This gets back to what I shared earlier from Col 1:9-10. What is the will of God for all the saints here? To walk worthy of the Lord. How do we walk in this type of worthy manner? By living in a way that is fully pleasing to Him. And what pleases Him? The second half of v10 – bearing fruit in every good work AND growing in the knowledge of God.
God’s will is for you to obey these 2 things. Fruit in every good work and knowledge of God. This echoes the earlier pairing of faith in Christ and love for the saints. Both pairings highlight the two dimensions of the Christian life. The first is highly personal. Do I have personal knowledge of God and do I have true, authentic faith in Christ? This is between me and God. Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. This is the greatest commandment.
The second dimension is me and others. Am I bearing fruit in every good work and am I loving my fellow saints? Good work can include love for the saints, but good work is broader. Good work can be any good work toward another human being, not limited to the saints. Love your neighbor as yourself. This is the second greatest commandment.
The point is, faith and knowledge of God never remains private and personal. True faith and knowledge of God is eventually expressed in good work or love, something visible and tangible done for the sake of another.
There are two dangers here. We already talked about one. We can think, faith is all I need. The only thing that matters ultimately is knowing God. This is partially true. It sounds right. If you take this to an extreme, we should all quit our jobs and move to a monastery and live like monks praying and reading the Bible and fasting all day. What’s the point gathering in churches? Because we can all meet with Jesus at home by ourselves.
The other danger is stressing the work. You got to do this. You can’t do that. If we are not careful, even good works like loving the saints and taking care of the needs of our neighbors and making disciples and running good programs can originate from man and man’s desire to be successful so that our church grows and everyone knows the Hill and our band gets famous and adopts a name like Hillsong. Our works if it it originates from a desire to elevate ourselves is one of the worst deceptions of the devil. Or if people engage in works out of a sense of guilt or fear or pressure, then we are losing sight of the true gospel.
It’s our faith in the Lord and our knowledge of the Lord that needs to fuel our love for the saints and our good works. There is a reason why loving God is the greatest commandment and loving neighbor comes second. If the order gets mixed up and we prioritize the wrong thing and make secondary things the primary thing, then we risk losing everything. Because we have distorted the gospel.
The gospel says, God loves you and He forgives you and your salvation had absolutely nothing to do with you. And knowing this, when we serve, we do it out of an overwhelming sense of gratitude. Lord, this is the least I can do after all you’ve done for me. Isn’t it funny that the longer we are Christian, we forget that we are saved by the grace of God and we forget that it had nothing to do with works and we reverse the order and begin working to earn God’s favor?
We need to love the saints and bear fruit in every good work. But this love and good works always, always needs to flow out of true, living faith and a real, personal knowledge of the Lord.
If you don’t yet believe in the gospel, I invite you to find someone in this church and ask questions. I’m sure you will find plenty of people here willing to meet with you.
If you are a believer and you’re trying to connect to God but your knowledge of God is more academic than experiential, I want to encourage you to keep pursuing Jesus. Don’t give up. Keep surrendering your life to Jesus. Keep giving your life to Jesus. Keep giving your burdens to Jesus. Spend unhurried time with the Lord. Make it your aim to know Him personally.
If you are connecting to God and you are growing in your knowledge of Him and you are having enjoyable prayer times and God is speaking to you as you open Scripture, don’t stop there. Ask the Lord to push you outward so that you can leave your little bubble so that you can please Him and bear fruit in every good work. If you don’t know where to start, begin praying for the saints here at the Hill. Ask the Lord, who do you want me to love? As the Lord prompts you, step out in obedience and show concern for this brother or sister. And as you step out toward this person, ask the Lord to bear fruit in your interactions.
If you are a Christian and you are loving God and you are loving the saints, ask the Lord to stretch you to be fruitful in every good work. On campus, at your workplace, in your homes. May the gospel bear its fruit in your life wherever He sends you so that seeing your good deeds, non-believers would open their hearts to the gospel and eventually join us in praising our Heavenly Father.
I pray that as we enter Year 2 as Hill Community, we can be a gospel-centered church where we love God, we love the saints, and we show the world the power of God to transform hearts through our good works, that they, too, may believe.