If Abraham, by what he did for God, got God to approve him, he could certainly have taken credit for it. But the story we’re given is a God-story, not an Abraham-story. What we read in Scripture is, “Abraham entered into what God was doing for him, and that was the turning point….” Rom. 4:2-3 The Message
That famous promise God gave Abraham—that he and his children would possess the earth—was not given because of something Abraham did or would do. It was based on God’s decision to put everything together for him, which Abraham then entered when he believed…. This is why the fulfillment of God’s promise depends entirely on trusting God and his way, and then simply embracing him and what he does. Rom 4:13-16 The Message
Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” Jn. 6:29NASB
Today I am moved to bring light from the Holy Spirit on the confusing relationship between the concept of “works” and the concepts of “faith,” “promise” and “covenant.”
The difficulty is that, like so many things touching spiritual reality, concepts operate in more than one dimension of meaning and application. If we do not understand that a term has different dimensions or how they apply, we will end up with distorted doctrinal perception, belief, teaching and practice, entirely missing the truth of what scripture is trying to teach us.
The Competing Meanings of “Works”
Such confusion is no more clearly encountered than it is regarding the term “works.” Centuries of spiritual strife have passed between and within massive segments of the body of Christ over this one word in its relationship to faith---what works means to entering faith and to living by faith.
The greatest manifestation of strife was seen first in Martin Luther’s struggle, grounded in the books of Romans and Ephesians, to divorce works from faith as a basis for our salvation (“for by grace are you saved, and not of works”).
Then the strife later came to opposite life by the hyper-Pentecostal insistence on the necessity of works to salvation, based in the books of James, I John and Revelation (“faith without works is dead…I will judge every one of you according to your works.”)
Underneath this macro strife, each believer internally fights out the conflict, especially under circumstances of extreme duress:
“Am I supposed to do something here, or am I supposed to do nothing? Am I supposed to act in this situation, or am I supposed to ‘rest’---to ‘let go and let God’---just pray and believe?”
And of course a multitude of confusing counselors and even prophecies are all litigating on opposite sides of this decision in the courtroom of the heart.
Finally, to top it all off, Jesus makes His famously inscrutable statement that conflates the terms “work” and “faith” together as equals! (“This is the work of God, that you believe….”)
Huh? Faith is works and works is faith?? (silent head scratching going on as flakes of dandruff peel off, gently falling to the floor…)
The resolution for all this strife is found in discerning that there are two dimensions of operation to the term “works.” One dimension is utterly contrary and opposed to initial faith. The other is utterly indispensible to activated faith. And we have to know which is which and when and how each applies or doesn’t apply if we are to believe aright concerning our salvation and truly fulfil God’s call to faith on our lives---especially in the times of duress that scream for action.
The Unilateral Promissory Nature of Divine Covenant
To understand the two dimensions of works, we have to understand the nature of covenant and promise in God. Before we can get how works fall out in the equation, we must get that our relationship with God is foundationally based and entered in terms of covenantal promise.
It is agreed, or must be, not only that our relationship with God is based on covenantal promise, but that this covenant is a unilaterally induced covenant between a benefactor and a beneficiary of which God is the initiator.
God’s covenant is not on the level of a “contract between equals” predicated on mutual performances, such as in a business contract. The Message Bible makes this clear:
If those who get what God gives them only get it by doing everything they are told to do and filling out all the right forms properly signed, that eliminates personal trust completely and turns the promise into an ironclad contract! That’s not a holy promise; that’s a business deal. A contract drawn up by a hard-nosed lawyer and with plenty of fine print only makes sure that you will never be able to collect. But if there is no contract in the first place, simply a promise—and God’s promise at that—you can’t break it. Rom. 4:13-15 The Message
Truly this is the fundamentally missing piece behind our understanding of works. It is the nature of the covenant we have with God, or more accurately, that God has with us. It is hard to overstate the importance of understanding God’s prevenient role in this type of covenant.
