3 Kinds of Works Christians Argue Over

Works have long been a source of argument among Christians. “What place do works have in salvation?” is generally the question that gets Christians at each others throats, which is wonderfully ironic.

One of the sources for the incessant arguing is a confusion of definitions.

When Christians talk about “works,” I have discovered there are at least three different things they are talking about.

  1. Works of the Law
    When Paul speaks about salvation being by faith and not works, he’s referring to works of the law: circumcision, Sabbath keeping, food laws, etc. “No flesh is justified by deeds of the law” is Paul’s main point. The law can’t save and was never intended to save anyone. The Law was given as a covenant between God and Israel to stay in their Promised Land. If there was a law that could give life, then Christ died in vain. I am all for people who maintain that salvation is not by works of the law.
  2. Works of Religion
    Other Christians are talking about religious ritual when they talk about works. These kinds of works are “things you do in church.” These works include: baptism, communion, catechism, confession, etc. The Catholic Church tends to stress these. When Luther was against works and said salvation was by faith alone, he was primarily talking about Catholic works of penance. These works are not anything that helps anyone else, but rather stuff you do to make yourself have a better standing before God, in your mind. I am all for people who maintain that salvation is not by works of religion.
  3. Works of Love
    The New Testament says Christians are supposed to do works and there are several passages that flat-out say that a lack of works means no faith. “Works” in these passages are not works of the law, nor are they works of religion. When the Bible speaks positively of works (which it does frequently), it is talking about loving acts for others. When James says “Faith without works is dead,” the works he refers to are fulfilling the Royal Law, love your neighbor as yourself. As Paul says, “faith works by love.” If I do all kinds of works but have not love, it profits me nothing. I am all for people who maintain that salvation goes hand-in-hand with people who do loving works.

Works can be either good or bad. Good works are always things done to reflect the love of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We show our salvation, our new birth, our new creation in Christ Jesus, by demonstrating His love to those around us.

If these new works of love are not a growing part of who you are, you should have zero assurance of salvation. How do you know Christ is in you, unless Christ is living through you?

Works of the law and works of religion result in self-righteousness, pride, and judgmentalism. Works of love forget self and seek to please your neighbor for his good to edification. As we do to the least of these, we do to Christ.

Love is the good works the Bible wants you to do. Faith works by love. If love is not working out of you, then faith is not in you.

Some Child-Raising Advice from a Dad Who Doesn’t Listen to Child-Raising Advice

When my kids were little, I received tons of advice about how to raise them. Some of it was helpful. Most of it was wasted breath.

This Fall, all my kids will be in high school. I notice that I do not receive advice about parenting any more. There are several possible reasons for this:

  1. My kids are obviously awesome, which shows I do not need advice.
  2. No one has any idea what to do with teenagers.
  3. People are afraid to talk about this subject any more.
  4. People are afraid of me.
  5. People are still giving me advice, but I have stopped listening.

I can’t say for sure why the advice-giving has ceased. I’d like to think it’s #1, but it’s probably more #5.

Here’s a confession: I don’t like most people’s kids. If I don’t like your kids, there’s not a chance I’m going to listen to your child-raising advice. Not one chance.

In my opinion, based on the plethora of annoying kids in the world, I don’t know who all these parents are who think they should advise others about raising kids.

Everybody thinks their kids are special. And, trust me, they are. Very special. But here’s the thing: they are only that special to you. I’m glad you like your kids, but that doesn’t mean everyone else does, or even that they should.

While studies show us that today’s kids are more neurotic, failing in actual learning (and good grades don’t even mean anything anymore), emotionally out of whack, incompetent at most life tasks, and largely not doing anything, every parent feels their kids are the awesomest.

Our self-esteem culture has pumped our lazy, incompetent children with happy feelings. They feel great about themselves while failing at pretty much everything. Everyone gets a trophy to celebrate their abject loserliness.

I resist self-esteem. I might, perhaps, go too far the other way. I test myself all the time. I find fault with everything I do. This isn’t some kind of depressed, moroseness, it is, I like to think, an honest analyzation of my performance.

I do the same thing with my kids. I test them. I don’t let them win unless they earn it. I tell them the truth when their performance was awful. I even punish them when they didn’t do the work they said they were going to do.

This takes effort. It’s exhausting. My kids get mad at me from time to time. All the other kids get ice cream after their sorry performance. I have taken my kids home without the treat that everyone else got, because I didn’t like how they acted (Actually, I think I made them get the treat and then watch me eat it! No sense wasting free treats!)

