For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time for us to do.” – Ephesians 2:10 (CSB)
While good works do not merit us anything in our relationship with God, they are vital and indispensable. They are evidence of the radical transformation that has taken place within us. God may not need our acts of kindness, but our neighbors do. And as we do these works, they are not just random acts of kindness. They are precisely those works which God planned for us to do when he created us. In a culture where people are increasingly self-absorbed, doing good for others sends a powerful message. It points them to the one who has saved us, changed us, and deserves all the glory.
Authenticity. It’s a buzzword that’s everywhere. It’s in business. It’s in pop culture. It’s in the church. And while the term isn’t found when doing a word search in the Bible, the idea of being genuine and honest certainly is. The problem with authenticity is that it’s morphed into a cover for brazenly bad behavior even amongst Christians. People use crass language in the name of “keeping it real.” They treat others like dirt because “I’m tired of faking it.” They brag about – even glamorize – unwise decisions because “it’s who I am.” That’s not authenticity. It’s sin masquerading as authenticity.
True authenticity never requires crass language, putting others down, or bragging about sin. It simply means admitting our shortcomings and not pretending to be someone we’re not. But there is a right and wrong way to do that. The wrong way makes it all about us. Our “authenticity” is really just a cry for attention. The right way makes it all about God and others. That kind of authenticity comes when we maintain a posture of gentleness, humility, and repentance.
A single word can make a big difference. After recounting the humility displayed by Christ in the incarnation, Paul exhorts the Philippians to “work out” their salvation with appropriate awe and reverence for what God has done (Php 2:12). Unfortunately, many of us read this verse as if it says “work for” our salvation. We confuse which aspect of our salvation Paul is talking about.
The New Testament reveals three realities about our salvation. We have been saved (justification). We are being saved (sanctification). We will be saved (glorification). Paul is talking about the “are being” phase. That’s why he says “work out” not “work for.” Sanctification is a natural response to and evidence of justification. It’s the progressive work of the Spirit in our lives and the assurance that we will one day experience glorification. When we confuse the three aspects of salvation, we get sideways in our faith. We either assume we are the means of salvation and pursue works based righteousness or we assume that justification negates the need to pursue a life of holiness. What we need instead is to work out our salvation in humility recognizing that God alone enables and empowers us.