The reason we are saved is that God pre-determined to make a beneficent covenant with a certain People, and we were graced to become part of that People. This was a People of God’s choosing, and not of the People’s choosing. It was a unilateral choice.
This is clearly seen behind the first covenant, ie, the Old Covenant. In fulfillment of His original covenant with Abraham, God reached out across the centuries to initiate extension of that covenant with the children of Israel. They did not choose to enter into this covenant! They did not even know who God was. God chose to reveal Himself to Israel and then beneficently chose to “enter into Covenant” with them as “His People.”
Israel was in bondage and God offered to set them free from that bondage into a covenantal relationship with Himself as their only God and provider. In this He promised to be their Keeper. And in this, He was persuading them of who He was as the God of their forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and thus as the only One who could and should truly be theirs.
The Lord and a Baby Girl
To get an idea of this unilateral beneficency, we need only read Ezekiel 16:4-14 (yes, it’s a bit long, but you’ve got to read it to really get the true picture of this covenant):
4 As for your birth, on the day you were born your navel cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water for cleansing; you were not rubbed with salt or even wrapped in cloths.5 No eye looked with pity on you to do any of these things for you, to have compassion on you. Rather you were thrown out into the open field, for you were abhorred on the day you were born.
6 “When I passed by you and saw you squirming in your blood, I said to you while you were in your blood, ‘Live!’ Yes, I said to you while you were in your blood, ‘Live!’ 7 I made you numerous like plants of the field. Then you grew up, became tall and reached the age for fine ornaments; your breasts were formed and your hair had grown. Yet you were naked and bare.
8 “Then I passed by you and saw you, and behold, you were at the time for love; so I spread My skirt over you and covered your nakedness. I also swore to you and entered into a covenant with you so that you became Mine,” declares the Lord God. 9 “Then I bathed you with water, washed off your blood from you and anointed you with oil. 10 I also clothed you with embroidered cloth and put sandals of porpoise skin on your feet; and I wrapped you with fine linen and covered you with silk. 11 I adorned you with ornaments, put bracelets on your hands and a necklace around your neck. 12 I also put a ring in your nostril, earrings in your ears and a beautiful crown on your head.13 Thus you were adorned with gold and silver, and your dress was of fine linen, silk and embroidered cloth. You ate fine flour, honey and oil; so you were exceedingly beautiful and advanced to royalty. 14 Then your fame went forth among the nations on account of your beauty, for it was perfect because of My splendor which I bestowed on you,” declares the Lord God.
Notice how there is nothing about this covenant involving the response of the woman, the acceptance by the woman, the “choosing” of the Lord by the woman. Nothing!
This is what I mean by a unilateral beneficent covenant. God initiated a covenant of love which the People were neither capable of knowing, or perceiving, or accepting or rejecting. They were clueless from the beginning and helpless throughout!
The New (Unilateral) Covenant
Once we understand this, we then need to understand that what is true of the foundations of the Old Covenant is true of the New Covenant. The New Covenant is not a transaction between mature godlike partners! It is a unilateral beneficent covenant between God and the helpless, initiated by God alone. It is not about two equals who find each other and fall in love. It is not about two equals in business who sign a contract based on performances.
This is the significance behind Jesus’ statement “You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you;” and likewise behind Paul’s statement, “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
This is the problem with the common evangelical understanding of the New Covenant. Evangelism tends to preach the invitation into the New Covenant as a covenant between equals. God makes an “offer” and you “decide” whether you will “take” it or “leave” it like a business deal offered on “free will.” And given the irreverent society in which we now live, even that contract has been dumbed down to the level of an agreement between “chums” and “pals.” (How much “new birth” do you think is really taking place in such an “agreement” with that view of God?)
If you understand the picture from Ezekiel 16, then you understand that free will has nothing to do with it and rational persuasion by apologetics has nothing to do with it because your dead spirit is in no shape to know what is going on much less make a decision about anything. And God is certainly no “chum.”
