Work Only Works If It is Built on the Perfect Foundation

Generally speaking, the foundation of a building dictates its size and strength. It is certainly possible to create a structure that looks great from the outside, but is actually worthless because it is built on the wrong type of foundation. If the foundation is faulty, then the structure of the house won’t work either. Jesus spoke of the difference of the house built upon sand, versus the house that was built upon rock. Ancient builders were no strangers to using huge stones as the foundation for large structures. As a carpenter, Jesus understood this principle well.

work works

In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul speaks of another type of construction: “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.” (1 Corinthians 3:11-15, NIV).

What are You Building? And What are You Building it ON?

What are you trying to build in this world? And what are you building it upon? Paul tells the Corinthians that there is only one foundation for good work, and it is spiritual rather than emotional or physical. He makes the somewhat cryptic statement that the only foundation for good work is Jesus Christ. That seems like a rather narrow and pretentious claim, but take a closer look at it.

As humans, we do good works for all manner of other reasons. We do good things to look good, to impress somebody else, feel better about ourselves, or to keep from feeling guilty. We work to perform acts of kindness to pay it forward or to earn Brownie points. But all those temporary motivations to work in our own power do NOT provide the right foundation for true goodness. Technically speaking, all good works that we do to feel or look good are still acts of selfishness. Good works we perform to get to heaven? Still, selfishness…

The Only Foundation that Works

Paul teaches that true goodness resides in the finished work of Jesus Christ, and that he is the only foundation laid for doing good. Unpack that a bit to see why: Grace is free because Christ’s death on the cross was an utterly selfless act. He didn’t die for HIMSELF; he died for US. Therefore our true reward doesn’t come from our own good works but from His. Paul explains that not all good works carry eternal value, and that come Judgment Day, our selfish portfolio of good works may not survive. Many things which we assume will carry a reward will disintegrate when tested by fire; but the foundation will remain.

Paul’s statement echoes what Jesus said in Matthew 6:5-6. “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” There’s an old saying that it’s amazing what can be accomplished when nobody cares who gets the credit. Let’s give God all the credit– and build more good stuff in secret.

Why Work?

Why do people do nice things?
Is there some blessing that it brings?
Perhaps a place in heaven is had
By doing good instead of bad…
Do we do good works because we should,
Or just because we feel so good?
Should we get credit for what we do,
And hope our deeds will pull us through?
Instead of doing works to please,
Do works for Christ that no one sees:
Paul says there’ll be a celebration
Because we built on the right foundation!
“Only one Life, ’twill soon be past;
Only what’s built for Christ will last.”*

*last two lines from “Only One Life” by C.T. Studd


To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Mighty Works Don’t Work; The Foolishness That Does

Would you consider yourself a righteous person? I think most of us like to think we are pretty good (as opposed to being cruel or “bad”), but do we really strive to be righteous? That idea in itself conjures up some questions: how would one go about achieving such a thing? Do you attain righteousness by what you do? Is a person justified by what they do or by how well they live? The Bible says this: “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith’.” (Romans 1:17, NIV)

A Christian Conundrum

One of the biggest conundrums about being a Christian is the idea of justification by faith. Wait, what?! We can’t work our way into heaven? It seems counter-intuitive to most people that salvation comes from faith, and cannot be gained by doing good works. For legalistic and self-righteous man it is an astounding thing, one of the hardest concepts to grasp, and one of the most difficult things to accept. We just can’t believe that righteousness can be given apart from the good works we do.

The major religions of the world are based upon effort and reward. “IF I’m good enough, God will accept me.” Religion depends upon people earning their way into God’s favor, (or perhaps achieving enlightenment), but those things are not consistent with the Biblical view of God. The Bible teaches that God requires righteousness (since He can’t abide sin), and since man is unable to earn it with works, God gives it to man for free. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”

The Burden of Works

The people who work for God’s favor will always resent those who accept it as a gift. Religion based on works instead of grace becomes a full-time job, a never-ending task in which men strive for a perfection they cannot attain. Self-righteous pilgrims often become bound to the grind and cannot find Grace…

works

That’s why the Pharisees could not see who Jesus was (they didn’t believe in Him). Satan fell because of it (He believed in himself rather than God). It’s why the Roman Catholic Church condemned Martin Luther to death for nailing this statement to the door as one of his 95 Theses in Wittenberg. They couldn’t imagine that sin’s penalty had been paid apart from their system of penances and indulgences. Self-centered man cannot accept the fact that God would give him that which costs everything for nothing. It defies human logic.

The Counter-intuitive Gospel

That’s why Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:18, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” The message of the Gospel is not works, or righteousness out of duty or even obligation; it is not about striving or attaining perfection. It is about God giving the perfect gift to us imperfect men; and it is about our pursuing righteousness out of gratitude rather than obligation.

Faith begets righteousness, not the other way around. You can’t work your way to grace, but grace can lead you to do good works. Accept God’s free gift. Astound yourself with the overflowing measure of grace. Stop trying to work for righteousness, and let righteousness work in you. Think about the cost of it all, and shed a grateful tear. Then remember the foolishness of it all, and smile. Embrace the foolish power of God…

Foolishness that Works

The Righteous Lord cannot abide our fallen, sinful state;
Our works don’t make us righteous, even if we’re good, or great!
Because we want to work our way to holiness–or near it–
The message of the cross is foolishness to most who hear it;
It proclaims that works don’t work, no matter how hard we chase:
The just shall live by faith, and sinners must be saved by grace.
Stop hoping, then, in mere good works to give your soul a lift,
And open the Father’s foolish, graceful, unbelievable gift.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread