Pilgrims Make Progress

Grace For The Journey

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7May  The Bible says in 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.”

The title for today’s word of encouragement is a play on words from John Bunyan’s classic Christian allegory, The Pilgrim’s Progress.  After the Bible, it is one of the most important Christian writings for strengthening the faith of all of us who truly are “pilgrims in progress” as we make our way to the Celestial City. The story powerfully dramatizes the trials, tests, and tribulations that Christian (the pilgrim in progress) faces as he journeys to his home in heaven.

God places one demand on all of us:

That we make measurable progress in our relationship

And walk with Him in reasonable time.

How are you doing at that?  Are you a pilgrim making progress?

Let me be clear on one very important point at the outset:

The progress I am speaking of is not progress toward perfection.

We will never be perfect until we reach the other side of the grave and enter into the presence of our Savior.  Our progress will always be a mixture of both highs and lows, steps forward and steps back; but nevertheless, it should indeed be progress as we journey toward our home in the new heavens and the new earth.

Like Christian in The Pilgrim’s Progress, we will face countless challenges along the way as we walk with Christ: Worldly Wiseman, Giant Despair, Talkative, Ignorance, and the demons of the Valley of the Shadow of Death.

But God has promised to take us through all of them

As we progress on our way toward home.

And along the way, as we rely upon, and rest in Him, God will give us the strength and resources to leave a trail of “good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10).

That verse in Ephesians actually says we are “His workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

What a wonderful truth – When we accept the finished work of Jesus on the cross and through the empty tomb God works through us in a powerful and positive way to carry out His purpose, bring glory to Him.

We are created in the holy, perfect, innocent Son of God, the one whose sufferings and death won for us eternal salvation and a full and abundant life right here and now that is lived through Him and for Him . . .a life of good works. A key concept here is the truth that is stated in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” 

The key truth in both of these passages of Scripture in “in Christ.”  That’s what Christian life is all about.  It is not about you and me, it is all about Jesus.  That is so important for us to hear.  We are created IN Christ Jesus.  In Him, we “are created in him for good works.”  When you think about it, that’s kind of a no brainer, isn’t it?  What else would we be created for?

But there is so much confusion on this point, even among Christians.

  • Some people think that Christianity is a perfect philosophy that will help us figure out all of life’s mysteries.

Not so.  There are many things that happen in this life are none of will ever come to understand.

  • Others think that Christianity is a moral code for living. Not quite.

Of course the values and morals of Christianity are right, good, perfect and noble.  But non-Christians can live very moral lives.  I’m sure we could find among non-Christians many people who from all outward appearances live very good and noble lives, perhaps even better than you and me, so Christianity is not about morality, first and foremost.

So, we have to be very careful when talking about “good works” that we not leave ourselves or anyone else with the impression that only Christians can be “good” and “decent” people in the eyes of world.

The key to understanding what the Bible means by “good works” is the first part of the phrase, “Created in Christ Jesus” – that is where this topic begins, continues and ends. The Christian life is all about Jesus.  It is not “Christ and me” it is “Christ in me.” But, we want it to be about us, don’t we?  We want to say, “Come on God, I’m a fairly decent person.  I can do great things for you!”  But then reality comes crashing in again as God reminds me of all the times I have failed and continue to fail. That is why we rejoice to hear that the life of good works to which we are called is a life that is in Christ Jesus. For only in Christ is a work truly good.

Let me say that again. Only in Christ Jesus is a work truly good! It may appear good to people around us, and from a human perspective, it may actually be good.  But, what makes a work good in the view of God?  Only that work that is done by one who is in Christ Jesus.  Do you remember what the prophet Isaiah had to say about all those things we think we do that are righteous?  He says that in comparison to the holiness of God, even the very best things we think we can do, under our own power, by our own choice, are still nothing but filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6)!  God goes even further in the New Testament.  He declares, “What then?  Are we better than thye?  Not atall.  For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin.  As it is written: ‘There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none whounderstands,; there is none who seeks after God.  They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is non who does good, no, not one.’”  Wow, that’s discouraging, or is it?

In Christ, I am a new creation, but I am always in Christ. When I admitted that I was a sinner, that I could not save myself, and turned to Him and trusted what He did upon the cross and through the empty tomb, He cleansed me, saved me, and made me His own.  From that moment on the life I lived has been one where I am “crucified with Christ.  I am no longer living, but Christ lives in me and the life you now are living in the flesh, you are living by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” And that is true of all born-again children of God!

Therefore any works I do which are good, are works done in Christ.  So you see, it still is all about Jesus Christ.  It is not about what I think is right, or what feels right, or what seems right and good and proper, but life IN CHRIST.

Remember . . .

We are not saved by our good works, but rather we are saved to do good works.

And I hope you’ll hold onto this thought also:

God does not need our good works, but everyone else in our lives certainly does!

Our sanctification should cause us to lead a life of progress in service to others. We are saved to serve, and that service moves in two directions: vertically toward God and horizontally toward everyone else.

So, regardless of where this message finds you today, you are God’s handiwork; you are a work in progress who is to be making progress throughout your Christian life.

Where in your life right now do you need to be making a bit more progress? What is holding you back from being all God is calling you to be today? Remember, pilgrims make progress until they arrive at their final destination.

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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