Over the years I have had people ask, “It seems that if all we have to do is put our faith in Christ and we are forgiven, what keeps us from going out and living however we want since we are forgiven?” Maybe you have thought this.
The Apostle Paul says in Romans 3:31 that just because salvation comes by faith, it doesn’t nullify the law. He says that we put the law in its proper place. So what is the proper place of God’s law and doing good works?
First, when a person puts their faith in Christ, they are entering into a relationship with Him. They are choosing to become His follower. Author Gordon MacDonald believes that a true Christian should be called “a follower of Christ.” In fact good works is the evidence that someone has faith. It is the fruit of true faith. In fact I would be so bold to say if any professing Christian has this view, “That I can go and live however I want,” I question if they have true faith.
The second proper place of following the law comes from the words of Jesus Himself. In John 14:15 He says, “If you love Me you will keep My commandments.”
Tony Campolo shares a story about a good friend of his, a minister, who was leaving Victoria Station in London. He said:
“Sitting across from him in a little train compartment were two men in their late 30’s. About 10 minutes, out of the station, one of the men had an epileptic seizure. His eyes rolled back and his body trembled. The man rolled off the seat onto the floor and shook uncontrollably. It was a shocking thing to see. But the friend who was with him, lifted the stricken man up, put him back onto the seat, took off his overcoat, put it around him as a blanket. He rolled up a newspaper and put it in his mouth, lest the man bite his tongue. Then with great compassion, he lovingly blotted the beads of perspiration on the epileptic man’s forehead. After a few minutes the seizure ended with the same abruptness with which it began and the stricken man dropped into a deep sleep.
It was then that his friend turned to the preacher and said, “You’ll have to forgive us. He doesn’t have these seizures very often, but we never know when they’re going to strike him.” And then he shared their story.
He said, “We were in Vietnam together.” He says, “We were both wounded.” He said, “I lost my leg,” and he pointed to his right leg and he said, “This is an artificial leg and I just learned to walk on it very well.” He said, “My friend here, he had half of his chest blown away by a hand grenade. There were shrapnel all through his chest and every time he moved, he experienced great pain.” He said, “The helicopter that was supposed to rescue us was blown out of the sky by an enemy rocket. With that explosion, we knew that all hope for rescue was gone. It was then that my friend somehow picked himself up. He screamed in pain with every move that he made. But somehow he stood to his feet. Then he reached down and grabbed hold of my shirt, and started pulling me through the jungle.” He said, “I tried to tell him, to give up on me. I pleaded with him, to save himself if he could. And I kept telling him, that there was no way that he was going to get us both out of this jungle.” He said, “I’ll never forget him saying, “Jack if you die in this jungle, I’m going to die here with you.” I don’t know how he did it, Mister. but step by step, scream by scream he pulled me out of that mess. He saved my life.”
Then, of course the man says, “I went back to the United States, my friend lived here in London.” But a year ago he said, “I found out, that he had this condition and somebody had to come and be with him all the time.” He said, “So I closed down my condo in New York, I sold my car and everything else and came over here to take care of him. And that’s our story.”
The minister responded by saying, “Listen you don’t need to apologize. I’m a minister. When I come upon a good story, I’m thrilled. And this is one of the best stories, I’ve ever heard.” His new friend on the other side of the compartment said, “Hey man, don’t be impressed. You see after what he did for me, there isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for him.”
Campolo says, “The Christian is someone who recognizes what Jesus did on the cross to accomplish salvation.” And in response says to Christ, “After what you did for me, there isn’t anything I wouldn’t be willing to do for you.” This clearly should be the Christian approach to life.
The third proper place of doing good works and following the law has to do with wisdom. We must remember that God’s laws are not arbitrary, they are not something He pulled out of the air on a whim. They fit our design and enable us to function well. We were made to operate a certain way, and God knows what we need for our lives to flourish. His word prescribes these needs.
I tell people often that God’s word is not a set of rules that you obey but it is an owner’s manual which you follow so that your life will thrive and prosper.
Think about the owner’s manual for your car. It explains how your car works and how to maintain it. Failure to do so leads to breakdown and disintegration. This I believe explains why so many people experience so much pain and sorrow in this life. They break the fabric of God’s design and end up reaping what they sow.
We must therefore keep in mind that God loves us and desires the very best for our lives. He has given us His word, the owner’s manual, which when we follow it leads to our ultimate well-being.
Richard E Simmons III is the founder and Executive Director of The Center for Executive Leadership and a best-selling author.