Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Gospel and Works


There is only one way to receive forgiveness of sins and that is by faith in Jesus and His finished work of redemption. His resurrection to be sure substantiated it all, but the cross was the culmination of all the shadows, types, forerunners, and prophecies. Nothing can be added and nothing can be taken from that glorious sacrifice. That alone is life.

But without an engine there is no car, and without a head there is no body. So the gospel message has at its core the sacrifice of Christ, offered once for all. Upon that Rock there can be no dispute. But is an engine a car? Is just a head a body? And is the gospel message a stark doctrine of spiritual redemption but without any accoutrements that help present it and influence men? Or is it built upon the Chief Cornerstone and uses the sacrificial works of men to shine an eternal illumination upon the work of Jesus?

I am asking an important question. Are there things about the teachings of Jesus which have to do with our lives that should be tethered to the message of the gospel? No, not do they aid in redemption, but do they provide salt and light that when seen before men can and do help in drawing men to Jesus Christ. I suggests that if the answer is no, then our lives are little more than corpses waiting in sarcophaguses for heaven and without much good on this earth. But if there is a mystery, a ministry of the Spirit which empowers and directs the followers of Jesus, then it is imperative for us to establish what they are and do them.

And when we examine His teachings we find all kinds of exhortations which display His Person and the essence of redemption. And since the gospel pulsates with eternal redemption, any earthly works that reflect that redemption must be in and of themselves redemptive. In practical verbiage, our lives must be beacons of God’s love expressed by how we treat and minister to each other as well as those outside of Christ. And even though the gospel message can only be engaged through personal faith, are not the teachings of Jesus part of that gospel, at least woven into its fabric? In essence, the church preaches a message of redemption through faith in Jesus Christ, but it also lives that gospel through deeds that reveal the redemptive heart of God.

This symbiotic relationship between faith and works has been systematically compromised because of doctrinal fear and yet the very Bible that is so openly defended indicts this kind of unnatural and synthetic separation. For so long the message of James has made the doctrinal bourgeoisie very uncomfortable and over the years I have watched as various forms of linguistic gymnastics have been employed in order to explain James without wandering into sacred doctrinal territory. But if we embrace the teachings of Jesus as more than good manners or humanitarian suggestions, then we may be able to see something very practical and glorious. We may be able to see a divine relationship between the gospel message and the ministry to fellow human beings. This relationship is nothing short of breathtaking as well as a glorious mystery.

No one can be saved through human works. Regardless of how many poor you feed, or how many sick you heal, or how many prisoners you visit, only the blood of Jesus can forgive sins. And that must come through faith alone. What a work of grace! What a glorious offer from God’s very heart of love! It is the gift of all gifts, and it is eternal in the heavens. But Jesus clearly outlined a kingdom which not only walked in the power of that message, but exhibited living acts which came from that kingdom and which, when translated through the ministry of the Spirit, could capture the hearts of sinners who do not know Jesus. This entire “process”, if you will, is a great mystery and it was meant to be. Lest the church make the regeneration of lost sinners something that can be achieved through a manipulative and pragmatic approach.

But so many churches have cleverly designed evangelism tools which employ sales techniques that “guide” a person into buying what we are selling. And so we have a sort of assembly line kind of discipleship which can take a sinner from point A and lead him to point Z, all with a “trained” leader. And “poof”, we now have a church member. But do we have a born again believer? His life may now include going to a church and even being involved in some of the ecclesiastical activities, but has he been born again? You see, the church has removed the heart of Jesus’ teachings and replaced them with subtle ways to achieve what we desire. And when this kind of practice becomes widespread, then our churches are filled with religious and moral folk who are being told over and over again that they need not worry about heaven for they are going there.

There is an eternal difference between going to church and being a member, and being born again by the Spirit of God. And if you really do not understand that, then you are not born again. In 1975 when I became a believer I had never heard the phrase “born again”, but when I read those words after I was saved, I knew exactly what Jesus meant. Why? Because I had been born again, and when my experience met God’s truth, it was a match. I did not have to make God’s truth bend to my experience, but the work that the Spirit had done in me was obviously done by the power of God’s eternal truth.

So many of the teachings of Jesus are humanitarian in nature. And His teachings on nonviolence are radical and genuinely illogical when processed through the prism of the culture and the world large. But again, the church has been so uncomfortable with the implications of many of His teachings when received as literal, that alterations were necessary if we were to operate and live within the culture without being seen as fools. His teachings so stretched the parameters of reason that they have been diluted and are now little more than suggestions concerning situational ethics and making sure we include helping the poor in a way which requires no sacrifice. The uncontested volume of our lives is consumed with ourselves and the things of this world, and there can be nothing more at odds with what Jesus lived and taught.

