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Aug 21 2007

Significance by Works for Doxological Service?

I have been living on devotional snacks lately, thirty minutes here, fifteen there. These times are genuine but barely substantial enough for the demands of daily discipleship. The past ten days have been crammed with four plane trips, two long distance drives, intense church planting stuff, networking and research. In all of this there can be a subtle seduction towards finding significance in works.

This morning I woke up in Steamboat Springs,Colorado. After the usual demands of fatherhood (with an intensely morning-sick wife), I finally settled down into some uncluttered, unrestrained time. I pondered…email or communion with God? Some of those emails might be really important, related to our future. I could get some work done before everyone else gets up. So went my thinking…the Spirit won out, but that is not always the case.

Ephesians two guides me away from devotional snacks to doxological feasts. “For grace you have been saved through faith…not a result of works. We are created in Christ Jesus for good works which he prepared beforehand that we might walk in them.” What higher good works could there be than church planting, worship leading, discipleship, etc? Emailing, networking for the kingdom of Christ, for the good of the world? After all, we were created for good works, ones that lead to doxology.

Paul continues. He tells us he wants us to remember something in light of the good works we have been created for—“you were Gentiles in the flesh, separate from Christ, strangers to the covenants of promise, without hope and God…but now, in Jesus, you have been brought near by the blood of Christ, for he himself is our peace…the cornerstone of the living temple.”

As I read this familiar passage, I was struck not only by the repudiation of salvation by works, but also of significance by works. We are created for works, predestined works, which does not imply that our former createdness was works-free. There were plenty of works, things we did before Jesus to obtain significance–relationships, clothes, work, stuff. The crazy thing is that after Jesus I sometimes live pre-Christ, pre-gospel, and my works form the basis for my significance. Not only that, significance by works will never lead to doxological service.

Significance by works is deadly. When I choose ministry over my Lord, I seek significance in what I do rather than who I have become. I ignore new creation and return to the old. Jesus promises the peace, the significance and the acceptance I hunger for. Works, as good as they may be, cannot replace the Incarnation of peace, restoration, acceptance, significance in the embrace of Jesus. He himself is our peace, not ministry or anything else. When I abandon the cornerstone of temple–doxlogical–life, my identity will crumble. I was made for worship, not works, for worship through works.

Jesus is our peace. We get peace plus the acceptance of Jesus no matter how fleshly we can be. Nothing can beat that. The plus is that Jesus fits us into his living temple, breathes the joy of worship into our hearts, carrying us from individual significance to community identity among the past and present worshippers of the great One-in-Three. Acceptance in Christ and a worshipping community are significant, and they are free. It is the free gospel at Christ’s expense that releases us into doxological service, into true Temple worship.

Significance by works leads to dead service, but significance by Christ leads to white-hot worship.

About the author

Jonathan Dodson