One of the most devilish teachings going around these days is that Christians are not to obey the Law of God lest they fall from Grace and become "legalistic," that dirty little condemning word that is used unjustly against those Christians who see otherwise.
The teaching implies this: the one who attempts to obey God's Law is going to end up being a self-righteous, fallen hypocrite worthy of condemnation, while the one who merely rests in the Grace of God, giving thanks, is the true believer who pleases God and receives salvation. This is worse than ridiculous; it's outright at enmity with God, and it tends to expose the goats, the Grace-Only crowd that has somehow come to believe that calculated effort in honoring the Law with deliberated good deeds is somehow a work of the flesh.
God forbid that we should do a kindness to someone all on our own initiative! And what greater thanks can we offer God than when we do a kindness to someone, or meet their need, all on our own initiative? Wouldn't it be true that God is waiting for us to grow up, and to do good works all on our own initiative?
Put it this way, that we should only expect the goats among us to gravitate toward the Grace-only teaching, and that goats are likewise going to become church leaders among us, teaching that very thing.
I understand the concept of being confident in the forgiveness of God. I understand the importance in being happy for the complete forgiveness that we receive. The forgiveness causes us to be thankful, relaxed, and eager for making God happy in return. In our thankfulness, we tend to obey God. But that's the point; forgiveness was given in the first place so that we would make God happy, to think about Him too, not just our own affairs. If you don't like the word, obedience, then what other word will you use? How about conformity? Yes, the forgiveness of God coupled with the reception of His Spirit makes us conform out of gratitude. Conform to what? To all that God's laws wished for us to conform to. Therefore, do we dump the laws as though they didn't matter? No, for the laws help us to understand what God is like. Ask king David who meditated on His laws. What for? To conform.
Why do we want to conform? Is it because we fear punishment otherwise? That's just the beginning of wisdom. Don't we want to be wiser still? Then do more than conform out of fear. Conform because you really love the way God thinks, because you want to think as He thinks. If you don't like God, or the way He thinks, you're not going to fool Him by conforming to His laws in efforts to escape condemnation. Ask the Pharisees. Legalism should be defined as trying to obey and honor God when you don't like how God thinks. They hated the way Jesus spoke because they hated the way God thinks. But they wanted to be saved, and so clung to the Law with that hope. When they met God face to face, they didn't know Him.
Works of the Law without love for Jesus is dead. But works of the Law is not big-bad legalism for that reason. Grace was granted specifically for the purpose of leading to good works, as Ephesians 2:10 reveals. What great measure of insult do we do to Grace if we neglect the good works? Indeed, because Grace is merely the springboard, vehicle, or door to our performance of good works, it's the good works that are the Desired end-purpose of our faith...i.e. good works hold priority over Faith and Grace. There are good works, and then there are Good Works, the capitalized ones are those that God does through us.
But do we neglect good works done by our own initiatives as though they don't count or matter or please God? If you take one brick off the heavy load of your friend, doesn't it matter to God? Haven't you done it to Jesus too? Is it no good unless God makes you take the brick off? Must God do it through you to make it a genuine good deed?
I do not understand those who keep harping about the futility of trying to earn our salvation by works, because I've never met one Christian who is trying to earn salvation by works alone, without faith in Jesus. I get the impression that such harping is to erode in our minds the high value of good works.
I would like my preacher to condition everyone in the fellowship to be kind to one another, to live as family, to sacrifice for one another, to get beyond the superficial niceties of Sunday mornings. But evangelical churches today are gearing up for success, and using techniques of the corporations to find successful methods of "growing". Growing what? The church programs? There's a difference between church growth and growth as God would have us grow.
By the way, I am not opposed to evangelicals. I chose their churches over Catholicism, Anglicanism, or Presbyterianism. I can't help but wonder, however, at the methods being used to grow evangelical churches. I always wonder what is in the minds of pastors as they perform their jobs. Are they thinking about the condition of the flock, or something else? I asked a pastor point blank: do you cater you sermons based on what you think your flock is needing at the time? He said no. Instead, he said that he trusts the Holy Spirit on what should be said in sermons. Yes, but while the sermon is being prepared, doesn't it strike the pastor's mind that God is concerned about the condition of certain persons who will be in attendance? How can a pastor create sermon after sermon and not recognize that God is seeking to repair the lives of the flock, or, once repaired, to improve its health?
If the only thing that matters is how many new people will flock to hear the exciting sermons, then that pastor doesn't know how God thinks. That pastor is legalistic, wanting to be obedient for the wrong reasons. He needs the image of obedience in order to be respected, and so he does some things that make him appear holy. But if all he does is preach the word without tending to the needs of the flock, does he really even love the people of God?
Church leaders know that if you give your money to one another, there will be less for their offering plate. Beware church leaders who remind you over and over again to give ten percent of your income to the offering plate. The most basic commandment of God, that one church member be kind to another church member, is thereby minimized or eradicated altogether. It is difficult for us to appreciate one another when we don't do kind things for one another, and it doesn't take much guess work to figure that a church not practicing kindness will end up turning on one another, even while they shake hands and smile at one another.
I believe that we can fall away from Faith; in fact, we can be spit out of the mouth of God if He can't stand the sight of us due to our works, or lack thereof. Are you one of those who has been led to believe that God is just too loving to be that way? If you put a rotten chestnut in your mouth hoping for a good one, are you too loving to the chestnut not to spit it out? Does your abounding love make you chew it with twisted face, and then swallow like you really enjoy that acid taste?
Can we agree that God is a normal person who reacts logically? God's love is such that, if He spits you out of His mouth, He'll take you in again once the rot has been eradicated...by you. Yes, we've got to decide to eradicate the things we've decided to do that leave a bad taste in his mouth. It's our job, not His. You can't go back to the bars seeking to be wooed by a lover who has never been circumcised of heart, by one who cares not to know God, and then claim "saved by Grace." We can be forgiven if we stop that activity, but we can't be forgiven if we don't stop. God's mercy is huge, providing that we conform.
In a sense, God's mercy is not free at all; it takes effort to be worthy of it. God's mercy is free only in the sense that we don't deserve it, and He lavished mercy on us in hopes that we will react suitably. But the everyday, common effort it takes to be worthy of mercy is minute if we happen to like or love being like God. In that case, it's no work at all; it's instead pleasure and fulfillment. The job of the devil and of the humanist is to make you disrespect or hate God for the way that He is. But what does the Bible say? It says that when Jesus comes, His saints will see God as He is, and will conform to Him? Why? Is it because He's unlovely or unlikable?
We are to wait for the Holy Spirit, some say, to make us perform good works. Yes, we are to keep in touch with the Spirit (i.e. with the "Vine"); otherwise we go the way of corruption. When it comes to whether or not we help others in need, the Spirit will not normally force us to act; it's our decision and responsibility. We remain in the Vine when we choose the right; we disconnect from the Vine when we choose the wrong. Does remaining in the Vine mean that we just suck grape juice all day long? Doesn't it mean that we continue to value Jesus so that our decisions in life, which are our works, continue to please God, and for that reason God will chose to use us for Good Works with capital letters?
