Rewarded according to our works? (part 8)

An updated version of “Rewarded according to our works” nowadays is “Life if what you make it.” And our culture feeds on that statement too. No wonder religion follows suit.

But isn’t it true that life is what we make it? Surely if we work hard we’re more likely to succeed, right? Or if you hit each day with enthusiasm you’re more likely to be happy; or if you’re nice to people you’re more likely to have lots of friends – because that’s how life works, isn’t it? It’s up to us to make things happen; we determine our destiny, and we only have ourselves to blame if life is a crock, because all the goodies in life we seek are within the grasp of human effort and initiative.

And all day every day this idea is being peddled – in bookstores piled high with self-help books, in radio talk shows, TV reality shows, magazines by the nauseous boatload, and by religion – all of them offering “expert” advice and admonition on how to make our lives better, now and forever, and all based on life depending on what we make it to be.

But if life is decided by us, why would Paul tell us in Romans 8 that we need the Spirit? Because, verse 10, “your body is dead because of sin,” and it’s only by “the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead” living in us that we have “life in our mortal bodies” at all, verse 11. So, how can we keep on telling ourselves “life is what we make it” when, of and by ourselves, we haven’t even got a life to make anything of?!

We only get a life, Paul writes, when “by the Spirit” we “put to death the misdeeds of the body,” because it’s these misdeeds caused by our sinful nature that rip the life out of us, verse 13. Like it or not, therefore, we are entirely dependent on God for life, because it’s only by his Spirit living in us that we can put a stop to what’s killing us and start to get a life at all.

In other words, life isn’t what we make it, life is what the Spirit makes it. But that’s wonderful, because the Spirit can do a lot better job of our lives than we can, and we can also save a bundle of money not having to buy all those self-help books telling us we’re not doing enough, or not doing all we can do to make our lives better. We can also dump any works-based religion peddling the same idea, too….(continued in Part 9..)

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