Ephesians 1:12, “… so that we… might live for the praise of His glory.”
Why do we do “good works” as Christians?
This question about motivation came up in my women’s Bible study class this week as we work our way through the book of Ephesians. Paul wrote to the Christians in Ephesus declaring who they are as a result of our Father’s gracious plan (chapter 1, verses 3 – 6), the Son who carried out the plan (chapter 1, verses 7-12), and the “seal” of the Father’s plan in our hearts through the Holy Spirit (chapter 1, verses 13-14). This beautiful doxology of praise in verses 3 through 14 remind us not only of what He accomplished for us, but also of who we are because of His completed work.
It was the plan of our Heavenly Father to bless us in Christ (Ephesians 1:3). We are not an after thought. Before the creation of the world, He had a plan for us (Ephesians 1:4). We are forgiven and redeemed (Ephesians 1:7), and our inheritance is secure (Ephesians 1:11) as adopted children of God (Ephesians 1:5). All of this was according to God’s will (Ephesians 1:11) so that we might live for the praise of His glory (Ephesians 1:12).
Salvation does not depend on me. Christ’s completed work on the cross is not dependent on my decision to believe He did it or on my good works to accomplish. Redemption and forgiveness of sins was in accordance with God’s plan and design. It is Christ’s work that secures my place in heaven for eternity. The good I do, therefore, is not to ensure my salvation. The good I do, then, is “for the praise of His glory.”
The message of Brother Lawrence in the little book entitled “The Practice of the Presence of God” has been foundational in my thinking about motivation. I first read this book as a teen, and I have read it at least once each decade since. Brother Lawrence was a seventeenth century Christian from France who lived a simple life, working in the kitchen of a French monastery. He is said to have been a large, clumsy man who was unlearned, yet the simplicity of his faith and the message of his life reveals that he understood deep communion with God.
Brother Lawrence wrote of his motivation: “I engaged in a religious life only for the love of God, and I have endeavored to act only for Him…” He worked from the perspective that “set times of prayer were not different from other times; that he retired to pray according to the directions of his superior, but that he did not want such retirement, nor ask for it, because his greatest business did not divert him from God.”
Brother Lawrence did not have a fanciful life of walking around in elaborate robes, constantly studying Scripture, and continually engaging in great theological debates with rulers of church and state. His duties were to cook and clean the kitchen. “…in his business in the kitchen (to which he had naturally a great aversion), having accustomed himself to do everything there for the love of God, and with prayer, upon all occasions, [asking] for His grace to do his work well, he had found everything easy…”
His prayer became, “Lord of all pots and pans and things… Make me a saint by getting meals and washing up the plates!” It was with this motivation to do all things for the love of God and as an action only for Him, that Brother Lawrence was able to “turn even the most commonplace and menial task into a living hymn to the glory of God.” *
So it is true for us as well. Justification, the forgiveness of our sins and redemption through Christ’s sacrifice (Ephesians 1:7), has been accomplished. It is completed. It is finished (John 19:30). Sanctification, the process of renewal, is an on-going work of God in our lives.
I think Brother Lawrence had it right. My Saturday morning chores of changing bedding, cleaning the floors, and tending to a week’s worth of laundry, can become a hymn of praise when I do my work for the love of God, endeavoring to do all things only for the His glory. Likewise, when I sing a special song in church, send a card of encouragement to a friend, or bring coffee in for my co-worker, it is for the love of God and for His glory. Whether in my home or in my community, my “good works” are not about me.
My prayer today will be: Lord of all pots and pans and things, may I faithfully complete my tasks, motivated by my love for You. I cannot do this unless you enable me. I will only fail if You leave me to myself; it is You who must hinder my falling and mend what is amiss.* May I live for the praise of Your glory. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.
* Quotes from “The Practice of the Presence of God with Spiritual Maxims, a Classic of Practical Christian Devotion with Brother Lawrence, pp. 18 – 20 and introduction. Revell, Fleming H. The Practice of the Presence of God with Spiritual Maxims. Grand Rapids, MI: Spire Books, 1958.