On Sunday, May 11, Pastor Choi concluded his sermon series on Grow in Christlikeness. So far, he talked about signs of growth in Christ such as love, humility, purity, honesty, and faith. He added one more sign: Good works. God has created us His children for good works and for the good of the world (Ephesians 2:10). Any believer who claims to be a follower of Christ naturally demonstrates good works in their daily lives.
Following is a summary of his sermon:
Grow in Christlikeness (6): Good Works
- Matthew 5:14-16 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
- 14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15 nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
- Galatians 6:9-10 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
- 9 Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. 10 So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.
Today I am completing my sermon series on “Growing in Christlikeness.” Love, humility, purity, honesty, and faith are the marks of Christ’s believers, I said. This morning I am going to talk about another sign of growth in Christ: good works. Anyone who grows in Christ naturally demonstrates good works in their lives.
Growing up in Korea, I was educated in the public school system. In middle school, we had a weekly moral lesson (or civic duties) class (not religious but based on the teachings of Confucius). I still remember a few lessons that I learned such as honoring parents, respecting our teachers, obeying the government authorities, and so on. “Do one thing good every day” was another one. In those days, I just tried to do one thing good a day without asking the question why I needed to. I simply followed the instructions from my teachers (reasoning ‘if it weren’t good, they wouldn’t teach me’). 40 some years later, though, after I ran into some biblical commands like today’s readings, I seriously began to look into good works asking why and what.
Definition of good works:
Before I dig deeper, let me define what I mean by good works: Good works: kind acts to help others (Oxford Dictionary). Good enough, but I like the one from the Bible better. Good works are things that are excellent and profitable to everyone (Titus 3:8). Such good works are pleasing to God in Heaven.
Why good works?
I began with a question: why do we need good works? After studying the Scriptures and after I prayed for God’s wisdom on the topic, I discovered three reasons. Why good works?
First, good works are for our own good. Everyone knows this: when we do acts of kindness for others, it always makes us feel good about ourselves, doesn’t it? However, that’s not what I am talking about here. To make us feel good about ourselves is not the reason why we strive to do what is good. Here’s what I mean when I said, it is good for our own good: good works help us to stay away from doing bad things. Good works prevent our selfish nature from further degenerating.
This is how it works. When we do something good for others, it shifts our focus from ourselves to others. It keeps us from living a self-centered life (of course, unless you do the good to promote your own image rather than serving others). Good works also serve as a positive reinforcement in our moral life. They work far better than, let’s say, doing nothing bad against others. To me, doing nothing bad is a passive approach.
Imagine that you try to keep your boat floating in the middle of the ocean on the same spot. Unless the boat is anchored, of course, before you know it, it will be pushed away by the waves. The same principle applies to our moral condition both personally and corporately. Left alone, like the boat in the ocean, our selfish nature will take us further away from God and our moral standards will degenerate by the worldly influences. Good works, however, like an anchor, keep us from being drifted away from God. Good works along with personal holiness are one of the best offenses against moral decay in our society (you heard of the expression before: the best offense is the best defense). Good works are good for us. They keep us close to God.
Next, good works are good for others around us. No need to explain this one. When we do something good for others, people benefit and profit from our deeds. No one calls anything good if it hurts the people. Good works always benefit the recipients.
Thirdly, and most importantly, good works are good for the Lord in Heaven. If I used a little fancy word here, good works are for God’s glory. When we the children of God do the good, it always pleases our Heavenly Father. Do you know why God has created us? He created us in Christ for good works and for the good of the world (Ephesians 2:10). We have good works in our spiritual DNA. God has given us a unique identity: the light and salt of the world. He expects us to do good works in the world, like the inventor of light bulbs expects the bulbs to emit the light when plugged in. As God has created the lights in the universe such as the Sun and the Moon, so has He created us to be the light to shine in the world we live in.
You are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14). Ponder the phrase one more time: the light of the world. We are the light that the world needs, the light the world cannot live without. Imagine the Earth without the Sun. It would remain in the complete darkness. You don’t want to live in such a place. (E.g. Michigan weather in one November—29 days out of 30 were overcast). Likewise, without us, the world would be a much gloomy place where people would live in complete darkness.
Just remember: our good works are equal to God’s glory. That’s why Jesus commands us to do the good so that people may praise our Heavenly Father when they see our good works: like you achieve something wonderful, it brings your parents glory and honor. E.g. I remember my mother’s pride and joy when her two sons got into a prestigious college in Korea.
One reminder: good works are good for us but they are not about us. Rather, it is about God. They are for God’s glory. Furthermore, we must remember that good works are not a condition for our salvation. We don’t strive to do the good to be saved. On the contrary, no matter how moral we are, no matter how many times we do what is good for people, good works alone will never get us into Heaven. Theologically speaking, no human merits would guarantee our place before God’s eternal presence. No one can boast about their own merits/goodness for salvation before God (Ephesians 2:8-9). Only by God’s grace and only by Christ’s merit of what He has done on the cross combined with our faith make us qualified for salvation.
Two things are worth noticing in Matthew 5:16.
First, every one of us is called to shine his/her own light. Notice here where Jesus says let your (second person plural possessive pronoun) light shine. Your light, not someone else’s light. Are you a child of God? Then, you have a light to shine, because every child of God has light. Maybe some of us have bigger lights and others may have smaller ones, but all of us have our own lights. Let that light of yours shine unto the people around you. That’s your mission. That’s your call.
Next, the word Lampsato (λαμψατω)—to shine. English word lamp comes from this word. Think of a lamp in Jesus’ time. The area the lamp could keep bright wasn’t huge. It was rather small within a few feet from the lamp. The lamp on the stand was enough for one small room, perhaps. In the same way, each one of us is called to be the light and shine upon wherever we are: not globally, but locally. Not globally like the Sun. Rather, like a small lamp that shines in the corner where it is. Let your light shine where you live, stand, and walk around daily: at your home, at your school, at your workplace, at your church, and in your community.
What are the good works?
Finally, let’s think about what consists of good works.
What are considered the good works? There could be many. Use this criterion: whatever you do and say, if it pleases the Lord, and if it profits the people, it is a good work. Anything that would make our Heavenly Father proud and pleased. Here are a few examples from the Bible: Love your enemies and doing something good for them (Matthew 5:44-45, Luke 6:35). Forgiveness of others. Working hard with own hands is also a good thing, for it is not only an honest living but also gives you something extra to share with the needy (Ephesians 4:28) . Honor your father and mother is another example (Ephesians 6:2)—appropriate for a Mother’s Day sermon J. Helping the orphans and the widows is another one. Even the words of encouragement would count.
One last thing: whatever good you do, remember God’s promise: He will reward you with glory, honor, and peace (Romans 2:10).
I am going to close with John Wesley’s quote on good works. “Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can”—John Wesley. He did all the good he could as long as he lived till the last day of his life on earth. On the day of his funeral, according to John’s prearranged instructions, the executor hired six homeless men to carry his casket paying them each a pound. He lived a life that was pleasing to the Lord—the life of good works. May God help us to live the same as he did. Amen.