I have a friend at work who has yet to receive Jesus. They are close to accepting him as their Lord and Savior. This particular friend has an edgy personality that can make some people feel uncomfortable. For example, they are blunt, direct and brutally honest. One day this friend told me about another co-worker who will periodically leave random scriptures on their desk. Then my friend said something very telling: “Jack doesn’t even want to get to know me. They are just fulfilling their Christian duty.” Ouch!
Why you do what you do for God is very important. Here are two passages that speak to this.
“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: or I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’
1 Corinthians 13:1-3
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal…And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.
These scriptures tell us that you can have amazing abilities and benevolence to the point of sacrificing your own life for someone and if the motive is not out of love it profits you NOTHING! Let’s be honest, it was very noble for my co-worker to leave scripture verses on my friend’s desk. The problem was the love behind the action could not be felt by the one who didn’t know Jesus.
There is always a great tension for those of us who are believers in Jesus and church goers. We live with the pressure to “do good deeds” for God. Many scriptures instruct us in this way. Jesus stated this in Matthew 5:16 . However, the power of the good deeds to impact the lost is connected to the love motivation of the deeds.
The two most famous Apostles who were known for their great deeds are Paul and Peter. Have you ever wondered what motivated them to good works with great love? I contend that they fully understood and received the forgiveness of God and therefore they viewed sinners differently than most of us Christians. They received great grace and therefore they extended the same to others. Let’s read their stories.
Paul shares his testimony Acts 22:1-8
“Brethren and fathers, hear my defense before you now.” And when they heard that he spoke to them in the Hebrew language, they kept all the more silent. Then he said: “I am indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the strictness of our fathers’ law, and was zealous toward God as you all are today. I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women, as also the high priest bears me witness, and all the council of the elders, from whom I also received letters to the brethren, and went to Damascus to bring in chains even those who were there to Jerusalem to be punished.“Now it happened, as I journeyed and came near Damascus at about noon, suddenly a great light from heaven shone around me. And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’ So I answered, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’
Can you imagine the sinking feeling that Paul felt he when learned that he actually persecuted the Messiah by persecuting innocent people who were killed and put in prison? According to the law of God, falsely accusing the innocent warranted severe punishment. Paul was doomed. What did he receive for his punishment? Grace and a commission to do good deeds.
1 Corinthians 15:9-10
For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.
Do you see it? He received God’s great grace and never forgot it. It spurred him to labor for Christ from that place of received love.
In Matthew 10:32-33, Jesus makes a sobering statement: “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven. The disciple Peter heard him say that. Can you imagine Peter’s mental anguish after this incident:
Now as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came. And when she saw Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with Jesus of Nazareth.”But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you are saying.” And he went out on the porch, and a rooster crowed. And the servant girl saw him again, and began to say to those who stood by, “This is one of them.” But he denied it again. And a little later those who stood by said to Peter again, “Surely you are one of them; for you are a Galilean, and your speech shows it.” Then he began to curse and swear, “I do not know this Man of whom you speak!” A second time the rooster crowed. Then Peter called to mind the word that Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.” And when he thought about it, he wept.
Peter denied Jesus. At this point in Peter’s life, he had to have felt great despair. Jesus clearly stated that anyone who denies him before men, His heavenly Father would deny that person. Peter was seemingly doomed FOREVER. Guess what Jesus did?
In John 21:3-6; 9-13 we find Jesus restoring Peter by giving him grace and a commission.
Simon Peter said to them , “I am going fishing.”They said to him, “We are going with you also.” They went out and immediately got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing. But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Then Jesus said to them, “Children, have you any food?”They answered Him, “No.” And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish.
Then, as soon as they had come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have just caught.” Simon Peter went up and dragged the net to land, full of large fish, one hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not broken. Jesus said to them, “Come and eat breakfast.”
Jesus blesses Peter’s fishing expedition and then cooks him breakfast!!!! God doesn’t hold any grudges. Paul was supposed to get punishment and Peter was to be rejected by God. What happened? Did Jesus lie? The cross happened. All the sin of the world was placed on Jesus and the condemnation for sin Jesus absorbed. Now Paul and Peter could receive forgiveness. Remember my previous posts titled The Tell-Tale Sign of Jesus Followers and God’s Radical Forgiveness Despite Your Mess? He who is forgiven much loves much. (Luke 7:47) Paul and Peter were heavily impacted by God’s forgiveness, grace and mercy and it showed up in their deeds. ( 2 Corinthians 5:18-21)
What happened? The Cross happened.
Here is one of my favorite scriptures. Ponder Your Heavenly Father’s eternal forgiveness and love for you.
“For a mere moment I have forsaken you, But with great mercies I will gather you.8 With a little wrath I hid My face from you for a moment; But with everlasting kindness I will have mercy on you,” Says the Lord, your Redeemer. “For this is like the waters of Noah to Me; For as I have sworn That the waters of Noah would no longer cover the earth, So have I sworn that I would not be angry with you, nor rebuke you. For the mountains shall depart And the hills be removed, But My kindness shall not depart from you, Nor shall My covenant of peace be removed,” Says the Lord, who has mercy on you.