What must I do? – pt 3


I have often made the point that good works proceed out of our relationship with Jesus, rather than produce our relationship with Him. We are not saved by good works, according to the Scriptures, nor do we stay saved by good works. Instead, we are saved “unto good works,” as Ephesians says. When we are saved, we become capable of good works, restored to be the people we should be.


Scripture expects the people of God to do good. Because He does good and He is the active life in us as we yield to Him, the Lord’s goodness is seen in us. He uses us to reach out to others in love. Sometimes our actions, as we listen to His leading, are the answer to someone else’s prayers. What a blessing that is to us!


I believe that the normal Christian life will produce good. It is in the nature of the believer to do good. Our Lord is always doing good and He is active in us.


But there are some who twist even this truth. They say that certain things must come out of a believer’s life. If those things don’t happen or can’t be seen, then the person must not be a believer, they say. Not only are the rules evidence of salvation, they are necessary evidence.


So you might hear something like this: “I just don’t know about someone who says he is a believer but never gives to the church.” Or, “How can someone be a Christian and not tell others about Jesus?” These people will quickly say that tithing doesn’t produce salvation. They know that sharing the gospel with the lost is not a pre-requisite for being saved. But they seem to say that these things are necessary “post-requisites.”


It is customary for “post-salvation legalists” to cite passages about bearing fruit. They pull out Jesus’ words (which are really about the false prophets) in Matthew 7:20:


Therefore by their fruits you will know them.


But the Scripture is very clear about where the fruits of righteousness come from in our lives. The simple truth is that Jesus does His own work.


And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, 10  that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, 11  being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. Philippians 1:9-11 (NKJV)

Any fruit that comes out of us is from His life in us. So do we have the right to tell Jesus what fruit He should produce? Can we give Him a list of expectations with the insinuation that we will judge His presence in a person by whether or not those expectations are kept? Who are we to judge the people of God who are led by the heart and mind of God?


Churches, teachers, and individuals often place their own expectations on other believers. Usually portions of Old Testament law are woven into the list. Tithing, not eating certain kinds of meat, obeying parents—these and others. And often they are reflections of cultural morality: avoiding certain movies or drinks or styles of dress. Sometimes they are blatant church-serving expectations: giving to the building fund, serving in the Sunday School, or church attendance. They can’t say anyone is saved by doing these things or that anyone who didn’t do them could lose their salvation, so they say that these will arise naturally and necessarily out of anyone who is saved.


But it is the same old story, isn’t it? Salvation is still judged by the work of the individual, rather than by the work of Jesus. If all we can do is receive what Jesus has done for us, then who can judge our salvation on the basis of our works? The only righteous Judge is Jesus—and He is the One who saves us on the simple basis of His love.


Filed under grace, Legalism

11 responses to “What must I do? – pt 3

  1. Cookie

    This great post reminds me of Ephesians 2:10: “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” May we give each other the freedom to discover and utilize the gifts that God has given us to do the good works that He has prepared in advance for us to do. May we give ourselves the freedom to allow our works to be directed by Christ alone. May we have the courage to stay true to our calling and seek to please Christ alone. And may we have the insight and humility to value and celebrate the diversity within the body of Christ.

  2. Annette

    Good point! Rom. 14:4 comes to mind: “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.”

    I appreciate your blog, Pastor Orrison! Keep up the good work!

  3. Leah

    I am really excited about this post, as I was just having a conversation with my husband about “doing” – what we are expected to do as Christians! A friend gave us a “marriage help” book and I find myself confused when reading that we should strive and fight to be humble! Isn’t that Jesus’ work? Where is the line between what I need to do because the Bible says (clothe yourselves in humility) and what Christ is doing in me? I am at the place of resting and whatever He is doing, is happening quietly within. Thanks for this clarifying post!

  4. Valerie

    Not my will, but Your will.

    When we love Christ we naturally do what is important to Him because we become like Him when we are sanctified. His love compels us (2 Cor 5). When we die to self we live as Christ’s servants. When we love Christ and realize the gift we have been given, doing good never feels like doing works. It comes as naturally as blinking. We are no longer operating out of the flesh, but of the Spirit. If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. (Romans 8)

    I grew up in an extremely legalistic church and household. I never knew the love of Christ until decades later (away from both). In my house you did not even play on Sun. My dad was worried about what I was doing outside that someone might drive by on Sunday and see. This, to me, is an example of legalism. Pure legalism. It wasn’t about Christ, it was about rules. I see it as a difference between being a hall monitor of sorts looking for someone to do wrong, whereas expecting the fruit that comes with comes with sanctification is the heart of scripture (not the letter). I think Christ tells us to expect fruit, but not demand if that is to be green apples or black grapes.

