Works that Blind and Bring Sight

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told his disciples,

You are the light of the world.  A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Good works in the true Christian are designed by God to blind people from seeing me doing the work.  At the the same time, God designs the works to enable people to see his glory.

A person whom God is drawing to himself will see a good work in me and say, “Wow.  I know James.  He’s not that great.  He wouldn’t — couldn’t — do that on his own.  It must be something greater than himself.  Something more powerful, more gracious, more loving.  It can only be God.”


It’s Not About Your Intentions

People who oppose the gospel do not have good intentions.  Their intentions, in fact, are evil because they come out of an evil heart (Prov. 27:19; Mark 7:14-23; Titus 1:15).  Their “intentions” oppose the only way that we can obtain salvation, namely through Jesus.

How do non-believers oppose the only true way of salvation?  They do it through self-righteous asceticism by abstaining from foods, drink, or other things (Col. 2:21-23; 1 Tim. 4:1-4; Titus 1:10-16).  Or they do it through self-righteous relativism by doing whatever they want (Rom. 1:21-25; 1 Cor. 6:9-11).   Likewise, Christians can fall into these sinful traps, too.  For the Christian’s heart is new, not perfect.

We are sinners, not because we have good intentions and fail to bring them to fruition, but because we are bad from the heart (Mark 7:20-23; Rom. 7:18).  By nature and choice, we worship created things rather than Creator God (Rom. 1:25).  The only remedy for this is Christ’s righteousness, which makes even our best deeds look like filthy rags (Isa. 64:6).  Non-Christians need to repent to Jesus from their self-righteous ways and come to him for salvation.  Likewise, we Christians need to repent to Jesus from our own self-righteousness and press on to become what we already are in Christ.

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God Really Does Know Your Heart

In 2 Chronicles 32:31, we come across an interesting verse that seems to tell us that God has to test King Hezekiah’s heart to find out what is really there.

The background is that Hezekiah was sick, near to death.  He was restored to health, then became proud in his heart, was threatened with wrath, then repented.   God withheld his wrath from Judah after Hezekiah’s repentance.  However, Hezekiah then accumulated great riches and honor and became very proud with his achievements.  An envoy from Babylon paid Hezekiah a visit.  He foolishly showed them all his riches and cities.  He told Isaiah, “There is nothing in my storehouses that I did not show them” (Isa. 39:4b).

In 2 Chronicles 32, verse 31 says, “God left him to himself, in order to test him and to know all that was in his heart.”  Does God really have to test people to know their hearts?  Surely this can’t be the case, because the Bible clearly teaches otherwise and we know that the Bible does not, nor cannot, contradict itself.

Psalm 44:21 says, “For God knows the secrets of the heart.”  Psalm 139:2, 4 says, “You discern my thoughts from afar…Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.” Jesus, in Mark 2:8, shows that he knew the hearts of the Pharisees, “And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, ‘Why do you question these things in your hearts?'” Further, Acts 1:24 says, “And they prayed and said, ‘You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen.'”

So what does it mean that God wanted to know what was in Hezekiah’s heart? It means that God desired for Hezekiah’s heart to produce evidence of internal obedience instead of external religious allegiance.  God tests us, not to prove our faith to him, for he already knows the outcome of everything.  He tests us to discipline us, and so that we might have an opportunity to depend on and obey him.

For if God didn’t know what’s in our hearts, it could be argued that he is no different than human beings.  Let’s praise God for his supreme knowledge of all, even our deepest heart-thoughts and motives.