Carrying out good works is from our heart, not from our flesh. What twisted pastor has so distorted this concept of good works that he should call it an act of the flesh? If anything comes from "the flesh," it isn't a good work, for "the flesh" is by definition a work of evil. Anything done for the benefit of others comes from the heart. The Holy Spirit is given to us to teach concern for others, especially those in the fellowship of believers. This concern for others is the fulfillment of the Law of God. Dare we call it "legalism"?
Grace is the forgiveness of all disobedience; dare we teach that a willful obedience is a falling away from Christ? That's ludicrous, for Grace was granted to us that we might repent from past disobedience to the Law, and turn instead toward obeying it. Law, Obedience, Love and Good Works are essentially one and the same, except that Law carries the additional element of penalty.
What else is there to obey under the New Testament if not the Mosaic Law, for the Law of Jesus is not fundamentally different than the Law of Moses. Indeed, the New-Testament writings are an exposition on how to obey the Law of Moses, with a New-Covenant forgiveness in the Blood added in to replace old Temple activities. And when Jesus said that he didn't come to eradicate the Law, he magnified it's responsibilities, making it even harder to obey than before. That's because of two things: 1) He carries an iron rod with the goal of straightening out / perfecting the saints; and, 2) He knows that His people will only be too happy to comply once they experience the Holy Spirit. If the devil's job is to make us hate God, the Holy Spirit's job is to make us Love God.
Unless Jesus tells us what the target is, how can we conform? But if He tells us what the target is, that's Law. Does he say, "Here's the target, but if you don't try to hit it, don't worry about it; I still love you"? If He says, "This is the target," then that is the Law. The difference in the Jesus dispensation is that the penalty can be eradicated for not hitting the target...so long as we try to hit it. The day that we stop trying to conform is the day that we backslide out of Grace.
Watch out; the freedom that the goats boast about and enjoy from the Law might also be Deemed freedom from Christ, not freedom in Christ. Let me shock some of you right now by saying that we can and must earn our salvation. Surely, obedience is work, wherefore "earning our salvation" is an appropriate phrase to use. If you think that God makes us automatically obedient when we receive the Spirit, then the epistles, and the seven letters of Revelation, were needless writings, and the warnings and promptings in the epistles, and in the seven letters, were wasted breath. What did Jesus mean when he warned in those seven letters that we are to conquer with good works? Didn't he imply that we might fall short of conquering? Is "conquering" not the same as earning our salvation? With Faith -- which is Love for Jesus that the Holy Spirit provides -- we can conquer. You can't earn Grace, but you can earn salvation if you receive the Grace. Or put it this way, that if you receive the Grace gladly, you will tend to earn salvation naturally.
We can earn salvation in the sense that God deems us worthy of it for trying to hit the target. We cannot earn salvation if the only way is to hit the target everytime. We cannot fool God into thinking that we are trying when we are not. The one who Loves God will try naturally. The one who loves God will love to hit the target because it's the right thing to do. But the Christian life is even more than hitting multiple targets of what is good and right; it's also being a Friend of God. If we be a friend, He will makes us a Friend with a capital. If we initiate the good thing for love of Him, He will respond and reinforce the initiative...though sometimes what we think is a good initiative is not so good in His eyes. Ask the church builder who fails because he's not thinking properly about the condition of the flock.
There can be no earning of salvation without the Blood of Christ to forgive sins. But once forgiven, we must pass the tests before being saved. That's why new Christians are often eager to please and serve God. They know that's what God is calling them to, and perhaps they imagine that they can be pillars for God when they don't yet realize what small blips on the screen they really are. But God recognizes the sincere motives behind the zeal, and wells up in joy for such newborns.
Put it this way, that we are saved and forgiven initially due to no good works of our own. We are freely granted the Spirit when we ask for it no matter how great our sins to that point. But we must then maintain our salvation. Yes, by effort and making right decisions. The one who fails God after receiving the Spirit will lose his/her salvation, but it depends on what "fails" means. If we find ourselves loving God less due to a peril or mishap in our lives, the question is whether we will wait for the bad feelings to pass so that we can fall in love with God all over again. But if use the peril or mishap to heap scorn on God, then God's target becomes a stick to our backsides until we recognize our folly. That is, we are back "under Law" and the penalty thereof must be applied.
If we do more than heap scorn on God, for example if we start to enjoy ridiculing Him, God may decide to forgo the stick to our backside because He really doesn't want us to change anymore. There comes a point where God doesn't want a person due to a devilish attitude. These people become disconnected from the Head. They were once Christians, but then they found that hating God made them feel proud, and even good. Many of these types became leaders for the kingdom of Satan, the one who has a proud chest and wears a mask of colored light.
God will judge whether or not I am worthy to enter His kingdom. My conscience will indicate whether or not I am failing Him, or how well or poorly I am getting along in any matter. But it's my responsibility to reflect on how I'm doing. If I don't, God might deem that I really don't care to hit the target. But if I'm concerned about my Spiritual walk, then God knows too. However, I don't want to be biting my nails daily in dread of losing salvation...unless I'm earning it by my sinful, worldly choices. God is kind, and will save me even with my pants on fire, but there is a bar that I must jump over in order to make it at all. If I'm worried about whether I'll get over that bar, then I can't be doing very well at all. If I hope to get in with my pants of fire, I will probably be rejected because I'm probably operating below the bar.
I am the type to ignore the once-saved-always-saved teaching; it's just my preference. I do believe that there is truth to that phrase, but it's God alone who knows who will be saved once and for all. Yes, God has many who are saved who will always be saved, but Jesus said that some will not be saved, and God knows those too before they disconnect from Him.
Paul taught that without the Blood of Christ, nothing is satisfactory, but Jesus taught that without an acceptable level of obedience, the Blood will not be Applied to our sins. My Bible tells me that I am in this "race" to earn a crown of life. Eternal life is, time and time again, portrayed as a reward for my work in Christ. And isn't "reward" another way of saying "earning"? Some will say that good works only earn certain Heavenly rewards, but not eternal life itself. I beg to differ. It's only those who expend their talents -- so to speak, meaning those who perform good works -- who receive a welcome into the Kingdom when Jesus returns. Paul follows up by stating that we were created anew (i.e. born again) for the very purpose of performing good works (Ephesians 2:10).
Does this mean that I've got to be concerned in every waking morning to do a good deed for my fellow man? Must I worry that, if I fail to do a good deed today or this week, I will fail to jump the bar? If I'm worried about it, then I probably don't want to do a good deed so that it would be spoiled in God's sight anyway. Legalism is doing a good deed while not really wanting to. But if I want to, I won't be concerned about getting over the bar because I'll be flying over it. So, I should do whatever good is sincere, and this is not legalism. Rather than seeking to do a big thing with the wrong motives, for example by trying to get over the bar of God, I'd do better with a small kindness out of sincerity. But if I gravitate to doing small things only, am I really being sincere?
If you choose to view obedience not as a price to pay, but as a privilege to enjoy, then you are doing very well and are a fine example to others. You are happy that God is pleased with you, and you want to add to your good fortunes with God. Then there is the Grace-only advocate who will keep reminding you that you can't earn your salvation with good works. What is the motive for reminding us time and time again? Are they not implying that good works are somehow degenerative?
