esse quam videri: to be rather than appear

It has been said plenty of times before, but how many of us have made the mistake of thinking that just by looking like a believer we can pass into the kingdom? I think this is something every believer struggles through at one point or another. We want to follow Christ, but want to avoid religion. We want to be part of the organism of Church, but hate the organization of it. Something about our fallen nature makes us believe that the only way we can effectively follow Christ is by avoiding institutions that we believe are against Him (you may have heard of Ghandi saying something to the effect of liking Jesus, but not His followers) this cannot be! We as believers in Christ should be willing to be a part of what has given us and also be willing to submit to His Lordship in our lives.
So how are we to go beyond the looking like a believer and actually be one. How does Jesus become Lord?
Some in the social gospel/liberation theology movement (Salvation Army, Simple Way, etc) take scriptures such as Matthew 25:31-46 and say that we are saved only if we are caring for the poor. That is what we are saved for, and there is no other good work outside of it.
Others in the prosperity gospel movement (Osteen and others) have tried to say that if you are suffering illness or loss of property then you are living in active sin, and thus you appear not to be a believer.
The Bible preaches neither of these (funny how these return the favor by not preaching the Bible accurately). Instead, we are saved soley by the grace of God that He exhibits through His Son Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. But our initial salvation (justification) is not all that matters here. Ephesians 2:10 tells us that we are saved unto good works. There is a purpose for everything, God does not just save someone for the heck of it, He has a plan for them, to be their LORD. When you read that, you can see that James does not contradict Paul when he says that faith without works is dead (James 2:14-26), we are saved and thus our Lord Jesus enables good works which He has planned out.
In all of this it is very simple for us to have the works without faith and love (which is what the Matthew 25 passage is actually speaking about). We can look like a Christian all we want, but we might not have the love behind it as we should (1 Corinthians 13). And as God is love (1 John 4) that means that we don’t have God supporting our good works. Even though every good and perfect gift is from the Father of heavenly lights with whom there is no shadow as a result of change (James 1:17), an unbeliever’s good works don’t mean anything for his relationship with God.
You can do as many good works as you want in the name of Christ, but it is the grace of God through faith and made evident in works that saves us, not the opposite direction. 
Be a child of God, and because of His gift of grace on the Cross, live accordingly.
Don’t appear, BE.

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