Doing The Right Thing Without Christ?!
By Pastor Pat Badstibner
The other day a friend asked me a question which led to a discussion on whether those without Christ can do good deeds without selfish motives. This is such a popular question that I thought I would give it a go at an answer.
The issue is I’m foolish, rarely get anything right so be careful and make sure you check out my answer with the final authority, God’s Word. There are many who wonder this with the popular upswing of media stars and the wealthy performing all sorts of altruistic deeds.
Isaiah 53:6 – All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned everyone to his own way; and the Lord has laid on HIM the iniquity of us all.
Romans 5:10 – For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 18 Therefore, as one trespass[f] led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness[g] leads to justification and life for all men.
Ephesians 2:1-3 – 2 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
Colossians 1:21-22 – 21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him,
Self-Glory, Self-Aggrandizement, Self-Acceptance, Self- Awareness, Self-Satisfaction, Self- Gratification, Self- Pleasure, Self-Approval, Self-Fulfillment both Christians and non-Christians are familiar with these terms not only because they live them but are controlled by them. How about these terms seeking the approval of others, entitlement, seeking the recognition of others, needing others to be pleased with us.
Here are others words envy, competitiveness, rivalry, good works, one upmanship, showboating and glory addict. Do any of these terms sound familiar?
If Paul said in Philippians that others indeed preach out of envy and rivalry. Then is it a reach to believe that anything not done for service to others and in worship of God in order to glorify HIM falls under one of the words or terms listed above.
Someone is bound to respond here, that those giving do indeed do it for the service of others. REALLY? Are you sure?! If so, then maybe the question then becomes not was the action done or did it benefit others but what was the motivation behind the act and is it an eternal act of ever lasting merit.
Here is what we can rest assured of that only those who are the bride of the bridegroom can indeed do things as Paul instructed to do things, out of humility, placing others above ourselves. All others are trapped within the motives of self-gain, ambition and purpose.
WOW! That’s Harsh!
“That seems harsh does it not, does it seem incorrect?” One asks. “But all religious teachers teach the error of selfishness.” says another! The problem with this line of questioning is that we lower God’s standard of what it means to do things according to his glory, to standards that we all can meet.
Isaiah 53:6 is an all-inclusive verse, it excludes no-one. We really have all turned to seek our devices, our way and our own needs, desires and wants.
Romans 5 says we were enemies, condemned. In Ephesians 2 we see that we were not only dead, enemies but we sought nothing but to serve our own fleshly desires, our own purposes and passions, worse yet we were serving Satan. Then the real kicker is when Paul says that “we were indeed once hostile and alienated from God doing evil deeds.” Notice three key things here, we are doing evil deeds, while we serve our own purposes, desires and passions which made us enemies of God.
Contrary to popular opinion we were not sitting on the sidelines, we were not passive-aggressive in our absence of Christ, we were not just chilling with the awareness that there is a God, we were not riding in the tube of a wave called good feelings about God, we were not promoting goodness and peace, NO!
There is no I’m OKay, you’re OKay, well there goes a good person doing a good deed for non selfish reasons. No, there is only broken, damaged beyond repair, unable to seek anything but our own needs or one whose life has been changed by the sacrifice of Christ. We were working even unknowingly for the other side, promoting causes that are in direct opposition to the glory of God (Even if that cause came from the need to be approved, recognised, accepted, known and/or approved.) and so is everyone else that has not claimed the free gift of God’s grace. Go back and look at the passage in Ephesians 2:1-3, again.
Isaiah referenced the value of our works outside of Christ in Isaiah 64:6 when he said our best works are as dung. So YES! only those who have accepted Christ as their personal saviour have the ability to do deeds that are indeed honoring to God and purely from a selfless reason.
See here is the point within all of us is placed within the desire to be known and to know. That desire was created and intended to be known and to know of and by God, this is our greatest need.
However, the fall or Adam’s sin corrupted that and ever since we have been looking and hunting for ways to fulfill our most basic existential need, but because of sin we were unable to fulfill it in the way that was intended.
As a result we search for ways to do it in smaller ways than God. However because these ways are smaller they always leave the result of leaving one fearful, unfulfilled and thus seeking other ways to meet it. Which always results in a motivation that is self driven to meet that need, even if it seems not so, with out God.
Yet in here is the sad part the majority of Christians are still living as though that grace has never come, or it was not complete or it was not finished. They are still living trapped in fear and in deep need, they are still waiting to be condemned, they are hoping if they do enough deeds, do just the right thing, live obedient and holy enough God will keep them, be pleased with them, and approve of them. This is not freedom! This is still living in slavery and still serving God with self-ambition, purpose, reason and motive.
This is why Paul said that some preach Christ even for the wrong reasons but his kingdom is moved forward. It is quite possible to do kingdom work for all the wrong reasons.
No, only the one who has come to believe in a grace that does not condemn, a grace that keeps one connected securely, a grace that helps one not to dismiss but to live the law, a grace that gives you the courage to give expecting nothing, to love with risk, yet without fear, and to serve without being known. Only those who have stopped looking to themselves for life, and others for fulfillment can truly serve others in a way that God is indeed made known and worshipped for being God at the same time.
Anything else done that does not make God known has no significant meaning in the light of eternity. “NOW, wait did you just say that relief aid, poverty relief, development of cures for diseases, if not done for God have no meaning?” NO!
Is That Your Final Answer?!
So the answer to the question is it possible to do good works without Christ is YES! However, if the question is, is it possible to do good works without Christ with the right motivation? A motivation that comes not from fear or selfish need or impure motives then the answer is indeed, NO! If the question is, is it possible to do things for God that advance his kingdom for the wrong reasons with Christ, that answer is YES!
However those doing such things are trapped, still clawing for the same things that those who do not know Christ are searching for. So let us ask God to surround us with friends who do not just tell us what we are doing wrong but instead also challenge us to live as though we really do believe “IT IS Finished.”
Friends who do not just point out what we need to be doing but point us to the perfect obedience of Christ. Friends who do not ask us how are walk is going but remind us that it is not about us but it is about the perfect substitution.
May we ask God to reveal the truth of our hearts so that we might live without fear, love without having to be loved back and serve without needing to be served.