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God’s Word for You

Psalm 54:4-7 where do good works come from?

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, May 2, 2019

4 Truly, God is my helper.
  The Lord is the one who sustains my life.
5 He will repay my enemies with evil.
  Destroy them in your faithfulness.

This part of the Psalm is a typical example of a prayer for God to bring justice on his enemies. This is not a prayer for revenge, but simply for God to accomplish what is right. David understands his place in God’s design for Israel as the rightful king, therefore those who were plotting his death were raising their hands against God’s anointed, something David refused to do again and again (1 Samuel 24:6, 26:9; 2 Samuel 1:14).

There is a lot of talk these days about our nation’s fear of religious extremism. These fears are well-founded. When any group or individual behaves as if they should either (1) personally destroy those they perceive to be God’s enemies, or (2) commit themselves to destroy anyone who does not concede to their beliefs, then they have become extremists and terrorists.

At the same time, many citizens of our nation have begun to adopt the opinion that if someone ever has thoughts about a thing, then they are guilty of that thing. This is true in God’s eyes, but not in the eyes and laws of the nation. Before God, anyone who lusts is guilty of adultery. But the nation has never held anyone accountable for feeling lust. A man might be angry with his neighbor, but he is not guilty of anything simply for having those feelings, even though God holds him accountable for a sin against the Fifth Commandment for that anger. In this sense, our country is rapidly descending into a new pietism without any moral compass apart from the instantaneous opinion of those who are technologically interconnected and who have no other connection whatsoever of faith, fellowship, a common experience, family, or any other bond. This is not healthy, it is not good for anyone, and it is fast creating a mob mentality such as the one Shakespeare depicts as saying, “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers” (Henry VI Part 2, Act IV, scene 2). Christians must not get caught up in this.

Thirty years ago, many Christians became furious over the increasing number of abortion clinics whose business model was not to help women in need but to yearly increase the number of abortions in order to become profitable businesses. Some people began to burn the clinics (which only gave the clinics a big insurance payout and more profit) and some physicians and other clinic employees were murdered, which was only more murder. Those people were “personally destroying those they perceived to be God’s enemies.” Now, abortion violates the Fifth Commandment because it kills a baby, a human being. No one legally advocates for the rights of those babies. Their parents would have their children taken away from them and might even be jailed if they abused their children after birth, but they have the right to murder their children, horribly mutilating them before they perish, through legal abortion. This is an abomination, and they will be answerable for it before God on Judgment Day. If they don’t believe in Judgment Day, it doesn’t matter any more than Jack Cade saying, “I fear neither sword nor fire” (Henry VI Part 2, the same scene as quoted above). He was mortally wounded when he was arrested for rebelling against the King of England in 1450.

The Christian’s duty in this case is:

1, To give glory to God who gives life and preserves it.
2, To pray for the souls of the children who are killed.
3, To proclaim the gospel of salvation through Christ, for only through the gospel are hearts truly changed.
4. To encourage and instruct one another as Christians to avoid violence, bullying or any criminal action which would violate the laws of our nation. Jesus Christ did not protest against the Romans for executing criminals by the horrors of crucifixion. He did not do everything he could to stop it. He did not claim, “We must obey God rather than men,” to justify killing Roman soldiers or destroying their crosses. He preached the gospel, and even submitted to the cross when he had to.

When the hearts of men and women are changed by the gospel, then good works will follow. This is David’s next point in the Psalm:

6 I will sacrifice a freewill offering to you.
  I will praise your name, O LORD, for it is good.
7 For you have delivered me from every trouble,
  and my eyes have looked in triumph on my enemies.

Good works are impossible apart from faith. A man might give everything he has to the church, but if he doesn’t do it from faith, then he does it for a sinful motive. It might be that he wants to avoid paying taxes on his wealth, or that he simply doesn’t want to let his money be inherited by someone he no longer loves, or that he doesn’t care at all for anyone, even God. Or perhaps he thinks the church will do good things in his community. None of these are the right reason for a gift to God. None of them please God. Every single one of them is sinful. “Such works of pretense,” our Confession says, “God does not want. On the contrary, the people of the New Testament are to be a people who offer themselves freely (Psalm 110:3), who bring free-will offerings (Psalm 54:6), not reluctantly or under compulsion but with obedience from the heart (2 Corinthians 9:7; Romans 6:7)” (Formula of Concord, S.D. IV,17).

Anyone who forces someone else to do a good work apart from faith is no different from a terrorist who compels someone to act as if they conform to their faith regardless of what is in their heart. True good works come from faith in Jesus Christ alone. An unbeliever would laugh at that, but an unbeliever can only learn the truth through the gospel. Because we have faith in Christ, we will be delivered from every trouble, and we will be rescued even from death and damnation. We belong to our Savior, and he will never let go of us.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.



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