If the Grace-only advocate is trying to say that doing good works for the express (selfish) purpose of hoping to be saved is in vain, I think I can agree with it. But it should be framed in the right way lest one get the impression that good works play no part in salvation. Yes, it's good to feel like we've added points to our score with God, but if there is never any attempt to please God, works are in vain. If we behave in a way wherein the Law alone exists, but have no relationship with God, then even if we conquer the Law valiantly, we obey in vain. Ask the rich man who didn't want to follow Jesus but who obeyed all the Law.
Obedience is not always easy and joyful; it often takes struggle and pain, for which reason Jesus urges us to "overcome" (in the seven letters of Revelation 2 and 3). If we suffer for doing good, then we are most pleasing. It is not necessarily an insincere work if we do it while suffering.
Suppose that you don't really want to do a good thing but know in your heart of hearts that you've just got to in order to live with yourself. Let's say that in this case you are definitely not happy about it due to the cost to you. By the fact that you do it anyway, you've done a good deed right there that pleases God. It's not the good deed that you grudge about that God appreciates; it's the fact that you did it anyway. You had the choice; you picked the right choice. But if you pick the right choice and do it because you sincerely want to, then you have conformed to God. It's your other choice whether to gripe about it or to be valiant. If you ignore the cost, whether it be pain or money, you will be wearing the face of God for a time. If that alone is your reward, then you know God.
Therefore, the Law is wonderful and gives life, not death, to those who strive to obey it. Our shortcomings (i.e. sins) will then be covered by the Blood. Anyone who does not obey the Law satisfactorily will not be covered by the Blood. God decides what is satisfactory for every individual receiving Christ; the lukewarm believer will not make it. Who measures the temperature? Not me. I'm in the danger zone too, capable of being too lukewarm, so don't go by what I do, go by what the Bible says. You do not know whether or not I will make it; I do not know.
One might argue that a little healthy fear of condemnation keeps one above the bar. Another will argue that a confident faith will keep one above the bar. Does God really want you to know that, once saved, always saved? Not if you're prone to flirting with the bar. Does God want Christians to exercise a healthy fear of condemnation? Not if they're prone to flying high above the bar.
How high is the bar? The one who has an unhealthy fear of condemnation has the bar too high. The one who rejoices and trusts in once-saved-always-saved may have the bar altogether eliminated. I don't want to live in fear of condemnation for my shortcomings. Such fear might make me misjudge how I view myself. I may get an inferiority complex, thinking that I'm never sincere enough in anything I do for others. Feeling worthless is no way to operate. Didn't Jesus say something about peace? Doesn't salvation bring peace? Isn't that to be interpreted as anti-fear? When He said to fear God, he was speaking to the one flirting with the bar. But to Peter he said better things because Peter was zealous. He wanted to try, to please God.
Being humble is not the same as viewing oneself as worthless. Being humble is doing great things and thinking modestly about yourself, knowing that others can do the same big things if they try. You are not humble if you do something great and think of yourself as special, better than others. It's important to have the correct perception of your own cosmos. Relativity is important. You must measure yourself against the size of the universe, but you are even smaller in comparison to God. Where is your special now?
I will not be happy living for God if convinced that I'm floundering on the bar. Why bother joining a fitness club if I`m too lazy or dishonest with myself to exert the forces needed to improve my body? Why be a Christian floundering at the bar? Kick it and get it behind me. Much of the Law handed down by Jesus has to do with getting the attitude right. If we don't, there will be a penalty to pay. It is a law if there is a penalty.
Is there not one soul in your church who needs you, or something that you own? You can judge whether or not you're now a goat or a sheep by how you reacted to that last statement. You need to fear being a goat. You have the choice of re-shaping your thinking if you don't at this time have any compulsion for helping others. First, you've got to be able to appreciate others, but if you think yourself too highly to be with others, that's why God calls us to be humble. The good news is that goats can become sheep on a dime, by merely wanting to do so. I don't think it's true to say, once a goat, always a goat.
Not everything is cut and dry. You may be a sheep, and the people at your church may be in one huge goat pen. If you think that's true, you may be right, or you may be wrong. What might be your motive for viewing them as goats? What might be your motive for viewing them as sheep? We are made too small to fully discern the complicated network of human motives, but if we listen to our conscience, we have a better chance to. I'm not sure if anyone has ever caught the conscience telling a lie. It's so determined to tell the truth that it sometimes turns our faces red apart from our permission. The devil knows that a rock concert and listening to the conscience are opposite poles. This is why Christians are more familiar with silent rooms than the sons of the devil.
The argument of those who err goes like this: since we can never achieve salvation by good works, because we end up coming short of the Law's requirements, the mere attempt to fulfill the Law is death. One may as well toss out the entire Bible...which, from start to finish, places the responsibility upon us. God is not going to say to me, "There goes John again, trying to obey My Laws, away to Hell with that hypocrite."
I hope that "Law" doesn't conjure up in your mind Temple activities or things like circumcision; what I mean by "Law" is what Jesus meant: compassion for others and resisting sinful activities. In short: righteousness.
Jesus obeyed the Law of Moses always, but we can obey the Law sometimes. If He obeyed the Law of Moses, don't you think that we should (try) too? If He didn't obey the Law of Moses, what Law did he obey? Faith in Jesus Christ itself is our struggle to obey God's Law; the one who has the effort will be given more Holy-Spirit power so that a fuller obedience (and greater rewards) can be attained. But the one that doesn't have the effort, everything he thinks he has in Christ will be taken away. Isn't that what Jesus said?
God has a problem. He can't change. We're going to have to accept it; there is no other God. He permits unspeakable evil to befall the world. Animals eat one another alive. Our faces are subject to a humiliating slow distortion as the years progress. Man is a weakling, really, even in his prime. The trees are hardly as beautiful as He could have made them. Man lives merely on a giant rock, covered only with dirt. It's not Hell, but it's not Heaven either. You must have asked the same questions about Him too.
Prior to herbicides, man was too weak in most cases to bother fighting an all-out war against the determined weeds that dirt hands those who grow our foods. Yes, dirt is "magical" because the One who created plants is an awesome mind, but it's plain to see that He is not happy with the world. The creation moans, and we suffer in this situation if we start to dwell on these things. How can we love God more when we ask these sorts of questions? Couldn't God have been more lovable as well as awesome? Why must the farmer fear each year of crop failure or lousy growth, when growing foods is such a fundamental need of man? It's God who made us to need food. It's not our fault. Why do we need to work all day to secure our basic human needs, and why does God allow kings and other rulers to take much of what's left over? Why did Jesus have to say, "You will always have the poor among you"? Why didn't God just eradicate poverty? Why did He create an awesome cosmos to show His glory, yet under the sky the most-important part of the creation languishes?
Couldn't He have been more giving toward us so that we would love Him more? Instead, nature grows little food for humans in the wild. Man is left to toil to grow food. Thunder speaks of God's power, and we see His wisdom in the rain cycle, but why is thunder fearful rather than a pleasant sound? When lightning strikes the ground, why couldn't it bring a blessing rather than a split tree? Did God want to be feared more than He wanted to be loved? The sunny blue sky might claim otherwise, but then the dark grey clouds have a voice too that speak dreary. Yet some cloud formations are an inspiring view.
