All who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. (Galatians 3:27 NLT)
Because we belong to the day, we must live decent lives for all to see. Don’t participate in the darkness of wild parties and drunkenness, or in sexual promiscuity and immoral living, or in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ (KJV says: Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ). And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires. (Romans 13:13-14 NLT)
When your Heavenly Father looks down upon you, who does He see? Does He see Jesus? When those around you look at you, who do they see? Do they also see Jesus?
In both cases, when you are looked upon, is Jesus what is seen? But how you are seen by the Father and how you are seen by men is very much different. I will demonstrate it with two portions of Scripture that are both undeniable truths, yet seem opposing:
1. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9 KJV)
2. What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. (James 2:14, 17, 21-22, 26 NKJV)
In the first portion of Scripture, it is clear that our salvation begins at the moment we step out in faith and accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Nothing we do can earn us salvation. It is by Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ alone.
Now to the second portion of Scripture. After our salvation, our works are a by-product of our living breathing faith and will then exude out of us just like sap exudes out of the roots of a maple tree and up the trunk to the branches in springtime. The fresh green leaves are a result of it. Then as we go through our Christian walk, all those around us will experience our budding to fruition.
The problem is, much confusion can come out of an unhealthy understanding of faith and works, which then leads to an unhealthy Christian walk. The easiest way to demonstrate it is with an illustration of a horse and a cart, or in a more modern setting with a truck and a trailer. The truck or horse is faith and the trailer or cart is works. Works should never go out in front. If it does, disaster is waiting to happen. The danger sign, which is a red flag in Christians, is lack of peace and lack of rest. This happens when there is no longer a leaning on Jesus and the work He finished at the cross:
When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost. (John 19:30 KJV)
True peace and rest are promised to all Christians, no matter what the world throws at us:
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30 KJV)
Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (John 14:27 KJV)
If you have lost that peace and rest in your life, go all the way back to the cross and put the cart behind the horse. Allow the Father to see only Jesus instead of you! Then and only then will men glorify the Father for your good works:
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 5:16 KJV)
Remember, only Jesus is the true light of the world:
Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. (John 8:12 KJV)
In conclusion, I would like to point out that one of the pitfalls that occurs in churches is when too much of an emphasis is put on either money, good works, or performance, rather than Jesus. This then causes many of their congregants to put the cart before the horse, thus robbing them of the precious peace and rest there is only in Jesus. There is an excellent book that addresses this spot-on, entitled ‘The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse’ by David Johnson and Jeff VanVonderen. If you believe you have been a victim of this kind of spiritual abuse, I highly recommend this book. One reason I was really blessed by this book is that there is no ulterior motive for the book outside of helping people free themselves from this vicious merry-go-round.