    I have a friend whose husband used to be in ministry. They got burned out from the church and no longer regularly attend. They, however, are constantly touching lives for Christ. Their love for Christ is evident. You can see it on their faces. I have another friend, however, who regularly attends church but refuses to join. Doesn’t see the need she says. She hates being in front of people and avoids it at all costs. Is this her reasoning for not wanting to stand up to profess her faith? I don’t know. She has often talked about going to church as a chore…she has never expressed that she enjoys worship. This same friend also has a gay friend that she jokes with about his homosexuality. He feels very comfortable around her because she doesn’t have a problem with him being gay. By her embracing his wickedness and not speaking life to him she shows she doesn’t feel compelled to save him from eternal death (he does not struggle with his homosexuality but is actively living it). These to me are examples that I see where it would be wrong to outwardly accuse the first person of not being saved because she doesn’t go to church. In the second example we would be amiss to assume that since she does produce the “works” of church attendance that in so doing it shows her heart is good.

    No, we can not judge people by their works; yet if a pattern of worldliness, self absorption and no heart for the lost exists then we can conclude something about that person’s spiritual condition according to scripture. When we are in Christ, the old has gone and the new has come. We are a new creation now indwelt with Christ’s desires and not forever bending to the will of our own.

    • Valerie, you say: “I think Christ tells us to expect fruit, but not demand if that is to be green apples or black grapes.” This is a great statement and certainly in agreement with the post. However, your examples illustrate the error I wanted to point out.

      When we assume that someone who doesn’t want to join a church and sometimes expresses that attending is a chore has a relationship with the Lord that is somehow less than that of others, we are judging on the basis of works. Does everyone have to feel about worship the way you do? I know you don’t think that. When we assume that someone who is gracious toward a gay person and not condemning is somehow compromised in her faith, are we not judging by works?

      Let’s suppose that your friend were to go so far as to state that she does not believe homosexuality is sin. Does that mean she can’t be a real Christian? Perhaps she is just misinformed. Perhaps she just disagrees. Perhaps she wants to look past the sin, not think about it, and reach out to the person. Does that mean she can’t be a Christian?

      To judge according to the behaviors and attitudes that we expect is to judge by works. That was exactly what the Pharisees did to Jesus. When He allowed a sinful woman to touch Him without rebuke, they believed He was a participant in her sin. When He allowed His disciples to pick grain on the Sabbath, they were convinced that He could not be from God. They had their outward expectations and He didn’t fit. We know that He was perfect and God Himself, but they judged Him.

      Even if we say that we aren’t saved by our works or that we don’t stay saved by our works, expecting that certain works must be seen in a believer’s life is still judging by works. What if Jesus is speaking into her heart that she should love her gay friend and not condemn him? The problem with any works system is that it does not allow Jesus to be who He really is.

      I would have no way to judge the lady you mention on the basis of what you describe. In fact, she sounds like a lot of believers I know.

      • Valerie

        Regarding the church attendance, there is much more to the story but I would like to focus on a more concrete example. Scripture is clear that those who indulge in immoral sexual behavior (homosexuality spec) without a desire to turn will not inherit the kingdom. Their fate, then, is hell according to scripture. Not my judgment, but God’s expressly stated. If someone didn’t believe this then the only logical conclusion is they don’t believe scripture because it couldn’t be more clear. Jesus does in fact condemn homosexuals, among other things. This particular issue is not like the works of the Pharisees. It is not about their behavior being what we expect, but about what is expressly stated in scripture to what God expects. We can condemn the sin and still love the sinner.

        While Jesus was gracious, He also called sin a sin. He was more concerned with giving God glory than making someone feel uncomfortable. We must realize that hell is a very real place. While I don’t believe we do justice to overemphasis hell we also aren’t doing anyone justice by not holding to what scripture says is true regarding the choices made on earth to seal that fate. To do so we can, as they say, love people right to hell. If you see a blind man trying to cross the street and see a car coming, would we not try to do what we can to save him from being hurt…or killed? Or do we let happen what will because we don’t want to make him feel bad for being blind? We might hurt his feelings. He crosses the road often. I’m sure he’ll be okay.