Why is there good and evil in the creation? Should we cite only the praiseworthy parts and not the terrible parts? Don't we want to understand God's dark side? Who really is this Cosmic Being that we are called to love with our whole hearts and minds?
The stars are not dreamy at all; they are the same chaotic spots night after night with no specific story to tell...except that God is greater than we can conceive. The dark cosmos and the blue skies together shroud His true nature. We can't see past either one to see His house. How can a lover expect to be loved if he keeps Himself hidden?
The beautiful pictures given us of galactic clouds by astronomy are fakes; the colors are not real, but are created by keeping a camera lens open for a long time. You wouldn't see anything so beautiful if you were to tour the universe. This creation is so temporary, given so that we might believe in a Creator, that we might understand his giant-ness in every way. But the creation is not his greatest achievement in love. He does not show much love toward us in the creation. It keeps us alive, true, but it also results in pain and suffering. Has man disappointed Him that much? He lets the rain and the sun (and other good things) to fall on the good and the evil, but there's the problem: the evil. On the flip side, He also allows evil to fall both on the good and the evil, and there's the problem: God's dark side.
The devil's sons would want you to believe that God's dark side is cruel or sadistic, like one giving some good and hopeful things in life so that we might experience a worse ironic pain, what God really truly wants for us because He delights in torturing us. It's like when a man with a gun allows his victim to run for freedom but then shoots him in the back. But this cannot be the true nature of God's dark side. The problem is clearly the evil, and God's dark side is not its author. God's dark side is His being struck with disappointment, sorrow, regret, all very painful for Him, and due to evil. His reaction to evil is a mixed creation. The First Story tells us that the problem was good and evil mixed together. The First Story tells us that man would chose evil.
The First Story tells us that, rather than being coached by God toward a victorious life, man chose to jump out on his own initiatives, ignoring what God might grant with his good coaching skills. Man even mistrusted God's motives. We have His problem, the problem that He gave to us due to the problem that we first gave to Him. His problem is that He remains hidden, what he really doesn't want to do. We might mistrust him all the more because of it. We don't know whether to jump out on our own, or to trust His coaching skills and His agenda for us. The humanist has jumped out on his own.
God doesn't want to appear to us (yet) for reasons not (yet) revealed. Perhaps he doesn't want to show us his face in grief while His heart is in a state of depression. Have you ever tried to celebrate with a crowd you despise for its godlessness? How much worse the knots in your throat if you're chosen to give a celebratory speech before it? The prepared kind words just won't come out right. It's not a good time for you to appear at the stage before the ignorant crowd.
Can God be in a state of depression? The Bible says just that. There are many ways to react toward disappointment and regret; weeping, for one, anger for another, but also walking away and turning the back to mankind. Yet another way is to face the problem and come to terms with it: man has become sorely sick in his view of God, and in his way of life, and he needs correction. This is when God gets into our faces with a whip. His punishment on us is as striking as the pain we inflict in Him.
But wait. If we don't cause Him pain, but instead cause Him joy, the reaction toward us is not going to be a cruel backlash or torturous ordeal. The story of Jesus is that God, in his depressed state, has decided not to give up on us. He's willing to let us live, and to correct us with more love than we deserve. He's decided to place Himself inside of us to the extent that He does reveal Himself sufficient that we no longer harbor reasons for jumping out on our own. We let the Holy Spirit be our coach after all, and we no longer believe the devil sons who tell us that God is naturally cruel or non-existent.
Correct us with more love than we deserve? Yes, so that we might know the truth concerning His nature. He really does want to love us, if only we don't cause Him pain. How much pain has He bourne over these past centuries? Don't ask the pagans, for they are oblivious. His pain is the center of all creation, yet the pagans missed it because they went astray to the ends of the earth. Now they want to go to the ends of the universe totally oblivious of God's existence.
The furnace of pain within God burns much hotter for the brutal and twisted deeds of pagans. There is no way for them to escape the bursting of this crackling furnace on Reaction Day. There will indeed be a Big Bang when the Almighty God can no longer contain His anger. It's true that God cannot do everything; He cannot contain His anger forever. It's not wise for Him to do so; but for the time being, while Salvation goes forth to those who grab it, the furnace of anger will be contained.
The Holy Spirit that comes into our hearts when we grab onto Jesus is the side of God that gives us more love than we deserve so that the devils deeds in us will be extinguished. It's a good plan. It works. So far, I have not heard a satisfactory explanation as to why His Son had to die a cruel death in order to allow this plan into effect. If God is angry with man's sins, why should the death of his own sinless son appease the anger?
But Jesus is not merely the son of God. He is God himself coming into full view. God didn't send someone else to take the pain on our behalf; He sent Himself. Humanists would like you to believe that God is cruel for sending his own son to take the awful pain. Not true. God did not send his own son like I have a son. God chose Himself to take the pain, like pain upon pain, to eradicate the pain forever.
He thought it good and right to die for us. Can we glean the reason? Yes, for it reveals his dark side. It's not dark as in cruel, but dark as in depressed. It's dark as in serious. There has been a serious problem that He wants us to acknowledge. God came to die to kill His anger. I don't understand it because I can't comprehend His pain. There is no doubt that it was a twisted pain, like an ulcerous growth on His heart with twisted knots and tentacles reaching every part of His body. This body (so to speak) had to be destroyed, and resurrected anew. The ulcer on His heart had the name of our sin written upon it, and both the sin and the pain were killed on the Crucifixion Day.
From that point on, God had a family to dwell with that would grow a much better heart; He lived in that family, His new Body, and abandoned the old body wracked by pagans and old Israel alike. He started a new Life on that one page of eternity. He no longer had Life if it wasn't with His new Body. The Church would provide Him with a happy, healthy heart.
The problem was serious to the point of no solution but total destruction of the creation, which for God was a bad solution because it would only lead to more painful regret. We understand this because God made us like Him, with the ability to understand His feelings. God is not just a powerful force without feelings. He is very "human," as His Son has revealed. People could not tell that Jesus was God if all He did was speak and eat with them, even though He had a different sort of personality.
He snuck into the human domain and did His strange Work. The most intelligent creature on the earth had no idea what the plan was. It was Wonderful in His sight. It solved the problem. Not that the killing of Himself should appease His anger for our sins, but that the result of killing Himself should create new people with good deeds blessing His heart. That's what appeased the anger as well as relieving the pain and escorting out the dismal depression.
The lump that was rest of mankind -- those who saw no meaning in the Resurrection -- would be abandoned at the Resurrection and given to a pre-determined Day of Visitation, Furnace Day. This Day would not be like a surgical knife or torch to remove the lump from God's body, because the lump was removed on Resurrection Day. The lump was tossed out along with God's old tortured body (so to speak). Furnace Day would rather be a Relished Day of Satisfaction. On that day, God's old body will be incinerated, and the ashes given to the winds of time as a monument to the Lesson of History.