The true call of evangelism is simply the spreading forth of a word from the Divine Living One that finds an unspeakably sourced response of conviction from a dead heart made momentarily conscious by the Holy Spirit that inexplicably finds the baby-like grace to say, “Yes, I hear Your Voice, take me, I want to live and not die. Whatever you say…..”
Works in a Unilateral Covenant
From this description of the unilateral beneficent covenant, we are given our understanding of the first dimension of the word “works” pertaining to salvation. We now come to understand that as a unilateral covenant, the covenant of salvation is truly a “Work” only of God. We are not “co-equals” in this dimension of work, and it is impossible for us to approach this covenant as a co-equal “worker” on the level of a bilateral contract. As Bob Mumford has rightly observed, “you did not bring anything to the table!”
As a unilateral promise of betrothal, entry into this covenant is by invitation only, cannot be earned and it cannot be met by a reciprocal promise of performance by an equal. And by the way…while we are at it…let’s observe right here and now that this is and has historically been the only legitimate meaning of the term “unconditional love.”
The unconditionality of God’s love refers only to the fact that His covenant is sovereignly unilateral. It has nothing to do with later expectations inside the faith. God could not require you to bring anything to the table because you were dead in the first place and had nothing to offer. (Imagine the Lord in Ezekiel 16 telling the babe on the ground, “OK, here is what you have to do before I will save you from your own blood.”)
Faith vs. Human Work: Approaching a Unilateral Covenant
Once we understand the unilateral beneficent nature of the covenant, its promise, and therefore of the one-sided “work” pertaining to its entrance, we then understand what “faith” means opposite to this concept of work. Faith is the only means by which we are able to enter into this covenant, not work.
So what is faith then?
Faith is simply the operative word that describes the receptivity of the spirit in a man quickened to conviction by the Holy Spirit to hear and respond to the Voice of invitation by the Beneficent One. Faith is just the spirit-to-spirit transaction in which the quickened spirit’s “yes” rises in response to the Unilateral Proposal.
Faith says, “Yes, I receive your beneficent proposal, my Lord, and all the promise that goes with that at the mere expense of the lifeless path I have been on.” That’s it. That is all! There is no more to it than that. This is the sum nature of saving faith in relation to our entrance into the New Birth through the New Covenant.
So when it comes to entering the Covenant of Promise, God does the only Work there is. God proposes to us in our helplessness, and we find the momentary illumination to say yes, and that is it.
What about John the Baptist’s “Requirement of Works to be Saved”?
In view of this discussion of works and the unilateral covenant, some would point out, “But did not John the Baptist require works as proof of repentance in order to be saved?”
This appears to be a fair question, but it is a mistaken question based on a false syllogism which is in turn based on a false equation. The syllogism goes like this.
· Repentance (a turning of the heart) is required to be saved.
· John required proof of repentance (works) before he would baptize men.
· Therefore, proof or repentance (works) is required to be saved.
This syllogism is false because it is based on an unspoken false equation created between the second and third points. The false equation is that baptism equals salvation. In the extreme, a second false premise equates repentance with salvation.
If John’s baptizing saved the people from their sins and especially if repentance equaled salvation, then this syllogism would be entirely correct and it would be right to conclude that works of repentance are required to be saved. This would then mean that the New Covenant is a bilateral covenant between equals based on mutual performance contrary to everything taught by Paul.
But John’s baptism did not save anyone. It was a sign of heart preparedness for the coming of the Kingdom through the Messiah. And he particularly wanted evidence from the people that they were real about the call to that preparedness.
But John’s actions did not set the bar for anyone’s salvation. John had no authority to set such a bar or to declare anyone saved. The only one who could do that was Messiah. It was Messiah’s covenant after all, not John’s.
When Messiah came, he stated no recorded requirement of works before his disciples baptized anyone, but more importantly, made all declarations of salvation to people based only on their faith without any specific regard to any demonstrated performance of anything, including baptism. For more detail on this, see the treatise By Blood and Water: The True Story and Meaning of Christian Baptism.
So no, therefore, John’s refusal to baptize some Pharisees apart from their demonstration of associated works fitting their repentance in no way contradicts the overarching truth of the unilateral nature of the New Covenant entered by helpless faith alone.
