2008-12-13 - You Cannot, You Must, You Can
John 14:15, "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments."
You cannot do good works. This is probably as startling a way to start off as any, but the statement is true. You might object that you do good works all the time, and I have no doubt that you do. Still, I maintain, that you cannot do good works. Why? It is because you (and I) cannot do anything that is 100% pure. Many will step back at this thought, but I will maintain that everything we do, even the best things we do, are mixed in some degree with self, imperfection, and/or blemish of motive. Saying it more simply, everything we do has sin mixed in it. You cannot do good works, because you cannot do anything perfectly - from a pure heart. Only God can do things perfectly, and it is a great blessing that He always does.
You must do good works. This seems ridiculous after what has just been said above. Buy here we have in our passage that if we love the Lord, we will keep His commandments. All His commandments are good. The verse does not mean our keeping God's commandments out of compulsion. That would make our efforts of little worth. We must keep God's commandments because we love Him. We can, maybe, do all our duty, but then we go deeper and ask, "Have I done my duty out of love to the One who first loved me?" This is more difficult, and humbles us to the dust. It is not nearly as hard to keep a standard, as it is to keep a standard with a pure heart. Our goal is to keep the Lord's commandments, and to keep them because we love the Lord. The heart is the main thing. Keeping our hearts, our affections, our intendings, is a much greater task than keeping a set of rules. How does our verse start off? It begins, "If you love Me." Love is first. Love to Christ, as a motive to what we do, is the foremost part of purity in what we do.
You can do good works. We have come full circle, and only the follower of Christ can say this. If you are in Christ, my friend, you can do good works, because you have a new principle alive in you. Your heart has been captured by Christ. He has made you a new creature. He has given you a new spring, from which the things you now do find root. The impulse in you now is to keep His commandments, because you do love Him, and you desire from that love unto Christ to live in a way that carries out the things that please Him. The Lord sees the heart, and the heart that has been regenerated in Christ can do things that flow from the newness of life which has been given to it. The things we do are tainted by sin. There is no getting around this, but the child of God now has the righteousness of Christ as a "well of water springing up to eternal life," John 4:14. Jesus, by giving us his righteousness and making us holy, has qualified us to do good works. They are done in Him, or they be not good. But all the works that the child of God faithfully does by faith in Christ are good works. Christ gets all the glory. He has made us able to do those things that please Him.
Soli Deo Gloria,