"God wants your being more than he wants your doing."
I heard it again last week - and it was one too many times.
Sorry, folks - but that statement is a load of rubbish. I just do not know what New Testament these people are reading. Not only is the NT full of the importance of 'doing' - it is just such 'doing' that the church needs to become known for as it struggles with credibility, even plausibility, right around the western world. Doing is what will put 'runs on the board' and what the Spirit will use to open peoples' ears...
Three observations before I marshall a First Eleven (afterall, the Ashes has just commenced!) of Chapter Twos in the New Testament to prove my point. Firstly - the classic statement of John Stott: "we are justified by faith alone, but that faith must not remain itself alone." Secondly, have a think about why Luke might have placed the Good Samaritan next to Mary and Martha in his gospel? Thirdly, picture the Christian life as a timeline which passes through a door which marks the moment(s) of conversion. Before the door 'doing' means nothing; after the door 'doing' means everything. Another Stottian one: "we are justified by faith; but we are judged by works".
Now for my First Eleven of Chapter Twos:
For an opening pair I want to match an aggressive Chapter Two with a solid one, so I have chosen Ephesians and Galatians. Ephesians 2: 8-10 and "For it is by grace you have been saved through faith ... not by works, so that no-one can boast. For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works." In Galatians 2:7-10 Paul places his credentials on the line, "entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles ... (James, John, Peter) recognise the grace given to me ... (and ) all they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do."
Then I need to pick a middle-order line-up. A bit of flash-and-dash batting around someone who can build a long innings. The flashy strokemakers are James and Peter without a doubt. James hits so strongly and so simply, it makes every fielder wince: "You see that people are justified by what they do and not by faith alone" (2:24). Mid-off is looking silly about now. But they cross and Peter comes down to the striker's end. We sing about "chosen people, royal priesthood." We delight in "once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy." (2:9-10) Oh yes - sing it! But just keep reading as you do so: "Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us" (2:11). The long innings comes from (1) John. The entire letter is about knowing how you can be sure you are a Christian - and the assurance comes in the form of a tightly woven and adhesive braid with strands that cannot be separated: a deep love and a true belief in combination with a full obedience. Belief and obedience cannot be separated! Being and doing weave together! "This is how we know we are in him: whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus walked" (2:5-6).
For the all-rounder I opt for the Chapter Two which has been preached more often than any other passage in the entire Bible in the past generation in NZ. It could carry the team. Acts. Those that gather to hear that first Pentecost sermon are "cut to the heart", their 'being' is transformed - and they respond with "what shall we do?" They settle on 'doing' a life together that is stunning in its simplicity and influence (2:42-47).
For my strike-bowler who can bat a bit I turn to another match-winner: Titus. "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all people. It (ie grace!) teaches us to say 'no' to ungodliness ... to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives ... (while) we wait for the blessed hope (Jesus' return) ... (a Jesus who) purifies for himself a people who are his very own, eager to do what is good." (2:11-14)
Then we arrive at the bowlers. There is one more aggressive fast bowler called Romans: "To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honour, and immortality, he will give eternal life ... (and) glory, honour and peace for everyone who does good" (2:7; 10). Then there is a stock bowler, content to shut down one end and bowl over after over, "continuing to work out their salvation" (2:12). This is Philippians. We need a wily spinner and find one in (2) Thessalonians. "from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth ... (and so now) may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father ... strengthen you in every good deed and word" (2:13-17). Completing the tail is a Chapter Two accustomed to coming at the end: Revelation. Be it Ephesus, Pergamum, or Thyatira here is a Chapter Two where we discover Jesus himself "holding this against you" (2:4); "having a few things against you" (2:14); "having this against you" (2:20) ... and each time it is their 'doing' that just does not measure up.
Yep - here is my team to bury "God wants our being more than he wants our doing" in the ashes where it belongs. He wants both. You cannot separate them from each other. Here is a Champion Team of Chapter Twos.
3. (1) John