Return on Investment: Spirit-Activated Works in the Unilateral Covenant
But here now is where it becomes amazingly tricky and confusing. Because as soon as we are quickened to utter that spirit-faith “yes” to God in our state of abject helplessness, and as soon as we receive our “freed will” to move forward into this new eternal life, a whole ‘nother dimension of the word “works” immediately comes into view inside of this New Covenant---and it comes with an expectation laid upon us going forward!
Once we have been quickened to new life, faith becomes ours as an enduring possession of life force capable of ongoing responsiveness to new authority. This responsiveness to the continuing revelation of God’s promises directed by his authoritative Voice becomes the new “work” we are not only enabled to perform but are expected to perform in thankful return for God’s investment in our salvation. It is our “reasonable service” (Rom. 6 &12).
God did not save us as bleeding babes to leave us as bleeding babes, but in order to invest Himself into us unto our growth into eventual marriage partnership with Him. Thus on this investment there is an expectation of return in the form of ongoing responsiveness from within our freed hearts to continue saying yes to His developing destiny in us by our actions guided and enabled by His now indwelling Holy Spirit.
It is our constant spirit-inspired action through responsive obedience to the convicting, prompting, guiding, leading and enabling of His indwelling Spirit that defines the second dimension of “works” for which we are fully and entirely accountable once inside the Covenant, and which indeed forms the basis on which we will be judged at the end of our growing season in this life.
Union of Faith and Works: Inside the Unilateral Covenant
It is here that the terms “works” and “faith” are no longer opposite, but they intersect and are superimposed! Our work from henceforth within the capacity of our newly imparted spirit life is to continually respond in spirit-based action to the Father’s indwelling Spirit, to His voice and to His commands---commands that are commensurate with entrance into His ongoing Work toward fulfillment of His complete Promise destiny for our lives.
God’s Promise is not just to save us “from our blood,” but to raise us into responsible adult companionship with and for His Son as brothers (“sons”) and as one corporate Bride. And so there is an abiding personal dimension to His Beneficent Promise within the Covenant, one that covers every detail and facet of inner design according to who He planted Himself within us to be and to become. We are seeds of Promised Unique Destiny waiting to be worked out under the sun of mortality until we can be harvested to glory where He and we reap the full reward of our Union in Him.
Throughout this continuing salvation of soul, our faith is made to keep saying yes through all action necessary to fulfil that implantation of Divine Destiny. We say yes to every sub conviction and yearning within His great Covenantal Promise to bring us up into His Image. And we say yes to every command requiring response on our part necessary toward that fulfillment—whether we see how it fits with the promise or do not, whether it is joyful to us or difficult to us. But this is our new “work.”
This second dimension work is the “good works” for which we were created in Christ Jesus. It is the “fruit” expected to come forth through our reborn lives as we abide in Him. It is that which has to be “worked out” with fear and trembling in the remaining salvation of our soul. And it is the “works” on which basis He will judge us at the end, as well as those both James and John expect us to demonstrate as proof of our new faith nature.
This is the “work of faith” we are completely capable of fulfilling because He has given us His Spirit to be able to do so as we continuously yield to His very own revelation and empowerment within us. In that sense, it is but our saying yes to His work within us (Christ in us, laboring through us). This work also is the easy yoke and the light burden we are to carry on in our discipleship.
The Work of Faith: “Entering into God’s Work”
This brings us back to Abraham. In the Message version of Romans 4, Paul describes Abraham’s work of faith as Abraham’s entering into and embracing of God’s work through him and for him. It is again a work of response that begins in the faith of the heart that believes in the revealed Promise of God’s Work.
The Promise was constructed entirely and only on that which God alone could do. As the unilaterally initiated Covenant of Beneficence, that is what made it God’s Work alone. But in the responsiveness to the Promise, there is that which Abraham was yet expected to do once his heart had been quickened to faith, beginning by the saying “yes” from the heart.
