Our Best Works Stained With Sin? Well, Sort Of…

There’s a phrase that gets thrown around in Reformed circles that, I think, has its origins in the Puritans. The phrase goes something like this:

Even my best works for God are stained with sin.

In context, I understand the phrase. It means that even our best good deeds do not make us acceptable to God. All of our efforts of righteousness will not get us any closer to God. In an effort to avoid legalism and trust only in Christ, we remind ourselves that our best works are stained with sin.

But, I think we need to be careful about applying that phrase to ourselves as Christians, because I think it can communicate something unbiblical. When the Bible talks about our works as Christians, the emphasis is on the fact that our works are pleasing to God.

Ephesians 2:10 says:

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

When we serve the Lord, we are doing works that he prepared beforehand for us. When God sees us walking in obedience, it pleases him and delights him. God doesn’t look on my good works and say, “Those good works stink! They are stained with sin!” I am joined to Christ, and because I am joined to Christ, my works are pleasing to God. God is my Father, I am his child. God delights in me as his child, and my works as pleasing to him.

My little girl Ella, loves to help me. When I’m about to leave, she brings my shoes over to me and says with a big smile, “Here you go dada!” When she does that I don’t say, “You were motivated by your own selfishness when you brought this over to me!” I delight in her little work for me, even though it was imperfect and slow and not actually that helpful. God delights in my works because I’m his son.

Matthew 10:42 says:

And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.

All of my works for God, down to sharing a cup of water with a brother in Christ, will be rewarded by God. Are my works done with completely pure motives? No, of course not. But God still rewards me for those works! Isn’t that incredible? He honors my work for him by rewarding me. That’s crazy!

The (Almost) Effortless Way To Bless Others

Much of our serving others requires effort, labor and time. Helping a family move or babysitting or cooking a meal for someone involves work.

But God gives us an almost effortless way to bless others.

A little thought might be required, maybe, but you’re not going to break into a sweat or pull a muscle doing this.  (If you do, you’re really out of shape.)  This way of blessing others is so easy, we shouldn’t be rewarded for it, but our lavish God does.

Here it is:

The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life  (Proverbs 10.11)

With our mouths we can give life to others.  We can encourage, thank, appreciate, build up, edify, and point others to Christ with our mouths.  We can stir up, give hope, lift up the downcast and love.  We can teach, bless and sing God’s glorious truths. We can strengthen the weary, or point out where God is working in their lives.  We can pray for others, express our compassion and warn against temptation.  We can welcome newcomers to church.  We can counsel, read Scriptures to each other and share our testimonies.  We can extend forgiveness, teach our children, and tell the good news of Jesus.

Not only can our mouths impart life to others; we can benefit ourselves with our mouths.  When we thank and praise God or rehearse his promises to ourselves, we build our faith and increase our joy.

O Lord Jesus,
Thank you for the gift of speech
Please use me this week
To give life to others
To encourage the weary
To lift up the faint-hearted
To point people to their Savior
To build up your saints
To give your people grace and hope
Please fill me with your Spirit
And give me boldness and opportunities
To share the gospel.
Thank you, Lord.


photo by PinkMoose

Short Story: The Fall

Last week I invited people to try to write a short story. Here’s what I came up with. (If you’re using a reader you may need to click through.)

The Fall

How Will I Discover What God Wants Me To Do?

With upright heart he shepherded them and guided them with his skillful hand.  (PS 78.72)

“Here we see the combination of competence and character.  David led his people with a heart of integrity (character) and skillful hands (competence).  These qualities should always go hand in hand in the life of a leader.” – Dave Kraft, Leaders Who Last

When I was younger I told a wise older Christian man that I didn’t know how God wanted me to serve him.  How would I discover my gifts?  He gave me this great advice:

“Take care of the depth of your character and the Lord will take care of the breadth of your ministry.”

In other words, don’t worry about your ministry.  Pursue the Lord; obey him and seek to become like him in character; serve others in whatever way you can and he will take care of your “ministry.”