So, God seeks those who feel sorry for what He has endured. The Crucifixion is accepted only by those who feel sorry for what He has endured. And it's a personal thing. We don't feel sorry for what He has endured due to the sins of the whole human race, but for our own sins. But God is not One to keep us feeling sorry for Himself. No sooner do we accept his Plan and beg to be made part of his new Body that he joins us to His new Heart, not the old one of pain and sorrow, but like the heart of the Father when He first met Jesus on Resurrection Day. On that Day, the Creator felt like giving a celebratory speech.
There is no longer need for a Law on paper when one has Love for God. No police officer hands you a speeding ticket or warning if you don't speed. But no police officer stops you to congratulate you for driving within the accepted speed limits. On the other hand, God congratulates and even rewards you when you cause His heart to well up in more joy. And it reminds Him that His sacrifice was not in vain. Do the governments that pagans serve reward citizens for good obedience? With what will the governments reward citizens if governments never have enough to satisfy themselves? But the Father is an endless well as large as the incomprehensible size of the universe.
Is space nothingness, or is it something of a creation itself? If we try to image no space existing in the beginning, we don't know what to replace it with. Should we imagine a huge block of solidity in the place of space? Impossible. We simply cannot comprehend eternal distances, nor the existence of space. Space cannot be nothingness because nothingness must be much smaller, not of eternal dimensions. We cannot comprehend the beginnings of God. That's how big He is. He just is. There is no such thing as forever if He just is. There is no tomorrow for the I Am. We have yet to see the new Creation in the world of Everything Is. But I'll bet the trees will be much nicer there. And every lightning strike will bring a bag of candies to the dwellers nearby. And the only people there will be those who felt God's pain, and those who lived accordingly so as to spare him further pain.
Pharisees did not usually keep to the Law strictly, but with fanfare they kept to their erroneous interpretation of the Law. Some of the Pharisees did teach the Law correctly, although Jesus said that they didn't practice what they taught. Moreover, the better Pharisees who taught a strict keeping to the Law yet had the problem of rejecting the One who gave the Law. Their God was not the true God. Their God was a tool for their political power. This empty form of obedience was the truest legalism if the term is defined in a negative sense. Dare we lump anyone who is born again into that pile? Legalism in the negative sense is to keep the Law without faith in Christ. Keeping the Law with Faith is not that sort of legalism. Just because God doesn't hand out tickets for disobedience does not mean that we are not to keep the Law. The reason that He doesn't hand out tickets is because we keep the Law, not because the Law is no longer in effect.
The Pharisees had Law-Only, for which reason they would die in their sins. Legalism in the negative sense is Law-Only. The one who has Law-and-Grace is not to be compared with a Pharisee, yet this comparison is seemingly made repeatedly by the Grace-Only believers. One could get the wrong impression if they don't pay attention to how they phrase their arguments. Goats will respond that the Law was given only to reveal sin, and can now, for all practical purposes, be ignored. So why didn't Jesus ignore it?
The true meaning of "legalism" is the strict carrying out of the Law, to the letter. Is that wrong? Would God say, "Hey you, Mary, what is this I hear, you keeping my Law to the very letter; come give an account of yourself?" Didn't Jesus say that not one iota, not one comma, will be eradicated from the Law until all things are fulfilled? How legalistic of Jesus. Yes, legalism is right in good if defined as keeping legal. It's probably better to keep legal for the wrong reasons than to be altogether a lawbreaker. There is nothing to fear in keeping legal.
Yet the Faith-only crowd speaks against Jesus time and again when arguing that legalism is sinful. They say that we are not to give careful thought to Law, but rather are to believe in Jesus. But how can a person divorce the two? What are the Faith-only people trying to say? Are they misreading what Paul said on this matter? They don't seem to be saying that Faith is necessary along with legal conduct, but that no one should try to keep legal lest they spoil their faith by doing so. Paul almost said that, but not in the final analysis.
Grace-Only teaching is like the wide door to destruction, in my opinion. It's not the narrow way. For it is not the mere see-ers, speakers, teachers and watchers of the Word, but it's the doers of the Law who find the narrow gate. All the rest are goats with nasty dispositions toward the sheep.
I understand the concept wherein the Apostles wanted not to lay a heavy burden on the Gentiles who were coming to Christ, that the Mosaic laws relating to the Temple should not be placed upon their backs. But that wouldn't eradicate what Jesus said:
"Whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches men likewise shall be called least in the kingdom of Heaven..."(Matthew 5:19).
John goes on to say that "His commandments are not heavy" because we are born again in the Holy Spirit, Who helps us to overcome sin. In fact, in verse 4, the definition of "faith" is "overcoming the world." And "overcoming" can't exist without our working at it. So, salvation is by Faith-and-Overcoming. That is, in the phrase "faith in Christ" there is implied an overcoming of sin by the power of Christ. But if our faith is to merely believe in Jesus with our mind, then as James said, even the devil believes that.
"Increase our faith," the apostles once asked Jesus. And Jesus did not increase their power of faith at that time, that they might be like magicians doing powerful works. Instead, in effect he said, "Obey God as if it were your own personal business, concerned about the increase of the Kingdom, and not as your quota to merely receive your pay." It's a liberal paraphrase, I know, but it's the essence of the Lord's response. Only fleshy believers ask what they "hafta do" to receive salvation, but the Spirit makes us "wanna do." Our natures are changed by the indwelling Spirit so that we want to see a good world with good people doing good to one another. It's a Body of God standing up successfully to this challenge that will make Furnace Day a happy day, like when a cancer is cut out of the human race.
Romans 7 reads: "you were put to death to the law through the body of Christ" (v 4). So you see, the Law was not put to death, but we were put to death...our flesh, that is. Paul is speaking a figurative thing concerning a real thing, that Christ separated us from an aspect of the Law of God. That aspect is the PENALTY of the Law, not the Law itself. To put it another way, Paul is saying that we died and paid the penalty required of the Law because we joined Christ who was the one who paid the penalty. That is Grace. God was making salvation easy in this regard, even free.
When we die to the Law, it doesn't mean that the Law has been done away with. The Law always kills, but we were separated from that fate. Upon this separation, we are not abandoned in the wilderness or in a vacuum or even under the shadow of the executioner's hatchet. We were stolen from one dispensation and then attached to another. We were in prison and then set free to live in a beautiful house. We no longer obey the Mosaic Law as on tablets, as when criminals in jail read their books to pass the time, but we now live with the Mosaic Law written in our hearts, as per Jeremiah 31:33, and we recognize that the Holy Spirit in our hearts is that writing on our hearts.
Because we have the Holy Spirit in our hearts to help us, the New-Testament Law was made more stringent, as per the Lord's sermon on the mount in Matthew 5-7. Yet the goats tell us that the Law was done away with. In effect, Jesus said, "You have heard the Law of Moses, that it said such and such a good thing, well now I'm directing you to make it stringent upon yourselves; if you so much as hate a brother you're killing him." No problem at all, for His people will not hate their own family. But those that do will be rejected at the door to the House when they seek entrance. Jesus made the law more stringent in order to reject those who kept the Law of Moses with their feet but not with their hearts. The chief priests and Jews who hated His brothers will not enter the House.
