Works and Works

The other day, my hubby and I had a rare conversation with some Jehovah’s Witnesses.  The most unique part of it, is that we started it…. And it wasn’t on our front porch.

We were coming home from a very long, 2-day trip, that had gone hours longer than we had wanted it to, already.  We were thoroughly enjoying ourselves and it was a phenomenal adventure, but we only have 1 week left with our firstborn son before college and we knew that, though he and his brothers had gone to the county fair, he was home now… and waiting for us… and we only have a few short days left, so we were kinda in a hurry.  But God doesn’t function on our time frame.

We got to the town just before ours’ (The Plains), to the turn that you’d take off the highway to get to the high school that Forest just graduated from two and a half months ago.  And very suddenly, my husband makes a quick turn off the highway and says “The Lord wants me to go this way”.  Alright, we could get home this way just about as quickly as if we had stayed on the highway.

The first thing we passed was a long driveway leading up to a church.

The next thing we passed was a JW parking lot.  We both groaned.  Those places make me feel like vomiting a little bit, because of the blasphemous things they teach about God and the millions of people that they have deceived into believing it.  There are 8 million people on earth today, deceived into that specific, heretical religion.  8 million people walking into the pit of hell, with all of their religious zeal.  It breaks my heart to bits and pieces, because I love them.  They are my neighbor.

A few seconds later, Smiles goes whipping around into the next turn off.  “The Lord told me to turn around,” he said.  I started commentating on my curiosity.  “I wonder if we just avoided an accident, or road-killing a deer?”  But it wasn’t long before I knew why, because the Lord also told him to turn in to that JW parking lot, where folks were getting in to their cars, after their meeting.  I groaned again.  And started praying.

We pulled up into a spot across from a couple of men who were speaking with one another at their cars, and I bowed my head and started praying, because I knew that Smiles had no idea what to say, but if you are willing to listen and be led by Christ, you will sometimes find yourselves in uncomfortable situations, where you don’t know what to do or say… so here we were.

I can’t tell you all the logistics of the conversation that took an hour and a half (at a time when we just really wanted to be home).  But what I will tell you a couple of things:

One is that this is the second time that Jehovah’s Witnesses have profusely commended me or us for knowing the Bible, and said that I/we were the only Christians they had known who were well-versed.  And the sad thing is, this is a fair assessment of a large portion of the American church.  Shame on us, Church!  We hold the Words of eternal life and we leave them on our shelves, or give them away to Thrift Shops!  That should make us groan deep and repent!  And I’m not just shaming all of you, but myself, too, for as much as I love the Bible, I don’t love it nearly as much as I ought to!  And sometimes I love sleep much more than I love connecting with God Almighty.  This breaks my heart.

The other thing I’ve been pondering for the past day and a half is the difference of “why” we both read our Bibles.  I read my Bible to know the heart of God, because I long for deeper and deeper intimacy.  I read it because it breathes life into my sometimes weary soul.  I read it because it’s an incredible treasure and I still can… without fear of arrest, even.  I read it because I want to love it so much that even when it might cost me getting arrested or even losing my life (as it does for many Christians all over the world), I will read it anyway, and if I can’t get my hands on a hard copy, I will have enough of it memorized to preach it to myself.  I read it because I know that I am much easier to deceive when the Word is not firmly planted in my heart and mind.  I read it because it is alive and wonderful!  And I read it so I can steadfastly stand when others are preaching heresy… like Jehovah’s Witnesses do.

They read it to prove me wrong.

Even many Christians read it to know ABOUT God, rather than to KNOW GOD.  These 2 motives are worlds apart, as well.

And you know what, I have peace with God and they don’t.  They actually told me that they won’t know until they pass some test, whether or not they belong to Him.

I will shout it from the rooftops that He loves me and I am His!

When you boil all the fat off our conversation the other night, this is what I took from it: They don’t have peace with God and I do, because they are trying to get to heaven by their own devices and I’m resting in Christ!

Throughout our conversation, they promoted the faith and works thing and yet couldn’t acknowledge that God grants the faith and prepares the good works that belong to a true Christian.  If you read the middle of Ephesians 2 (which, by the sovereignty of God, I had been meditating on for the days leading up to this conversation), it says “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them”.

This passage draws a clear line between our works and God’s works through us.  Our works are worthless puke… and God’s works are glory that fills even us broken human vessels, and spills out over all creation.  And the crazy thing about God is that He rewards His kids for what He does through us, and doesn’t condemn us for all the junk that we do.  That’s the grace part!  He does something awesome and gives us props for it, meanwhile overlooking all our offensiveness.

And these guys are resting on their own works, which in another part of Scripture (I think Romans), are referred to as “filthy rags”, in other words “used sanitary napkins!”  And they are boasting in their works (though they certainly wouldn’t admit it the other night).

We almost wept over the sadness of them not having confidence in whether or not they were His (which I guess is better than them having deceitful confidence, meanwhile being on the wide path that leads to destruction).  And as we choked back tears, and told them with all confidence that we belong to Him, one of them accused us of being arrogant and warned us that “he who thinks he stands ought to take heed, lest he fall”, it became all the more clear that they always put their trust in their own works… so the subtle differences (that split our religions worlds apart) were causing them to think that when we say we have “confident access” to God, that we are putting the confidence of that in our own “good works” that have given that access to us.

Christianity, boys and girls, is a religion of liberty!  And part of that liberty is from the wrath of God and another part of it is from the standard of perfection that we ought to live up to and can’t.

When I get to heaven someday, I am probably going to have my forehead pressed deep into the ground below (if there is a ground below) and my finger pointing to Jesus.  Remember Him, Lord!  You see His righteousness, not my dead works!  I’m free and forgiven because of that guy, not me!

Today, and every day, when the accuser comes breathing over my shoulder to tell me that I’ve failed again and I’m not fit for the Kingdom, I tell him that my God is good enough and He died so I wouldn’t have to get it all right… and that He’s sovereign.  That means that what He is going to accomplish in the midst of my messes is “far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20)!  I tell the enemy to flee because his accusations won’t stick to me, because of Jesus!

I can have complete confidence without a lick of pride, because all my confidence is staked on Jesus!  I might be a total mess at times, I might even be completely selfish, unloving, idolatrous, etc., but when God looks at me (and He never stops looking at me), all He sees is Jesus’ blood!  I am covered, ya’all.  So I can have joy, humility and peace with God, all at the same time.  Because I know I’m His and He is mine!  Because He is going to keep being faithful… not me!  Because He doesn’t change and is always, always faithful!

I hope to be faithful to Him, but I know I won’t always be, as long as this skin still clings.  But He will always love me, despite my sinfulness… and He won’t even notice it, because all He sees is His precious daughter!  Hallelujah!  And thank You, Jesus!  I don’t even want to try (again) to live by my own strength!  It’s a weary road without You and it doesn’t lead anywhere I want to go!

 

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