by Calven Celliers
Once a week I drop my boys off at our local tennis club for coaching. As I dropped them off one afternoon I noticed some graffiti on the wall of an electrical substation at the Recreation Center next door. Not only did it grab my attention, it got me thinking. In fact I took the photograph below with my phone when I went to fetch them, so that I would remember it for a sermon or a devotion or … a blog post one day. Little did I know at the time that it was in fact a famous quote by Voltaire, a French Enlightenment writer, historian, and philosopher famous for his wit, and sadly his criticism of Christianity. So what did Monsieur Voltaire have to say?
Now, regardless of what Voltaire might have initially been thinking when he first penned these words, let me share with you some related thoughts on the topic. You were saved to make a contribution. God designed you to make a difference with your life. In his letter to the Church at Ephesus the apostle Paul makes this statement:
“10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10NIV)
At first, what we read here might disconcert us. Hasn’t Paul gone to great lengths to emphasize that our salvation is not by works? Why is he now saying that we have been created in Christ to do good works? Yes, our salvation does come by grace received through faith. We do not earn our salvation through anything we do, but this clearly doesn’t mean that good works don’t matter or are unrelated to salvation. In fact, this passage makes it abundantly clear, salvation and good works are closely connected. Whilst good works don’t earn salvation, they do follow salvation. To put it differently, we are not saved by good works, but for good works.
Have you ever wondered why God doesn’t just immediately take us to heaven the moment we accept His grace? Why does He leave us in a fallen world? My suspicion is that salvation is not simply a ticket to heaven after death. Rather, salvation means being brought from death to life by the love and grace of God, through the saving work of Christ on the cross. And when we are saved into new life, we begin that life in the here and now, on this earth, in an altogether different way. At least that’s God’s plan for us. God prepared what He wants each one of us to do once we’ve surrendered to His lordship. He has a unique plan for each of us, as His ambassadors who serve Him in this world. This includes certain spiritual gifts and the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives to lead us to works that contribute to His restoration of the world; works that build up rather than break down, works that make our lives meaningful, and bring us a sense of fulfillment and purpose.
James, the younger brother of Christ, put it like this:
“26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” (James 2:26NIV)
By implication, faith without works is dead because it reveals a heart that has not been transformed by God. What saves us is the Holy Spirit’s regeneration of our hearts, and that regeneration will invariably be seen in a life of faith featuring ongoing obedience to God.
The Bible tells us in no uncertain terms that there will come a day when each and every one of us will give a personal account to God. Think about the implications of that. One day God will consider how much time and energy we spent on ourselves, furthering our own agenda, in relation to how much time we invested in serving Him and His purpose for our lives. At that point, all our excuses for self-centeredness will sound hollow. In God’s Kingdom, you have a place, a purpose, a role, and a function to fulfill. May we never be found guilty for not fulfilling the good works God prepared in advance for us to do.
God bless you as you seek His will for your life,