Paul said, "the law is (S)piritual" (v 14). It is also holy (v 12). And if it's holy, we must keep it. We must not trash it, or view it as passť. Only the wrath of God that was inherent in the Law is to be done away with. Jesus' death did away with that Wrath for us that we might not be appointed to it. But obviously, the Wrath in the Law still applies to those who don't have Christ. If you haven't been killed by Christ, the Wrath still remains on you. Paul was saying that you need to be killed in order to be released from the Law's penalty. This is your personal sacrifice.
It's a real sacrifice, not the killing of your physical body, but your willing abandonment to the way you've been, and to an acceptance of life with God active inside you. You shouldn't want to rest until you feel / sense God's Spirit inside you. If you are serious about it, God will direct you through the transition, if you beg for Him to do so. I had to beg because I became a lousy person thanks much to the lousy friends I kept; others might do better and receive by merely asking. Other might receive without even asking, by just wishing/desiring.
We are to delight in the Law, says Romans 7:22, even while our flesh wars against it. We do not trash the Law just because our flesh doesn't like it. Ask the teenager whose jumpy testosterone can't enjoy his new car if it needs to be kept within the speed limit. Everything inside him screams to break the sound barrier. That's why God created women, to tame the wild young man. But not all woman conform to God so as to be useful. In my case, girls ruined me because I was a loverboy. I started to find girls who reduced me to a piece of junk. I woke up one day like a wreck at the scrap yard. Only one blinker worked, and God's eye caught sight of my SOS one dark cold night in the midst of all the steel. Otherwise, I would have been completely crushed. When God sees a ruin, he knows it's an opportunity to make a son.
What was Paul speaking about in particular when he says that the flesh wars against the Law? The sexual drive comes to mind first of all. That's the drive that wishes there were no Law of God to confine it. But like a super-charger sports car curving round the cliff sides without guard rails on the side of the road, a sex maniac who spurns the Law of God is bound to roll to his death. Paul must have been lucky because he said he did not inwardly burn. Or, God chose him due to that reason.
But Paul did have testosterone, enough to pave his own way to his own martyrdom like a crazy thrill seeker bent on cheating death. I sense that he loved to travel. I sense that he desired to be a leader. He comes off as a world-class man unafraid even of Caesar. He didn't like to be confined by Law. He wanted to break out of that mold, which is fine so long as one does better than merely satisfying the Law. "Going by the book" was too "slow" for Paul in his fast lane, so Paul found ways to excite his soul by serving God. The excitement and joys of building churches replaced his fleshy desires (perfect, just what God wanted), and yet he had some fleshy concerns that cropped out. God had to give him a thorn right in his center spot to jam his inclinations a little. I'm not laughing, because it hurts where I have my thorns when I laugh.
When in the end our lusty flesh has had many victories over our banged-up spirits, we have the Grace that replaces the Wrath and thereby Conquers death on our behalf. But only if we conform to the Law. Like Paul, we should loath going only "by the book," by which I mean to say merely satisfying the Law. We should fly higher, where God lives. You can find God in His workshop. That's right, He's working. Christians have the ability to conform to the Law and then do some work with God too. That's flying high.
Some teach that when Isaiah likens righteousness to filthy rags, we are always incapable of achieving righteousness. But just because we can't achieve perfect righteousness everytime doesn't mean there cannot exist a righteous person. The Bible clearly reveals righteous people...those who strive for righteousness even while they fail from time to time. They do not continue to sin as though married to it. They watch their steps in areas where they know they're fallible.
The sexual drive knows no stoppage until the old-age axe arrives. But what we do with it while it thrives is what matters. Fornication, going from one woman to another, is illegal in God's House. God protects the women in His House from predators by making a law on their behalf. Relieving oneself is a much better option for the Christian without a spouse, and it's very advisable not to apply hunting methods for sex. If converting the flesh nature to Godliness is the goal, then using the sex drive while showing love to a spouse must be made a fine art. There are takers (sadly) and there are givers; Christians should enjoy giving pleasure, not just because it's more enjoyable / rewarding for the giver, but because it doesn't reduce one to a fiend. Stealing is against the law. If you take without giving, it's like stealing. There are ways to express kindness and affection in nakedness and sex, which has the added bonus of keeping your spouse a human rather than creating a sex toy.
I can perhaps see why God might not like to have these comments here. The Bible never gets explicit on sexual-fulfillment advice, probably because people can handle this all on their own. But I'm not trying to give sexual advice as much as to say that, even in this area, giving is the Godly standard involved. I'm also wanting to say that, if you're trying to decide whether God is to be in your life but are worried that sexual pleasure is something He won't tolerate, then you should perhaps wonder at what He meant sex to be when it was created. Did God make it feel good because He doesn't want us to enjoy it?
Paul makes mention that sexual satisfaction is important, and even calls it the duty of a man to fulfill his wife. Personally, I wouldn't want my wife to demand it as a duty, as that seems to make me something of a serviceman, but I get the point: we need to be satisfied, and it veers on a danger zone not to be when married. Therefore, it's very important for married people to be desirable, for not allowing issues to separate them from common fellowship. For women, sexual satisfaction involves the real sense of being loved, and of course men appreciate that sense too. Surely, God intended sexuality to include that elements, something that demented pornographers don't care to consider. If one spouse becomes unattractive, physically or otherwise, I can see problems, and that's another evil that our Creator permitted when decreeing that the loveliness of youth should evolve into the horror of old age. The only good part is that we have a lot of time to accept and prepare for the shock. Imagine going fro a 20-year old face and body to that of an 80-year old in two mornings.
God allowed our genes to malfunction, spoiling things because He was sorely disappointed with man; He will not allow man to mock Him and get away with it while enjoying his life thoroughly.
There is a good point to be made here in the intimacy department. No one considers it work to give the partner pleasure, because the giver receives pleasure / reward in return. I can hear someone say, "not much in my case." It should be the same way in any other area of giving. We are really kissing and hugging others whenever we do a kind thing on their behalf. These deeds should not be considered burdensome because, when we partake in them as the givers, we secretly have the primary, leadership role with the most to receive. We get to enjoy it too. The receiver might not like someone coming onto their turf to do a good deed; it may be deemed a humiliating experience. But I can think of more difficult things in life to handle. Be hospitable. Good deeds for one another are opportunities to have fellowship. Open your house, open your heart. Let the giver give heartily. If it's not a good day for it, try to play along. Give thanks.
If you have Law-and-Faith, you will be a castle on the Rock. Jesus said it plainly: "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law..." (Matthew 5:17). How can we then use Paul to contest against these words of God? Only by twisting Paul's meanings. Consider the following statement made by a pastor, C.H. Fisher, a post-tribulationist:
One might argue that there are some good things in the Law. That may be so, but the package deal that was given to Moses has been replaced with the indwelling of the Giver."
Only "some good things" are in the Law? That "may" be so? Isn't that a wee bit shy of the reality? Mr. Fisher makes it sound as though there's a distinction between Law and the Holy Spirit of New-Testament times. He teaches that the Law of Moses has been done away with and replaced by the Holy Spirit. But look at what God has to say:
"But this is the [New] Covenant that I shall cut with the house of Israel...I will put my laws in their inward parts" (Jeremiah 31:33).