        I don’t think its about looking for opportunities for judgment, but being mindful…diligent…about doing what we can to point others to being saved from death. We do this not by condemning but we also don’t withhold the truth. This is Christ’s example for us.

        I maintain that when someone truly has a heart for the Lord, it is our pleasure…our passion to love what God loves and hates what He hates (God does hate). I wouldn’t suggest this woman approach this man in a non-winsome way to show him the error of his ways. Scripture tells us, however, to not associate with those who chose to lead a life of wickedness and rebellion…in part SO THAT they may be saved. When people are supported in their sin they have little motivation for change. The most loving thing we can do is what scripture calls us to. To love someone is to want the best for them, which may lead us to have to make uncomfortable choices. As I see it, saving them from death is loving them to the best of our ability.

    • UnForsaken

      Interesting. It is terribly hard to know something like you’re describing without actually seeing it…..and even then it seems impossibly confusing. Perhaps it’s best for me not try to judge at all? I struggle with this, coming from a ‘rules’ back ground. But we do need to be insightful about Trustworthy character.

      It’s wonderful you are still friends with these woman and I hope you continue to bless them in many ways, but I hope that they also bless you. An example: It has been easy for several old friends of mine to continue to keep in touch, but I miss their not thinking that I’m as spiritual, or maybe they have categorized me as Ministry. It makes it hard for me to reach out to them as an equal in Christ. I can tell you have a kind heart like my friends. Please don’t short change yourself as to what He may be doing for you through this other woman, even if she isn’t seeking Him right now. Bless you!

      • Valerie

        Unforsaken, I am surprised you can know my heart based on a few paragraphs. Isn’t that what this post is essentially about? Feeling we can know someone’s heart when this is only what God can know?

        You say, based on my post, that in your opinion I essentially have a critical heart like your friends. There is much more to the story with my friend that I didn’t get into that is a part of my concern (not judgment but concern). I am being told that I can not judge my friend’s heart then by the same token my heart should also not be judged.

        I am confused because in other posts on this site there is a wealth of awesome information on abuse. (I was in an abusive marriage and this site has been a blessing to me) One of the frequent issues that comes up regarding abuse is the abuser who says one thing but their behavior is anything but. They say they are sorry but there is nothing there to show any sorrow or remorse. You get the idea.

        I think the same principle applies here. If a man says the marriage is important but then is unfaithful, calls her names, and burns her photo album…is it a critical, unfounded judgment on our part to say that the marriage truly isn’t important to him? It is the very thing that I experienced with my abusive husband within the church that has led me to have more discernment about actions being in line with words.

      • UnForsaken

        Dear, dear, Valerie, that is NOT what I meant At ALL.

        In fact, I said you have a Kind heart like my dear friends. These old friends are like family to me. They are people I trust and love more than anyone else, and they are Not actually critical. No, I cannot really know your heart by your post, but you were apparently honest and thinking of friends. I would think of most healthy people, like the both of us, as having fairly kind hearts/intentions because they are seeking communication and well being…not self first. Yes, only God knows…….but let me tell you, even if you cannot feel it from my words, that my heart is only to hug you as a sister.

        ( And oops, you made another reply which I never read before answering. )

        In not replying to anything you said about your friends ( I won’t now), my story was unnecessary to the topic. The ‘example’ I gave was actually a very abstract side note about me, not at all intended to represent you. I did hope to help you see in new ways how God blesses you through your friends, but obviously you have probably seen this all along.

        Perhaps I should not have spoken at all, but I’d hoped to encourage you. I repeat, and hope you believe ,” Bless you”.

  5. Valerie

    Thanks for your reply. I misread your post. It was my mistake entirely- not yours. What I heard you saying is that your friends were labeling you within the church and that you didn’t feel you could go to them because of it. I misread your post (even though I read it several times) to read “you have the kind OF heart like my friends” which I interpreted as critical based on your saying that it is hard for you to reach out as an equal to them.

    This has been a lesson for me in humility. I was wrong in my interpretation of your post. Thank you for taking the time to clarify it!

    • UnForsaken

      Valerie, no problem. Really. My wording was not very clear.

      I love being in a wonderful place like this where we can heal together!

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