Posts Tagged ‘good works’

pubThis holy meditation preserves “the children of men, who put their trust under the shadow of God’s wings,” so that they are “drunken with the fatness of His house, and drink of the full stream of His pleasure. For with Him is the fountain of life, and in His light shall they see light. For He extendeth His mercy to them that know Him, and His righteousness to the upright in heart.” He does not, indeed, extend His mercy to them because they know Him, but that they may know Him; nor is it because they are upright in heart, but that they may become so, that He extends to them His righteousness, whereby He justifies the ungodly. This meditation does not elevate with pride: this sin arises when any man has too much confidence in himself, and makes himself the chief end of living. Impelled by this vain feeling, he departs from that fountain of life, from the draughts of which alone is imbibed the holiness which is itself the good life,—and from that unchanging light, by sharing in which the reasonable soul is in a certain sense inflamed, and becomes itself a created and reflected luminary; even as “John was a burning and a shining light,” who notwithstanding acknowledged the source of his own illumination in the words, “Of His fulness have all we received.” Whose, I would ask, but His, of course, in comparison with whom John indeed was no light at all? For “that was the true light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” Therefore, in the same psalm, after saying, “Extend Thy mercy to them that know Thee, and Thy righteousness to the upright in heart,” he adds, “Let not the foot of pride come against me, and let not the hands of sinners move me. There have fallen all the workers of iniquity: they are cast out, and are not able to stand.”  Since by that impiety which leads each to attribute to himself the excellence which is God’s, he is cast out into his own native darkness, in which consist the works of iniquity. For it is manifestly these works which he does, and for the achievement of such alone is he naturally fit. The works of righteousness he never does, except as he receives ability from that fountain and that light, where the life is that wants for nothing, and where is “no variableness, nor the shadow of turning.”

 

From Augustine’s “The Spirit and the Letter” 11.7

Religious people love to make up proper responses and strange rules to govern their behavior in church and at home. Why? Because at the end of the day it is far easier to cross yourself three times, or refrain from putting up a Christmas tree until Dec 24th than it is to steadfastly read and apply the teachings of Scripture to their life. In the quote from Martin Luther posted below, he helpfully reminds us that there are no good works except those that God has commanded and there is no sin except that which he has forbidden. At this point, the various traditions of the various denominations (while meaningful) are nevertheless not divinely authoritative. If I were to trouble myself or others with the legalistic application of tradition (whether or not it is proper to do such and such during Advent for example), I would unduly compromise the consciences of the Church and cause much division unneccessarily. Furthermore, I would do so with no Biblical warrant or Divine authority. Rather than troubling myself over such issues, perhaps I might trouble myself and spur others on towards what has been commanded, namely faith in Jesus Christ and joyfully serving him under the grace of his Gospel.

“We ought first to know that there are no good works except those which God has commanded, even as there is no sin except that which God has forbidden. Therefore whoever wishes to know and to do good works needs nothing else than to know God’s commandments. Thus Christ says, Matthew xix, “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.” And when the young man asks Him, Matthew xix, what he shall do that he may inherit eternal life, Christ sets before him naught else but the Ten Commandments. Accordingly, we must learn how to distinguish among good works from the Commandments of God, and not from the appearance, the magnitude, or the number of the works themselves, nor from the judgment of men or of human law or custom, as we see has been done and still is done, because we are blind and despise the divine Commandments.

The first and highest, the most precious of all good works is faith in Christ, as He says, John vi. When the Jews asked Him: “What shall we do that we may work the works of God?” He answered: “This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him Whom He hath sent.”

Martin Luther, Treatise on Good Works, 1520 LW vol 44. pg 35

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“But the Father would not be separated from his Son, nor will he now turn his face from those whose likeness the Son took upon him, and for whose sake he bore their shame. The Incarnation is the ultimate reason why the service of God cannot be divorced from the service of man. He who says he loves God and hates his brother is a liar.”

Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, pg 129

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