“Yes, I believe you are able to do this.” That was His first new “work” of faith. And that was all that was or could be “required” for entrance into the Covenant. It was not his work, but rather his entrance into God’s Work, as the scripture has said. And this entirely explains why Jesus said as the first step of doing the works of God, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” Now the equation of faith and works makes sense. (No more head scratching.)
But expressing heart faith is only the beginning of his new work. Abraham’s newly quickened faith into God’s Work was then ongoingly evidenced by His obedience to God’s living Voice en route to and in apprenticeship of God’s sovereign work toward the ultimate fulfilling of the Promise.
Abraham believed the Promise by obeying the command to leave Ur. He believed the Promise by continuing to practice procreation. And He ultimately believed the Promise by obeying the command to offer up His only Son. And this now is the very point about works that James makes.
2:21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? 22 You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected;23 and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God.24 You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.
In all these responses of faith, Abraham was simply “entering into” God’s Work of promise on his behalf. And it is to be the same for us.
The Work of Faith: The Work of an Apprentice, Not a Contractor
Let’s keep straight about this. This second dimension work of faith we have been describing is all Spirit-propulsed work once we are inside the Covenant. It is not the foundational Work that only God does and can do to initiate the Covenant.
But even as a Spirit-propulsed work inside the Covenant, the work of faith is not a work that is somehow independently calling to the man as a co-equal laborer. Once inside the Covenant and working by responsive faith, we never are to imagine ourselves in the role of a co-equal independent contractor where we are “doing half” and God is “doing half” the work. We never assume the position of entering a performance based two-party business contract!
Rather, the work of faith remains the dependent work of an apprentice within God’s Work of Promise. This is so vitally important to remember and the place where as growing disciples we are so easily led astray as we flex our faith muscles.
The work of faith never becomes “our work.” We never own any of the work. We are always watching Another do His Work while allowing His Spirit to participate in that work through us however He wills us to be engaged to whatever degree. He retains all ownership of the Work.
- Laboring Toward Complete Sonship
So what are we seeing here? We are seeing that once God’s Work of Unilateral Promise has been entered into by the spirit transaction of faith apart from any contractually performable work, then the newly quickened heart with its new acquired aptitude and propensity for believing and obeying now works in tandem with God’s sovereign Work as the Lord now grows the apprenticeship with His new friend and son.
The two “works” are “working side by side”---God’s sovereign Work of Promise, and the son’s responsive work of believing obedience, embracing the promises, obeying the commands within the Promise. The son’s work is truly therefore an entering into the Father’s Work.
And is not this how Jesus described His working relationship with His Father? He said, “My Father works, and I work also.” That is the apprenticeship of the growing faith work modeled for us.
Consider: Jesus was born as a helpless babe by the sovereign will of the Father. He had nothing to do with that. No work involved on His part! But as He grew “in stature and wisdom,” He apprenticed in belief and obedience with the Father’s Work, and never went off to do His own thing.
So here again we see the two dimensions of works, how they intersect and how they do not. And it patterns for us how we too are born again by the will of the Father without our works, while growing to apprentice in the Father’s work by our works.
Does this make sense? Can we discern these dimensions of work now in relation to faith? Does this solve the riddle and remove the cause for strife?
The Work of Faith: Sowing, not Earning
We have repeatedly stated as has Brother Earls how important the typology of harvest is to understanding God’s kingdom ways. It is the same and no less here.
When we consider a farmer, a farmer sows and plants in faith, but he cannot earn the increase of what he has sown. A farmer does not enter into a contract with the ground and say, “OK, I will put this many seeds into you and water you, and you perform and give me this much back out of you.” Nor can he even speak to the Lord this way. Rather, a farmer simply plants in faith. And He waits on God for the increase according to God’s sovereign design and intent.
“Planting in faith” thus precisely describes the work of faith inside the Covenant. You plant, but you cannot control the outcome of what is reaped. Yet you must plant for there to be an increase at all. Thus it is with every action in the work of faith.