I am suggesting, I am challenging all of us to read through the four gospels in a matter of a few days. And as you read invite the Spirit to reveal not only new truths, but an entire new revelation concerning what it means to be a follower of Jesus. Most church members have never read the four gospels, much less set out to seek the heart of God through them. They are content to hear a well crafted Sunday message and with that sustain their souls. But in fact many times what they hear poisons their souls and reinforces their current lifestyles bound by the interests of self and the pleasures of this present world. And through the western ecclesiastical world the gospel has been deprived of the Spirit’s life and has become a ticket to heaven and a power point on a church member’s resumé.

So after you are born again, what does the gospel require of us? Just our entire lives.
Lk.14: 28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?
 29 Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him,
30 Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish.
31 Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand?
32 Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace.
33 So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.


Anonymous said...

Dear Brother,
As I was fixing a cup of coffee this morning, I was reflecting on the fact that I will be 60 years old next week. I immediately began to reconsider (once again) have productive my life has been in the eyes of Jesus for His kingdom and the Fathers will. I know without any doubt nothing else really matters in this life. Then I began to read your post. With age and most importantly by His grace, I have learned to try and say less and listen more. Today with the advent of the Internet, there are a multitude of voices explaining Jesus, salvation, doctrine, the gospel etc; etc; etc. By His guidance and Spirit, you pose many pertinent questions to examine ourselves in true light and humbleness. If I may take the liberty to sum up your post today, it leaves me with the following reflection. I feel this is something the Lord has revealed to me (and it is NOT because I am special nor have any wisdom). When each of us stands before Jesus, we will hear the seven most important words ever uttered. “Well done thy good and faithful servant” or “depart from me I never knew you”. May this thought be ever in our hearts and minds.

Blessings in His name,
The least brother

Rick Frueh said...

I am 60 years old as well. I feel as though I must seek a deeper life of prayer although I realize that is much more difficult than anything else. I have witnessed, I have preached, I have played the piano, I have sung, I have taught the Word, but I still contend that meaningful and sacrifical prayer is a spiritual labor that can only be practiced with our entire beings.
In that it is the most difficult and the most rewarding as well. God help me.

Shannon said...


This section is confusing me:

"Are there things about the teachings of Jesus which have to do with our lives that should be tethered to the message of the gospel? No, not do they aid in redemption, but do they provide salt and light that when seen before men can and do help in drawing men to Jesus Christ. I suggests that if the answer is no, then our lives are little more than corpses waiting in sarcophagus's for heaven and without much good on this earth. But if there is a mystery, a ministry of the Spirit which empowers and directs the followers of Jesus, then it is imperative for us to establish what they are and do them."

Are you saying that the things we do are the "salt and light" and that these activities are what draws men to Christ? How do we establish these activities and "do them", which will "draw men to Christ"? How do these activities assist in "drawing men to Jesus Christ"?
Since believers (those who have His Spirit indwelling) ARE the salt and light, we are "living" epistles. Only those loving light will be drawn to believers.

Jesus said in Luke 21:17 and ye shall be hated of all men for my namesake

John 3:19 "This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.


Rick Frueh said...

I do believe that what we do can be used of the Spirit to draw men to Christ. I do firmly believe in a God given free will.

Cherie c. said...

Being that those of us out from under the church, who are seeking the right guidance, as Shannon has pointed out, we need a bit more clarification. Can you give a particular example? What does it mean to give sacrificially? Do we give to those without until we do without? I am NOT being sarcastic, this is an honest question. If I had it my way, I would give every extra dollar to those who are in need, but it is not my choice alone. I am put down for bring my hungry son some food at work, how then am I supposed to live? If you could offer some guidance or direct me to scripture I would appreciate it. The Lord is truly working in my life, but either I am impatient, or I am not getting it. Because as a wife, I have limitations. I so want to hear the Lord say to me "Well done thy good an faithful servant" more than life itself! Now I am very afraid. I will read the 4 Gospels as you suggest. And you're right, the church does not encourage you to read the Gospels. They count on you not doing so otherwise they would be caught in their lies.
Thanks Pastor Rick,

Cherie c.

Rick Frueh said...

Each individual circumstances are different. But it is easy to see that the average believer never actually experiences anything close to a sacrifice. God does not desire for us to do without necsessities, however it cannot be God's will for us to be in abundance whiloe others starve. Let the Spirit be your Guide.

Cherie c. said...

Thank you Pastor Rick, that is what I think too.

I grew up with liquid jello in my lunch box. I know what it is like to be hungry and to go without the basic necessities of life. So why would I not help others? I just want to be sure I am doing right, not wrong. The Holy Spirit has been leading as I yield to Him, when I am not being stupid and let Him lead. I know I still do things the wrong way, but I am learning. And your blog helps too. Thank you.

