"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast." Ephesians 2:8,9
Yet it proceeds onto the next verse saying,
"For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." Ephesians 2:10
When we are in Christ Jesus, we are ordained and sent unto good works so that we may serve him. It is not of ourselves! If we do works on our own, thinking we are to earn points, or move up some sort of ladder of merit, then it is empty works! It is vanity!
But because Jesus Christ lives and dwells within us, we have a change of heart and lifestyle. We will find a renewed sense within us to want to help others, to take chances, to spread the Gospel. Our works become evidences that He lives within us, and that we have faith.
Read James 2:14-26,
What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?
If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?
Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.
Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.
But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?
Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?
And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.
Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.
Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?
For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also."
We read in James that faith alone profits nothing. Faith alone without any evidence of it by our works is dead. Many Christians believe in God, but so do the devils! What sets us apart from devils? It is our faith in action. It is our lifestyle. It is our fruit! The devils believe in God and know He is real, yet they live wickedly. There are Christians out there who believe in God, and their works and lifestyles are wicked!
We see the examples in the passage listed above that Abraham and Rahab had none to profit themselves from these works! Abraham was about to lose his favorite son, and how could that be a self gain? Rahab became a traitor to her own country when she decided to help hide the spies in her home. Works are to be selfless, not selfish!
Works that are for our own gain, our own recognition, our own merit and glory are vain and worthless! Yet, works that come from our heart of faith, are good works that are well pleasing unto God! It is good fruit sown on good ground in the true heart of a believer. Let us not be Pharisees who do works after their own glory!
When God looks at your life, will He see good fruit? Will He see the fruits of the Spirit? Will He see love, compassion, long suffering, patience, peace, joy, charity? Or will He see selfishness, pride, greed, lusts, gluttony, anger, jealousy, vanity? (read Galatians 5:19-23)
Believing in God isn't the only thing that can get you home.
Paul encourages us to examine ourselves, to test ourselves and to find whether we are in the faith, or whether we are reprobate.
"Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?" 2 Corinthians 13:5
We will see many Christians come and go, but who are the ones that are truly saved and living in Christ? Paul says that we shall know them by their fruits.
"Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them." Matthew 7: 16-20
"Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit." Matthew 12:33
Let us examine ourselves. Do we bear good fruit? Read Matthew 13, the parable of the sower.
God is the sower that sows His Word like seeds all over,
The Wayside Believer: This believer did not understand the Word of God, and the enemy removes the Word from their heart.
The Stony Believer: This believer receives the Word with joy and lasts a short time. When times of persecution and tribulation comes, this believer is immediately offended and leaves.
The Thorny Believer: This believer receives the Word, but then is entangled in the world. The thorns of the world choke the Word out of this believer with it's lusts, riches and pleasures.
The Good Ground Believer: This believer receives the Word and understands it. This believer bears fruit, and then it increases many times over! This is the believer that God seeks, whom bears good fruits and God sends an increase. God's Word is manifest in their lives because the faith they received grew into trees that bore good fruits. Their faith is manifest by their fruits.
Let us always examine ourselves and let our hearts be like the good ground that receives His Word. Let our faith grow and bear many fruits in God's field. Let our works be manifest through our faith and show that Jesus Christ lives within us indeed!When the Son of Man appears from the sky with His Angels, let us rejoice knowing this,
"For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works." Matthew 16:27
For our works testify of the faith we have in Him.