In this arrangement, you see, there is a holy barrier between the cause and effect of the farmer’s work and his result. That holy barrier is what separates the acceptable work of faith from the unacceptable work of barter contract that would seek to earn God’s blessing as a co-equal.
God’s blessing cannot be earned by bilateral contract performance, though it must be responded to in faith action within the unilateral Covenant. That is what the motif of harvest is all about. It perfectly explains the relationship of works to faith.
Israel’s Interior Legal Contract, the Church’s Interior Faith Indenture and the Remaining Hope for Total Liberation
Once Israel was brought into the Unilateral Covenant of Beneficence through Abraham, Israel was expected to respond in obedience to an inferior interior subcontract called “the Law of Moses.” But the Law itself, being in the nature of a contract, was incapable of being kept. God knew this. And Paul explains why that was instituted, though it was of a great futility to both God and Israel.
Romans 8 explains the large principle that the creation itself was made subject to futility in hope of the liberation to come by the manifestation of the sons of God. This very principle had already been prophetically played out in Israel. Israel was made subject to the futility of keeping the Law, God Himself subjecting Himself to the pain of that futility, all in the hope of a coming liberation through the manifestation of the original Son of God to come. That is God’s way. And who may argue with it?
In the New Covenant, innate legal futility has been replaced with total faith by the Spirit without Law, albeit still under the futility of mortality. We don’t have to keep the futile law anymore. We only have to endeavor to live in faith response to the many promises and commands of God’s own Voice to our hearts. That is exceedingly wonderful compared to what went before. We enter straight into God’s work of overriding Promise on our way to growth into ultimate Union with Him—available now to Jew and Gentile alike. No legal contract involved!
But still as noted, even we yet groan under the futility of mortality, awaiting our complete redemption. And we all feel this keenly and deeply. Under the futility of mortality, we have nevertheless succeeded at duplicating all the errors Israel committed trying to keep the subcontractual Law. Because of this, we see that under both Old and New Covenants, we have all been kept under a certain futility, producing two ages of unbelief, that He might eventually have mercy on all through the Liberation of All the Sons to come.
Nevertheless, despite the futilities of both interior arrangements under the two covenants, we don’t want to lose sight of the essential Promissory nature of the Unilateral Beneficent Covenant that was extended through Abraham first to Israel, and then to all the Church, with the relationship of faith to both. His Covenant is not undone by our failures under the futilities as would be the case if we were under a legal contract.
Reconciling the Faith versus Works Tension in the Body
We have now before us the understanding about “works” that reconciles the conflicts producing strife in the body and strife within ourselves relative to our faith.
As far as church strife goes, we have learned on one hand that we cannot work bilaterally with God as an equal to enter Covenant with Him. We cannot bargain or earn anything. The Covenant and our first capacity to enter it are God’s Work alone. It is a purely beneficent covenant.
This means that all who teach we must bring some kind of work or evidence of worthiness other than a surrendered heart to the covenantal table of faith for salvation or that salvation even depends on a contractual decision of any kind are in error.
On the other hand, we have also learned that once enabled into the Covenant and bestowed its capacity for ongoing participation in God’s promise through obedience to his Voice, we are absolutely under obligation because of God’s investment in us to do the works inspired by faith, and on this we will be judged. (Such judgment will prove whether we truly and ultimately were His by New Birth.)
Faith not resulting in works is indeed dead and cannot save. God expects fruit from all that He plants, otherwise it is not His planting and will be torched. This means that all who teach an initial profession of faith is forever sufficient to assure one of his salvation without further evidence of faith work are in error.
This is all the body of Christ needs to understand to reconcile the strife over works and faith in our salvation.
Reconciling the Faith versus Works Tension within Ourselves
As far as personal issues as believers goes, we learn that whether we are to be acting or resting in any situation is a matter of sensing the Spirit’s guidance and direction. It is that simple. It’s not about whether we are laboring or not. It is not about what others think we should be doing, what a prophecy tells us we should be doing, what scripture outlines as a general rule of practice, or even necessarily what our fallible conscience tells us we should be doing. It is about whether we are responding to the Spirit behind our labor or our inaction.
