission Hills Church, we’ve compiled a rather simple “yoke” for people to follow. We refer to them as our Rhythms. We believe that faith is supposed to be both shared and practiced beyond simply attending a worship service. We’re not trying to be spiritually comprehensive with these values. Rather, we trying to outline a tangible way for people to follow Christ, express faith, and experience the Spirit’s impact. Our belief is that if we practice these Rhythms, it can form Christ in us. And if we practice these Rhythms, it will benefit people where we live and work. 

  • Hospitality – because faith and community need to remain accessible.
  • Generosity – it’s in giving that we’re reminded of God’s gracious provision in our own lives. 
  • Gratitude simply requires discipline and thanksgiving is a valuable expression of worship.
  • Compassion – it’s in serving that our hearts are re-sensitized and needs are met.
  • Community – faith is supposed to be shared and practiced with others. 
  • Renewal - because margins are a good thing and we need to live more sustainably 
  • Apprenticing – because experience is both a need to gain and a gift to steward for all of us.