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Question: I recently read a book that states "Christ takes our deeds, if done in His name, and makes them acceptable to the Father. Truth is, even when we serve with a motive that is as selfless as humanily possible, our deeds are still tainted with sin."
Answer: I do not know of ANY Scripture that supports God "cleaning up our deeds" and making them "acceptable to the Father"!
My understanding is that when we are "out of fellowship", with unconfessed sin in our life, all our works, no matter how noble, and even if done "in obedience to the Scriptures", and "in Jesus name" are unrewardable, because they came from our own effort.
No one on this planet lifts a finger, unless they are "motivated" to. The question then is "what is the motivation behind the works"?
Think about it, in Eph. 5:18, we are commanded to not be controlled ("pleeroo", Strong's # 4137) by wine, but to be controlled by the Spirit of God. When wine "controls" a man, it is the wine producing the works. The "wine controlled" works would not have been done if the wine was not present to do the "controlling".
In the same way, we are commanded to be constantly, perpetually "controlled" by the Spirit of God, so it is Him doing the works through us and He, and He alone, gets all the glory.
There is only one thing that prevents us from being controlled by the Spirit of God, and that is our committing personal "sins". What is the answer to the "sin" problem? The first chapter of 1 John states that our honest confession of our known sin brings us back into "fellowship" and we are completely cleansed from all sin.
--- 1 John chap. 1 uses the analogies of "walking in light" (obedience to God's Word and His known will) and "fellowship" (koinonia, Strong's #2842, to "share" the very life of God Himself) to further describe the "Spirit controlled" life.
--- As Phil 2:12 and 13 state, "be working out your own personal salvation ("soteeria", Strong's #4991, your Christian walk and it's divine benefits), with much fear and trembling, for it (your Christian walk and it's divine benefits), is God working in you to both will (want to), and to do (the power to perform) His good will.
--- When we are "in fellowship", with no unconfessed sin in our life, all our works are motivated by the Spirit of God, and they are all rewardable, because God Himself did the works, and they did not come from our own effort.
This is how God gets all the glory! I also think this will be a huge surprise to most of the Christian saints in heaven, because they did not learn to stay "in fellowship" and under the control of the Holy Spirit.
--- We see this in the Judgement Seat of Christ in 1 Cor. 3:12-17, where the issue in verse 16 and 17 is that we are God's holy temple ("naos" the holy of holies itself!) and defilement of the temple, which only sin can do, produces "wood hay and stubble".
--- In 1 Cor 3:12-17 we do not find any reference to sin. I believe that is because sin was atoned for, and permanently forgiven on the Cross in 3 hours of supernatural darkness (Col. 2:13).
--- The issue at the Judgement Seat of Christ is two types of "works" that are built on the "foundation of Christ".
--- "On the foundation of Christ" means to me that these are Christian "good works" done "in the name of Jesus" and for His glory.
--- One type brings a reward of "Gold, silver, and precious stones", and, to me, can only represent the works produced by the Holy Spirit of God, through us.
--- The second type of "works" brings a reward of "wood, hay, and stubble", which is burned up and forgotten. These are not sinful works, but "good works" done "in the name of Jesus" ,"On the foundation of Christ", and for His glory. To me, the "wood hay, and stubble" can only represent the works produced by us, out of fellowship, without the control of the Holy Spirit and they come from a motivation within our own self - probably, in some way, selfish. I believe this is serious stuff!
--- In 2 Cor. 5:10, these two types of works are called "good" or "bad". "Good" here is the Greek word "agathos", or "intrinsic good - good by its very nature", a word used for divine good, or something that is good wherever you find it. The word for "bad" is "phaulos", meaning "unacceptable, or unrewardable". There are many other Greek words Paul could have used here, but "agathos" and "phaulos" are perfect for expressing "divinely motivated" good works, and "humanly motivated" good, but unacceptable works.
I believe the church today has drifted so far off course that too many teachings are about how we can motivate God instead of how we can have God motivate us!
Our doing something "in Jesus name" is just words. From what I see, that is the attitude of too many Christians, "I'm going to do all these great works in Jesus name, and then expect a blessing". That is what Cain did, he brought the Lord his "prize winning vegetables" or what ever it was - the work of his own hands, and the Lord rejected his works.
Jesus says it all in John 15:5, "I am the vine, ye are the branches: he that abideth in me (fellowship, controlled by the Spirit, in the analogy, with the sap that produces the fruit flowing from the vine - Jesus - to the branches - us), and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
--- A branch cannot decide to produce a fruit! A branch that is producing fruit cannot decide which fruit to produce! It is the vine that decides which fruit to produce, and the sap flowing from the vine that causes the fruit to be produced. It is ALL up to the VINE (Jesus), not the branch (us)!
--- I believe this principal is taught throughout the Old Testament also, as in Isa 64:6 & 8 where "all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags". "Our righteousnesses look great to the observer, but are "wood, hay, and stubble" because God did not produce it. Isaiah goes on to give us the answer in verse 8, "O Lord, thou art our Father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand."
I believe that the statement that we are doing the good works and we must depend on Christ to take our good works and make them acceptable to the Father is incorrect. It is not God "helping" us to do the works, or "cleaning up" our works to make them rewardable, but it is "God who is working in you to do His good pleasure" that produces rewardable works and is pleasing to God.
I also believe that the central issue here is the importance of our maintaining moment by moment "fellowship" with God, in order to be "controlled" by His Spirit.
Heb 13:20 & 21: "Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, Make you perfect ("katartizo" Strong's #2675, completely prepared and equipped) in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom [be] glory for ever and ever. Amen".