If you’ve been to Reform Church for any length of time you’ve probably heard us say things like “God doesn’t require any work from us” or “Good deeds are not our job, but the Holy Spirit’s in us” or “It’s not us that need to live for God anymore, but Christ lives in us for His purposes.”
Well, those are all true statements. Despite the fact that they aren’t popular, we hope to show you that this is what the Bible says. And if God says it, we shouldn’t much care how popular it is, should we?
First off, let’s make this clear: We wholeheartedly agree with good works and right living. We denounce any claim that godly living isn’t necessary.
Colossians 3:12-13 (NKJV)
…put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.
Paul says for us to “put on” these godly qualities (which means it’s in you and just needs to manifest upon you). These are godly things that should be done. And we 100% advocate this kind of godly living.
We, and most other Christians agree that these godly things should be done. Good. But we disagree with most believers on HOW these things should be done. It’s not that we disagree with WHAT qualities should be seen in the life of a believer. In fact, at Reform Church, our political and moral opinion is more conservative than a lot of other churches. But we find a huge disagreement with THE PROCESS by which good qualities are performed in the life of a believer.
The church today says that “Love is a choice. It isn’t always easy.” and “We need to work on being more patient.” and “We need to make a commitment everyday to living pure.” In other words, most of the church believes that good works are a decision and a choice that we make — that we somehow are able to live righteously for God by making that our goal.
This is absolute hogwash. If human beings were able to love people by simply choosing to, or if we were able to do good works by simply setting a goal, then why couldn’t we be justified by the law of Moses? The whole point of the law was to show that we couldn’t live up to it. It was to show our absolute failure at being good. Don’t we remember this?
The law required good things that we agree with! Among the most important “love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:18). If we could simply make a choice to do the good things the law required, why in the world did we need a new covenant? Of course we needed a new covenant with different requirements because no one has ever lived up to “love your neighbor as yourself” or any good work by choosing to. Otherwise the law would have been a successful covenant!
If we are so capable of good works, then let’s go live under the old covenant!
Truly good works cannot be accomplished by will power or by our choosing to live better for God. The law (given thousands of years ago) was supposed to prove this to us.
Romans 3:12, 19
“There is none who does good, no, not one” …it says to those who are under the law…
Good works are necessary, but the law was given to prove to us that good works are out of our reach — completely out of our reach. And if the law wasn’t proof that people are terrible at living for God, I don’t know what is…
Hebrews 7:18-19 (NKJV)
For on the one hand there is an annulling of the former commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness, for the law made nothing perfect…
So at Reform Church, we agree with good works, as should you. And yet God has proven to humanity through the law that righteous living is completely out of our reach. What now?
In the New Covenant, God is not REQUIRING good works to be done by us (the way the law of Moses did). But in the New Covenant, good works are done THROUGH US by the Holy Spirit, as we get to know Jesus.
Romans 7:6 (NKJV)
But now we have been delivered from the law… that we should serve [God] in the newness of THE SPIRIT and not in the oldness of the letter [the law].
Good works in the new covenant are now FRUITS from the Holy Spirit, (Gal. 5:22) not requirements for us to perform ourselves. We allow the Holy Spirit to produce good works through us by renewing our mind to Jesus. As we get to know Jesus and what He has done for us more and more, good works are produced more and more through us. Our actions are transformed by the Holy Spirit, not as we try to live up to a standard, but as we simply renew our minds.
Romans 12:2 (NKJV)
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed BY THE RENEWING OF YOUR MIND, that you may prove [give evidence] what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
So if a Christian is caught in some sin, do they need to try to change it themselves? Under the law that would be the case, where good works were a requirement. But no, under the new covenant that is evidence that they simply need to renew their minds.
If you want to see sin (wrong actions) diminish more and want to see God’s qualities shine through you more, its just about getting to know Jesus more. And getting to know Jesus is the ONLY thing one needs to do in this New Covenant. Why? Because getting to know Jesus and what He did at the cross is how EVERY good thing is produced from us.
Look at the verses below. Read them carefully. And please note that paraphrase translations translate these verses terribly. You need to read these verses in a good translation.
2 Peter 1:5-8 (NASB)
Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, IN YOUR FAITH supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful IN THE TRUE KNOWLEDGE of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Do you see what that first verse said? It says, “…IN your faith, supply moral excellence…” Many translations say “add TO your faith, moral excellence…” The correct translation (check it for yourself) is “add IN your faith.” That makes a difference.
In these verses Peter is not disagreeing with good works. He’s disagreeing with most believers on THE PROCESS of how good works are produced in our lives. He says that good works are added to our lives in faith toward Jesus. And in the last verse he says, “if these qualities are yours… they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
You are transformed by knowing Jesus, not by trying to live better. In the new covenant good works are not something to live out yourself. You have no work to do here. The only thing you need to do is listen and get to know Jesus more. How could we not say this? Knowing Jesus is the means that God has laid out in the new covenant, for good works to be produced.
If good works were required of us in the New Covenant, we would be no better off than we were under the law. The law IS good works. But instead, now we can rest from our work in this covenant and just get to know Jesus. That’s the new covenant.
See below how one puts off bad conduct and puts on godly conduct in the New Covenant:
Ephesians 4:22-24 (NKJV)
…put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, 23 and BE RENEWED IN THE SPIRIT OF YOUR MIND, 24 and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.
Jesus provided everything good to us on the cross. He’s now put that inside of everyone who believes. Simply get to know Jesus and that’s how all those good things are “proven” through us (Rom. 12:2).
Under the law we worked for right living. IT DIDN’T WORK OUT WELL. Under the New Covenant the Holy Spirit does the work in us as we renew our minds to who Jesus is.
2 Corinthians 3:18 (NKJV)
But we all… BEHOLDING… THE GLORY OF THE LORD, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as BY THE SPIRIT of the Lord.
Behold who Jesus is. Get to know Him. Renew your mind to what He has done. That’s the process of how right living comes about in the New Covenant.
1 Corinthians 15:10 (NKJV)
…I labored more abundantly than they all, YET NOT I, but the grace of God which was with me.
Galatians 2:20 (NKJV)
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but CHRIST LIVES IN ME; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live BY FAITH in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.