What is the Spirit saying to the inner man? Does He require our participation or not? Is He confirming a course harmonious with conscience, scripture and counsel of others, or is He carrying us somehow beyond it?
This is something He as the Advocate of Truth is responsible to argue clearly and cogently before the courtroom of our heart, so that we can trust that whether we act or don’t, we are responding to what we have heard in faith, or have committed to the Lord based on best intent and understanding where we seem unable to hear clearly. That is all that matters.
Faith is our only work behind whatever else appears to be our labor or our inaction.
Our difficulty here is that often as earnest disciples, we still remain prone in the flesh to fall into a contractual mindset, expecting God to bless us immediately or in a certain way because we did thus and so in strict obedience to His Voice. We responded to His promise. Or we responded to His command. But we don’t see it come forth the way we expect and so we say,
“How come? I fulfilled my part of the covenant? Why aren’t you fulfilling yours, God? Are you not faithful? Or did I do something to displease you?”
God does not want us to keep giving into that “earning discipleship” mindset where we lose sight of the unilateral promissory nature of His covenant and revert to a bilateral contractual mindset where fulfillments depend on our “perfect performance.” (I know that I am certainly prone to this.)
We have to stay with a mind in which we are simply and confidently “planting” and “watering” our actions in response to the Spirit each day. And then we have to wait on Him for the increase to be reaped in faith, whether near term or far term, whether through lush rainy season or harsh dry season under the sun of tribulation.
We must remember that only He gives the increase, because this is not our work, but rather we are entered into His Work, and that is all. We must see all as His Work in our lives, and not succumb to the contract mentality. This is why the wage earners in the parable of the workers had such a hard time. They were focused on their labor contract and comparing it to that of others, instead of focusing on having entered into His labor.
Anyway, in the course of the long wait for a return on a lifetime of faith, I have to preach this to myself. And I am sharing this “selfie” with all of you.
Father, help us to know and keep straight the difference between your Sovereign Unilateral Work of Covenant Promise, and our responsive work of faith--- first through believing, and then acting on your promises and orders as Your apprentices.
Deliver us from fatalistic complacence in approaching our discipleship, failing through fear to sow our faith at risk into your revealed promises and commands. But also deliver us from feverish enslavement to contractually earning the fulfilments to your promises by faithful obedience after we have braved fear to act on them.
In all things, please forgive us for continuing to misunderstand the Beneficent Design of your Covenant with us. We could not earn our way into relationship with You, and we cannot earn our way into maintaining relationship with you through “our” discipleship.
Help us to always keep before us our sense of entrance only into Your Promissory Work in our lives, with Thanksgiving in all things, no matter what dashed hopes and expectations we must endure under our remaining mortality.
We look forward with hope to however you will cause faith to be reaped now in the land of the living, and with greater hope to our liberation into the glorious liberty of the sons of God.
Thank you for calling us out of Babylon and into Immortality. All is of Your Benevolent Hand
In Jesus’ Name.
Here are some concluding key takeaways from this lesson that may revolutionize our understanding as we keep walking out our faith in Christ:
1. God’s covenant with us is one of unilateral beneficence in view of our helplessness. We bring nothing to the table. We do not come as co-equals to a bilateral exchange. We only respond as helpless babes from a heart-quickened faith to say yes to His benevolence.
2. God’s covenant is based in Christ’s death on terms of a life destiny Promise that He wants to work out in our lives. He is not just saving us from our sins to then leave us to aimlessly obey our way through this life til death.
3. Once inside His covenant, our faith work is only to enter into His Work for us as apprentices through spirit responsiveness to His sub-promises and commands. We do not have an independent work or detached calling identified by “our name” or for which we are responsible; and maturing in discipleship never means we presumptuously revert to the role of a bilateral contractor.
Blessings to all the Royal Priesthood,
First Love Ministry
- a ministry of Anglemar Fellowship
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