It doesn't sound like a doing away of the Law to me. It sounds like a reinforcing of the Laws, a re-location to where it can be more effective and affective.
Wouldn't you know it, Fisher is a "full gospel" charismatic, teaching that they are a few notches above others in their spirituality, always looking down on others. Full-gospel-ites feel that they are the only ones who truly understand God...all others are legalistic, merely practicing Christianity in their flesh because they haven't got the extra indwelling of the Spirit. For placing themselves at the head, full-gospel-ites could be the last. And some won't even get in. Full-Gospel-ites say that being born again is not the same as receiving the full compliment of the Holy Spirit. They say that one must first be born again, then later must receive the Spirit's power to perform gifts. I don't read that in the Bible, and will not assume that some parts of Acts reveals it. It seems to me that this doctrine deteriorates the value of the true born-again experience while seeking to implant something else, perhaps even supplanting the initial experience with a false-prophet spirit. "Full Gospel" gives me the jitters, like Christians who think they have the spirit of prophecy when they don't, or like Christians who think they hear from God regularly when they don't.
Fisher writes: "Legalism goes back to putting flesh in charge of manís salvation and ignores the work of Christ." Phooey! He's saying that some Christians are reverting or degenerating into Law Obedience, as if striving to obey the Law is somehow "of the flesh" and contrary to the work of the indwelling Spirit. Isn't that the very advice that the devil would give?
Striving to obey the Law is not a work of the flesh. Fisher needs to correctly interpret "works of the flesh." He's turning a Godly endeavor into a satanic one because the phrase is defined by the Bible on par with works of the devil. He continues: "Legalism keeps us struggling in our flesh, striving to obey the Law, wrestling needlessly with what we are supposed to be dead to." It is one thing if one were to teach that attempting to obey the Law without Christ's forgiveness is a vanity. It is also acceptable to argue, as does the apostle Paul, that attempting to obey the Law without the Spirit will be frustration. But Fisher is saying much more.
I don't care how he frames it, Fisher is asserting that we're not supposed to try to obey the Law. What insanity is that? God is trying to have us obey the Law by placing the Spirit within us, and then it's supposed to be a work of the flesh if we try too? Can't we try along with God? Are we to be dumb dolls with wind-up strings, dead in action unless God does the entire work or speaks the words through us?
How is it a work of the flesh for a Christian judge to discern and dispense true justice all on his lonesome? How is it a work of the flesh for a Christian politician do treat the public fairly all on his lonesome? How is it a work of the flesh for a Christian doctor to use wisdom for saving an accident victim all on his lonesome, all on his own initiative? How is any good deed an act of the flesh in contrast / contradiction with an act prompted by the Spirit of God? What insanity is that, Mr. Fisher? How is choosing not to commit adultery when tempted an act of the flesh? I don't care whether it's a pagan or a Christian making such a choice, it can never be deemed a work of the flesh. Give your head a shake, Mr. Fisher, and please leave the teacher's pulpit for the sake of your listeners.
It's one thing to start an entire Christian organization on flesh power that God does not support, and quite another thing to make the right choices, day in and day out, because you've learned the laws and thinking of God. If a child honors his mother and father because he heard the Ten Commandments, and if he does so all on his lonesome without the prompting of God, will God withhold His admiration? Will God frown on the child because it's a work of the flesh? When Fisher says, "Legalism keeps us struggling in our flesh, striving to obey the Law, wrestling needlessly with what we are supposed to be dead to," he means to make us think that trying to make the right decision is destructive to us.
"Poor child" that needs to struggle trying to honor his parents. No, not "poor child," but that's exactly what God wants to see, a struggle, if that's what it takes.
Not everyone struggles at all times when making the Godly choices. Sometimes the right choice comes easy and naturally. When we grow in the Word, we make the right choices more often. We can actually do this on our own initiatives. The Spirit is there to remind us of what the right choice is if it appears that we are about to make the wrong choice. The Spirit may prompt us to do the right thing if we neglect to do it. The Spirit may reprimand us later for doing what we should not have done.
When Jesus said, "Apart from me you can do nothing," he was speaking no doubt to his Apostles about church building. We can't build churches or evangelize on our own power and please God because we are then trampling in His turf. It's God who converts people. The Church belongs to Him. He is responsible for growing the church, and it has to be done his way. Each member of the Church is taught by God. If it's done on human effort alone, it's not going to amount to anything in God's economy. It may amount to something in this world, but it's "nothing' so far as God is concerned.
When a Christian decides to do the right thing all on personal initiative, isn't the Spirit there assisting and protecting? What does the term "disciple" imply if not a "disciplined" obedience, and a "struggling" to obey, if that's what it takes? Is a man Spiritual only if he cruises through the Christian life? If he strives to conform, is he less than Spiritual?
I don't know what comes to your mind with the term, "strive," but let it not be synonymous with "hairy" or "frantic" or "nervy" or even "uncomfortable." What I mean by the term is mean that we take life's issues to task. When we are at work and know that God wants us to work for the boss like we were working for self, we take it to task. We don't just wait for God to pull our doll string so that we automatically comply. We apply ourselves because we've been taught by God. He teaches, we act. He prompts, we act. He commands, we act. If it hurts to do the right thing, all the better for constructing a better person. Yet Mr. Fisher says that a struggle to obey is destructive.
Anyone who attempts to conform to God's will, even with the Spirit within, will run straight into the flesh and thereby find frustration, but isn't that the very fight of faith that we are called to engage? Put to death the flesh, not the Law. Obey the law, not the flesh. The flesh is contrary to the Law. But to say that attempting to obey the Law is a fleshy operation is exactly what the devil would teach.
Fisher again: "the Holy Spirit is the law of God written in our hearts and minds." Then he says, "Please read all the scriptures concerning law in the New Testament and you will easily see that the Mosaic Law was fulfilled, done away with, made obsolete..." Whoa, devil, is that you speaking?
It was for people like Mr. Fisher that Jesus said the Law would not be done away with until all things are fulfilled. If he thinks that point in time was at the Resurrection, then the devil has come to us in sheep's clothing. It's not as though Mr. Fisher doesn't have access to a Bible. In Matthew 5:18, Jesus said that the Law and the Prophetic books are to remain until sky and earth disappear. But even if Jesus didn't say this, how can Mr. Fisher admit that Jesus fulfilled it, yet it is sinful for us to fulfill it too. How can he on the one hand accept the need for Jesus to fulfill the Law, yet render that same Law obsolete during the time that we become Christians?
When the Temple curtain was ripped at the Crucifixion, it was not a sign from God that the Law was being abolished, but rather that the Old Covenant was abolished. The Law was retained, and fused into a New Covenant with the Blood of the Lamb. The Old Covenant was a deal: I'll be your Almighty Father. Obey My Law, or else I'll cease to be your Almighty Father and turn into your Almighty Enemy. The New Covenant is a second, better chance: I'll Be your Father. Obey My Law with Jesus in your heart and mind, or I'll spit you out of my mouth into the place prepared for the devil and his angels.