King David had a son named Adonijah. He was a bad kid and grew up to be a bad adult. Here’s a phrase from 1 Kings chapter 1 about David’s parenting of this fool of a kid who was now a fool of an adult:

And his father had not displeased him at any time in saying, ‘Why hast thou done so?’

Adonijah’s dad never questioned him about why he was doing bad things. He never “displeased” his son. “Displeased” means “hurt, pain, grieve, vex.” Fathers are supposed to do this. I think this is a father’s job because 1) a father is better at finding fault with his kids than their mom is, and 2) a father is better emotionally equipped to discipline.

If my kids mess up, I have no motherly nice feelings. My all-consuming desire is to put them in their sorry little place!

I do this out of love. Some dads go too far and all they do is find fault and displease. Don’t go overboard. I also praise when my kids do something worthy of praise. I reward and honor and give treats to my kids when they actually work and accomplish things.

The problem now is we’ve over-reacted to the fault-finding fathers by having the best-friend fathers who just pat their kids on the back all the time. One sure way to raise a loser is to constantly praise their losing.

Proverbs 29:5 says “A man who flatters his neighbor is spreading a net for his steps.”

Pumping up people’s self-esteem (also known as “flattery”) is a sure way to ruin someone. God does not like lying. Tell your kids the truth. Make them strong enough to face up to their failures, to take criticism, so they can learn and improve.

Lying to kids to make them feel good is not a good long-term strategy.

Raising kids is not easy. There are many threats to its success and each kid is responsible before God for how they turn out. Parents have a huge say in this, however. It is a terrifying responsibility.

I’ve stopped listening to parenting advice. As I told one lecturing parent, “If God wanted you to raise my kids, He would’ve given them to you.”

I’m not telling you to listen to my advice, you probably think my kids are annoying, too!

But if there’s any summary advice I have for parents, it’s said here. This is my theory. It’s not complicated. I think I have Scripture in support, and my wife and I put the work in. We’re pretty much done with their training. It’s up to my kids now to do with it what they will.

Be honest with your kids. Tell them the truth. Help them deal with truth, even when it hurts. Some day they will stand before their Creator, who IS THE TRUTH, to be judged by His word, WHICH IS TRUE.

Don’t lie to your kids. Love your kids, and remember: love rejoices in the truth.

Neil Degrasse Tyson on Life After Death

Neil Degrasse Tyson and Larry King did an interview where they talked about life after death. Tyson is the new spokesman for science, now that Bill Nye “The Science Guy” has gone crazy.

King asks Tyson what happens after death. Tyson gives a biology lesson about calories and heat energy. About assuming room temperature and dead bodies feeding worms and the cycle of life.

“That’s how I want to go out” Tyson says with pride and triumph for some reason. He wants to go out feeding worms. Tyson has reduced human existence to the lofty ideal of being fertilizer. A pile of manure, as it were. By this logic, the best thing you can do is die! While you are alive you are wasting energy, even more if you are urgently accomplishing things. Dying is the way to help others, as dying makes your energy available to others.

King asks if there is any consciousness after death. Tyson says there is no evidence that there is. Just curious how the scientific method helps a person answer this question.

Tyson says since he doesn’t remember thinking he wanted to come to earth before he was born, there must not be any thinking after we are here. I guess that’s as good as the scientific method can grant.

Tyson concludes by saying living forever would be depressing. If he lived forever, what motivation would he have for getting out of bed? If he’s going to die, he wants to use his time as much as possible now.

“The urgency of accomplishment. The need to express love. Now. Not later.”

He skips over the complete futility of accomplishment if his theory is true. He skips over why love when all I have is a short time to get what I can. Sounds awful selfish, too. “Quick, I need to love you before I die.” I can’t imagine that being a very rewarding relationship.

Living forever is not anything I want either in this world. Living 90 years seems rather depressing to me! I’ve talked to old people, they aren’t all happy about being old.

The only thing that gets me out of bed in the morning is knowing that I can do things that last for eternity, according to the Bible. If there is no resurrection, if there is no living forever, then we are of all men most miserable.

Tyson is content to feed worms. He finds his view of life inspiring and motivating. I think Tyson is lying. His words betray him. He wants significance, accomplishment, and love. All things that make no sense if feeding worms is it.

The fact that Tyson can answer “what happens after we die” with a biology lesson doesn’t really answer anything. Science is not the only field of discovery.

I’ve been to too many funerals to believe Tyson. But, for the living who don’t want to think about consequences, I guess he provides soothing words. “Peace, Peace” when there is no peace.

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