And

We have work to do.

That is one of the points I aim to convey with my new book.

As I make plain in the book’s introduction, the work we are called to do in this world is “a work of joy as well as effort, a heavenly work rather than an earthly one.” But we have work to do nevertheless.

Christian gatherings can advance the notion of “faith not works” so zealously as to imply that there is nothing for the Christian to do. We are saved and then we float in salvation for the rest of our time in this life.

To be sure, we are saved by grace and not our own efforts—much of my book explores and advances this very point. But the book then goes on to explore and advance the next point after this, which is that we have been saved and kept here for a reason. The reason relates to this very world in which we still remain.

For God so loved the world..., said Jesus in John 3:16. (I didn’t intend to do so, but I ended up giving a lot of attention in the book to John 3:16. Perhaps we live in an epoch of the church when it is hard to avoid that verse.) And as James the earthly brother of Jesus in his letter later argued, “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:20).

This point about our having work to do is so important that Jesus himself raised the point three times in rapid succession. We read about this in Luke chapter 8.

A large crowd had gathered before Jesus, people coming to hear him. As soon as they gathered, however, Jesus told a story, the Parable of the Sower, that revealed the true nature of crowds. Different people hear the “word of God” in different ways, he said. Only a portion consists of those able to hear this word and be lastingly transformed by it. And even for them, even once these believers have heard and been transformed, the benefits of the transformed life—the “crop” in Jesus’ parable—require their commitment and their effort. Depending on the translation, Jesus said it requires them to “endure” or “persevere” (Luke 8:15).

Then, immediately after explaining this point to his disciples (there is no pause in the text), Jesus went on to explain that God does not light a lamp just to keep it hidden (8:16). He expects the lamp to shine. He expects you to shine! This is the reason he made you a believer, so to try to demur from that effort, that calling, is futile to say the least. Returning to the previous analogy, the crop wants to grow. To be a believer and not come out with this by living the life and walking the walk placed before you as a believer is simply the way of fruitlessness rather than bearing an abundant crop.

Finally, after this (Luke’s gospel again shows very little pause), Jesus is told that his mother and brothers are waiting to see him. His response: “My mother and my brothers are those who hear and do the word of God.” (8:21).

Notice the “and” in the latter part of that statement.

The “and” here is vital. The “and” joins the two components of our lives of having been chosen for faith.

There are two components, not one. We are saved, yet that is but one part of it. We then find our way into—or find ourselves already within—the work or the place to which we can give ourselves ... the work or the place of our shining and our persevering.

[PS. I now also see something else about my book that I did not plan or intend: The contents are almost evenly split between the two sides of the “and.” Chapters 1-11 discuss the “hearing”—how one is given belief and remade. And chapters 12-21 cover the “doing”—what we are to do with the transformed life. If the book interests you and you might like a copy, let me send you one.]