The Fourth Sunday after Pentecost (C)
July 7, 2019
Sermon Text: Galatians 6:1–10, 14–18
Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Dearly Beloved of the Lord,
It is true. The Christian Church and the Christian faith are not about doing good works. And yet it is what Christian men, women, teenagers and children do… all of the time!
The Apostle Paul encourages us, “Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” (Galatians 6:9-10)
So… is doing good works essential or not? Well it all depends on the reason for doing them and what you hope to accomplish by them. If it is to gain God’s favor, garner His forgiveness, win your salvation or play any part in it… no… good works have no bearing whatsoever on the same.
Our favor with God, our forgiveness and salvation is based solely on… dependent upon… the work of one Person and Him alone… Jesus Christ. That is why Paul emphatically states, “Far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Galatians 6:14)
The world was dead to him and he to the world with nothing he or we can do in the world to save ourselves. There is no saying “I had a hand in it” even to the smallest degree. The only hands, holy hands, in it were nailed to a cross.
What our Lord did there in offering up His perfect life, His perfect and holy body and blood in our place, for our sins, was all sufficient. Nothing else had to be done. Nothing else has to be done. Nothing!
There is One who does good works and it is Jesus. Furthermore, there is One through whom the faithful of all time do good works and it is Jesus. The works of man from the beginning of time on down to the present and to the end of days are good and acceptable to God only in their connection to Jesus Christ.
Our Savior said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
Thanks be to God that now having been redeemed by Christ and no longer controlled by sin and Satan, we are free to do good works, to do good to others… to all others… to all people. And the Lord our God recognizes our actions as truly that… “good works” … that are pleasing to Him.
Does He command them? Good works, that is? Are they necessary? Yes, most certainly. But our doing them, interestingly enough, is not out of compulsion. We do not do them to appease God or assuage His anger and prevent His wrath.
We do not do them because it is what Christians have to do.
We do not do them out of fear that our salvation, our gaining heaven is contingent upon the same, placing the focus on us… the pressure on us to “getter done!”
How insidious that would be! Which is exactly the situation, my friends… without exception… in all the world’s religions and the vast majority of churches that consider themselves to be “Christian.” Somehow, someway, in some manner or form they hold to what is known as “works righteousness.”
We, on the other hand in the orthodox Lutheran faith, hold to and confess “Christ’s righteousness” which He has graciously given to us free of charge… free of any good works.
In Christ, our doing good works is not motivated by the Law, but rather the Gospel, by Christ’s love for us. There… the picture of Christ on the cross indelibly printed on our hearts and our minds… is our motivation. His love for us and all people… our love for Him and for all people. It is the Christian way! It is Christ’s way!
In our text, St. Paul talks about the “opportunity” we have to do good works. And they are many and manifold which we come to know, come to see having had our eyes opened to them by Christ through the work of His Holy Spirit.
My friends, please stop thinking of good works as “grand works” as defined by the world because truthfully, from their point of view, the vast majority of the works we do are not grand. Rather they are simple works of kindness and caring that the world around us considers minuscule and minor, amounting to nothing in their sight (or should I say in their spiritual blindness).
Good works… Godly works… are lowly works that the people of this world puffed up by pride, prestige and their so-called “position” in life would never “stoop so low” to do… to engage in… for these things are beneath them.
Their view is, “Let somebody else do it.” Or “I’ll pay somebody else to do it.” They will even sing the praises of those who truly care, provide care and attention… those who are willing to invest themselves, devote themselves to the needs of others. They will say “I give such people credit. I could never do that!”
Oh really? The fact is, they are right! They never could… would… apart from Christ. The same is true of us. In Christ though, we can, will and do step out of our comfort zones and the limitations we have placed upon ourselves.
In Christ, we can, will and do put all selfishness and self-serving aside and turn our eyes, our hearts and minds on the needs of others… putting their needs first.
In Christ, we can, will and do suffer and make sacrifices in our lives all for the sake of our dear brothers and sisters… our fellow man.
St. Paul suffered greatly in his service to the Lord and to the people around him, the people and places he went to, taking advantage (at a high cost) of all of the opportunities which the Lord provided for him to preach the Gospel, to reach out to countless men, women and children with the love of Christ.
What was his secret? Some… many… would say that he was just an extraordinary man. Not so. Not at all. He was an ordinary man who simply, faithfully, served the epitome of an extraordinary God… the one True God… as is the case with all of the Christian men and women of the Bible and down throughout time to this present time including men and women in this very congregation who with St. Paul declare,
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13 NKJV)
And that includes performing acts of mercy, acts of love, good works beyond what we thought we could ever do… would ever do. Yes you… and me… all of us collectively and individually.
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Christ our Lord through His Word, through His very Body and Blood, will make sure that we do not grow weary of doing good… that we are strengthened and able to take advantage of opportunities that come our way to share Christ’s love, to be His hands, His feet, in helping others.
And the good news that the Apostle shares with us in our text is that we shall surely reap the blessings of all works, all actions that we engage in on behalf of the Lord… even for the “little things” which in God eyes are not little at all.
What is more, the blessings from God are not something that only await us when our work on earth is done. God showers them upon us now, every day, for which we are so thankful.
Dearly beloved of the Lord, consider well this day and throughout the days to come, all of the opportunities we have to make a difference in people’s lives. Such is our joy and good pleasure. Amen.
May the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, unto life everlasting. Amen.
“Plenty of Opportunities” 7/7/19 The Rev. Mark H. Hein, St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church, Lockport, IL