God Bless.

Cherie c.

Shannon said...

John 3:18-20

“He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. 20“For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.

Anonymous said...

The modern Christian likes to ask "what is God's will for my life?". The modern Christian also likes to formulate many theories on how much to give / what stance to take / what path to follow / how much one can 'get away with' etc. If, however, we were to actively, consistently study the bible and apply God's word, we would have far less questions and doubts. These arise from lack of understanding, which arise from lack of knowledge, which arise from lack of study, which arise from lack of respect for God's word and an excess of regard for the things of the world (entertainment, money, possessions etc).

Cherie c. said...



Isaiah 7:11
Ask thee a sign of the LORD thy God; ask it either in the depth, or in the height above.

Matthew 6:8
Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him

Matthew 7:7
Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:

Matthew 7:8
For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

Matthew 18:19
Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.

Matthew 21:22
And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.

Luke 11:12
Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?

Nothing there about knowledge. Seems like asking and seeking is one of those things we are supposed to do. You mention study of God's Word but forgot Prayer.

I see nothing wrong with these questions, and how do you know the motive behind these questions without it being a broad statement which could include Christians "Modern" or not, who are earnestly seeking answers to living pure and productive? God deals with us individually, not just as a corporate body. which is to preach the Gospel.

I think your comment could cause those who are honestly trying to understand what God wants them to do to feel like they cannot ask questions that which would allow a more mature brother or sister to guide them.

I agree some Christians do not study as they should, but do any of us really do? I study every day and I do not understand everything, that is where prayer and faith come into the process.

We also need Pastors (brothers in the Lord) who teach us, although the Holy Spirit does teach us too.

I am hurt by your comment "arise from lack of respect for God's word and an excess of regard for the things of the world (entertainment, money, possessions etc)."

Not all lack of knowledge is a lack of respect for God's Word, nor an expression of regard for worldly things.

Are you completely knowledgeable in the Word of God? Have you reached the end of questions and seeking? Do you have it all figured out? If you do Praise God! I however, do not, so I will need to continue to study, pray, and seek the Lord for understanding. Does that mean I do not respect God's Word and seek worldly things. I don't think so ,but feel free to correct me.

Professing Christians who seek worldly things are not Christian and we need to stop calling them that. A brother in the Lord told me that not all Christians are at the same place and that God has given us the Grace He sees fit to give us. Please don't group all together. If you're talking about those on so called christian television, then I agree with you because we can plainly see. If you are talking about brothers and sisters in Christ, then I have to peaceably disagree with you because you don't really know who is and who isn't. We need to pray for those who are not studying....

2 Timothy 2:15
to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

See this as an opportunity to love your brother or sister in the Lord and help them, like me.

May God grant me the Grace to continue to study His Word until I am out of this flesh and I can show myself approved at His Judgment Seat. May I never sit on self righteousness.

Cherie c.

Cherie c.

Cherie c. said...

Worth repeating from another comment:

Rick Frueh said...

Thank you, Kelli. Discussions on blogs are one thing (iron sharpens iron), but when dealing with others we always need to be patient and gracious.

Cherie c.

Cherie c. said...

Pastor Rick,

If you ever have time for a Bible Study, This is a great online place to hold it.

Thank you.

Ramone said...

About the question of what activities (if any) draw men to Christ:

"Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:34-35)

"May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me." (Jn.17:23)

Christ gave us agape love, sacrificial love. He loved us first before we loved Him, and laid down His life for us. He carried our burdens, took up our griefs and our sorrows, forgave us while we were His enemies, reached out and touched us while we were dirty, impure and unholy, and so much more.

And He commanded, "Love one another as I have loved you." When we obey that command, when we defy common sense to reach out and touch the unclean, when we forgive our enemies, bless and love those who curse and persecute us, when we do these things and many others, we demonstrate the values of a kingdom that is not of this world. We share and live out the agape love that He gave us. When we give undeserved grace just as undeserved grace was given to us, we testify to the grace of Jesus Christ.

Jesus said that this agape love in action would testify that we are His disciples, and that united in His love the world would know that Father sent Christ and has loved the world just as He has loved His own Son.

Cherie c. said...

Praise God and Halleluiah!

Well said. God Bless!

Cherie c

Ramone said...

I looked at the comment I left here yesterday and was struck in the Spirit... after praying I got this picture: "By This All Will Know"

Every act of agape love causes and sends out Cross-shaped ripples in the world, and you never know how far they can go!

Rick Frueh said...

"cross shaped ripple"
I love words that carry enough weight to move my heart.