When Jesus said in Matthew 22:40 that all the Law hangs on two commandments, wasn't he referring to, and advocating obedience to, the Mosaic Law?
When the Old Covenant was done away with at the Crucifixion, the Temple duties and sacrifices were done away with. If Paul or some other Apostle ever said that Christians are not to regard the Law, it was to such things as that. As we know, Paul railed against forceful circumcision. Peter taught that it's fine to eat what was deemed unclean under the Old Covenant. There is no blatant direction in the New Testament to keep the Sabbath or the other Holy Days involving the temple...though I personally do no work on the seventh day (if it's for making income) because I like that law. I like God's laws. I only wish that life were not so burdensome due to worldly demands. Sometimes I say some nasty words in my most frustrating moments. They are my bending moments, usually taking place in the early part of the day when I'm not warmed-up yet to take on difficult tasks. I also complain about the nasty way that the world around me has made its insane choices; I am not a better man because of it.
The human environment that we live in determines how we practice Godliness. God is not happy with the way that our society rubs Christians the wrong way, or makes them less than what they could be in Christian practice. This is a battle in itself, to ignore the world as anything to adopt or conform to, and to sail on in God's will anyway. This is a great deed.
Another deed toward our neighbor, even though we haven't painted the windows of someone incapable, is to make up our minds not to do any evil to any neighbor. Or, at work, we make up our minds not to be devious, spiteful, coldhearted, masked, livid, etc. These are works of the flesh. If we make up our minds not to use such measures on others, we have been successful in good deeds. But don't stop there. Let's make up our minds to be a positive factor for others as we brush lives with them, as much as we find the openings to do so. With age in Christ, this gets easier and better-applied. Don't be jolted if at first you find it difficult. None of us are super Christians until we've been conditioned. We may hope to be super by the time our hair goes grey, but it's doubtful. It's the job of the sons of the devil to roughen up the smooth days that we desire, because they know we think we are better than them. And we are better, in the Godly department. We have a serious problem if we are not.
I understand why you may not want to reveal to certain persons that your are a Christian, because these types seem prone to ruining your days once they know who you are. I know what it's like to work in the midst of the most degrading, corrosive workmen. I guarantee you, I don't want to be there, no matter that they need correction. I feel as though these types would mock at correction, and then persecute me with their fleshy works applied impishly against me.
When we make up our minds to be sincere, we are doing a good deed, for sincerity rubs off on others. Whether or not they know we are Christians, we can rub off on them as they can rub off on us. We keep the world from becoming savage, though they may not recognize it or give us credit for it. When we make up our minds to be considerate and understanding, we are the spice of the earth. We kill spiritual disease, or at least keep it from growing to maximum proportions. This is what God came to do within us, to make us better than those in the world. The irony is that, as Paul predicted, the people of the world in the end times would take on a form of godliness yet denying the power of God in their lives. At times, these people seem to be better Christians than Christians. But that can only be true on a Christian's bad day / moment. We do have them, and our enemies are sure to point them out.
Don't let charismatics use Paul's words in 2 Timothy 3 to make you think that he was speaking about Christians who don't "prophecy" or "heal" as they do. The power of God that Paul was speaking of does not appear to mean such things. Paul was not speaking on Christians who have a form of godliness yet deny His powers of prophecy, because in the first couple of verses (of chapter three), he is clearly speaking on the general condition of the end-time world, listing a host of fleshy attitudes that the masses would hold dear to. And Paul says that we should turn away from them. As James says, don't be stained by them.
Recognize them, greet them, play your part with them because they work with you, give them water if they are thirsty (so to speak) or ask for it, but don't allow yourself to become like them. It's your good deed for God to resist them. And be proud of goodness and Godliness, so that the Light of your day is not extinguished, as their god would like it to be, but of course don't walk proud or snotty. Be proud on the inside of the magnificent power that you have from God to escape their flesh-governed ways.
One of the reasons that I appreciated becoming self-employed was to get away from the coarse / disheartening minds in my line of work. I praise God that two of my sons have jobs today with Christian owners. If the people at your workplace are extinguishing the Light of your days, another job may be a good idea. Count the cost to your spiritual condition, which means much more than the extra money that your job may be providing as compared to another job.
"Striving" to serve God doesn't mean you need to be in a crisis mode. It means to learn and apply God's principles in various situations. Christians who rail against "legalism" will use "striving to adopt God's principles" as a phrase without a problem, yet they won't use "Gods Law." Just to let you know, I am ashamed of the way I've handled all sorts of situations. When compared to yours, they might not look so bad. But when compared to the way Jesus would handle things, I haven't always done well. Jesus is the Target. We strive to hit the center. Is that legalism? Do we fall from Grace when we strive to obey Jesus? Is it a work of the flesh if we apply ourselves in this way?
Before ending here, the delight of forgiveness needs to be addressed. The lightening of our loads by the forgiveness is a great power that we have access to and should utilize. When prosperity gospel-ites tell us that we have free access to the promises of God, they often make us think it has to do with financial prosperity or something like it. No, that would be more a feeding of the flesh. The gifts of God start with the lightening of our guilty-ridden minds and souls. God has determined to forget / overlook our sins, unless we are in the process of sinning. I have no idea how he handles it, whether it's difficult or easy on Him, but that's the message of the Apostles. His work for us is to forgive, and I doubt that it's always easy. If we apply ourselves to Him, then of course we make it easier on Him. This is just logic; God has feelings that we understand, so treat Him like you understand His feelings.
The Holy Spirit within stirs at times in such a way as to make us feel accepted, guiltless. You will feel this stirring within when you've decided to apply yourself to the Words of Jesus. I have sensed it hundreds of times during thoughts on Him. It comes at any time by complete surprise. So far as I can recall, never once has the Spirit spoken to me during these episodes with words that I can hear, yet He speaks in another way, by conveying a sense of love, acceptance and/or pleasure that is easily recognized. It's like a taste of Heaven, like the promise of things to come.
Not all who teach Grace-Only are goats or wolves, just as not all who teach pre-trib are goats or wolves. But the goats will gravitate both toward Grace-Only and Pre-Trib. Some sheep are among the goats because the goats have an appearance of proper, educated Christianity. Some sheep wrongly teach and practice the same errors, therefore. It's not for me to judge who the sheep and goats are, but goats can be gleaned by their thinking only for themselves, wherefore when it comes to church, goats are bound to seek positions of honor, and to ignore the sheep while raising other goats to high positions. But sheep must be concerned with their own affairs too, so we can't judge one as a goat just because we see a sheep looking out for self.
As for reward in Heaven, eternal life is great enough, but of course the quality of that life is what matters. Some get more reward than others because they've done more good deeds. But rewards are not from good deeds alone, or for working the works of God alone, because maintaining Faith is itself a struggle at times, when evil spirits invade our spaces. If I read the Bible right, the quality of the Faith we keep here determines the quality of our personal eternities. I'm not at all in-the-know on how that works on the practical level. I can't even begin to tell you what the New Creation will be like. If you fuss over this creation, then you'll rave about the next one. You don't want to miss out. Be there.