Thursday, March 24, 2005

What is a dead work?

I think one of the most missed and basic revelations in the church today is the understanding of dead works. What are dead works and why do we need to know about them?

John the Baptist went about proclaiming the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand and that all needed to repent and be baptized. What is it that we need to repent from? Most would say that we need to repent of our wickedness and turn from our sin. Is that all we need to do to be whole? I don't think so, if that was the case, we wouldn't need a savior to rescue us. It is true we need to turn away from wickedness but was that it? The purpose of repentance is to lay the ax to the root according to Luke 3:9. Luke 3:3 speaking of John the Baptist says,

"And he went into all the region around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins,..."

So we can say that this baptism of repentance produces a remission of sin in our lives. What is remission? When you think of someone with cancer and your told that their cancer is in remission, you are basically being told that the cancer is no longer active. Essentially it no longer has effect on their life! Wow, so let's do the math, when we truly turn away with our heart from our old ways,(repent), we are slaying that sinful nature that is at work in our members bringing about remission of that nature. Does this mean we can't be tempted? No, that's not what I'm saying, however, temptation is not sin. The reason I know this is because Jesus was tempted for forty days in the wilderness by Satan according to Luke 4:1-2. To be tempted means that you have to want what's been placed in front of you. You have to desire it. Jesus desired the things presented to Him by Satan, but He denied Himself those things. In the past I have equated these desires as sin in my own life, but unless the desire is perverted in some way by my vain desires, it's not sin! It's natural to desire certain things, God created us with desires. The enemy uses our own natural desires against us in the effort of creating vain imaginations and strongholds for the purpose of imprisoning us into a state of hopelessness. Vain imaginations are the result of entertaining our desires with elicit thoughts. Pornography has been one of the strongest weapons of the enemy because it corrupts the thought life into a constant meditation of sin and perversion creating a stronghold in us. But let's examine another clue in scripture to what can be a dead work.

Hebrews 6:1 list 'repentance from dead works' as one of the foundation stones that every believer must have operational in their lives to be successful in their walk with Jesus. So we're back to the question; What are dead works?

Dead works are simply any works that are useless and not birthed out of the love of God by the faith that He placed in our hearts.

There's a great story of a young newlywed couple. The young wife is preparing a leg of lamb. The husband notices her cutting the ends off the leg of lamb before putting it into the the large roasting pan. When he sees this, he asked, "Why are you cutting the ends off the leg of lamb"? She states, "That's the way my mother does it." The husband asked, "Why"? She replies, "I don't really know why she does it, let's ask her." So they asked the Mother why she cuts the ends off the leg of lamb, and she says, "That's the way my mother has always did it, I really don't know why." So the young wife goes to her grandmother and says, "Grandma, we were all wondering why do you cut the ends off the leg of lamb before you cook it?" The grandmother replies, "Because it won't fit into my pan if I don't cut the ends off!" You see, how often we can go into motion with no real purpose and we never ask why. That is a dead work, or a useless work.

Our lives can be full of these types of activities. How many things do we do that were passed down to us through the generations and we have no reason or purpose to account for them. The Church also has passed down many such habits. Jesus states in Mark 7:13 that it's the tradition of men that's handed down that makes the word of God of no effect and He further says many such things we do. Ouch! The sad thing is, if you ask why to some folks, you may be taken as rebellious. That's only because those very people put their security in the tradition that you are questioning rather than having their security in Christ where it should be. I believe that these are weights that Paul was saying we need to lay aside. Where is the scripture that says we should close our eyes when we pray? If I was in a room with believers and said, "Let us pray", everyone would bow their head. Why, because the tradition of bowing their heads and closing their eyes has been passed down from generation to generation. Am I against closing your eyes and bowing your heads, no, the act is not evil in itself. To some it means they are showing reverence and respect to God, but to others it may be just following the crowd like some domestic farm animal.

In John 5:39-40, Jesus tells the Jews at the tabernacle, "You search the scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to me that you may have life."

Did you catch what He was saying? He was telling them that their searching of scriptures was a dead work because the scriptures were not leading them to come to Him that they might have life! How many of us have searched the scripture trying to find an answer to our problems? Instead we should let the scripture lead us to Him who is the answer and fulfillment of all revelation, whether it's finances, health, you name it. It is this heart that makes the scriptures come to life. The woman with the issue of blood pressed through the crowd to get to Him. She knew if she could touch Him, she would be made whole. When we search the scriptures, it is in this manner that we should read them, to get to Him! How many times I've read scripture thinking If I read enough and confessed them enough, I would be successful and my faith would increase. Who would have ever thought that even the way we approach reading the word of God could be a dead work. Scripture says that Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith. Whether it's studying the word, or ministering the word of God, it has to be from one of two places; Either the heart that's alive due to an encounter with God, or a heart that's hungry for an encounter with Him, or both, that causes life to flow. That's a good work!
I don't care how much knowledge we think we have, if the sharing of our revelation is not out of the love shed abroad in our hearts, the very thing we are sharing can be a dead or corrupted work. We need to be careful that our gifts and callings are not operated from an angry or bitter place. You know Lucifer was referred to as the 'Anointed Cherub' in Ezekiel 28-14. Do you think that he uses the gifts and callings God gave him for himself? Absolutely, the whole 28th Chapter of Ezekiel articulates this fact. Being anointed or gifted does not mean that our works aren't capable of producing death.
One important point I want to bring is the one Jesus spoke to the Pharisee's and scribes when they asked Him in Mark 7:5 why His disciples didn't walk according to the tradition of the elders, and why they didn't wash their hands when they ate bread. Listen to His reply in Mark 7:6-8.
He answered and said to them, "Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: 'This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.' "For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men--the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do."
The Pharisee's and scribes were the leaders of their day in the Jewish faith. Jesus clearly disliked their dead works of holding to traditions of men that had been passed down through the generations. As was pointed out earlier, the traditions of men caused the word of God to lose it's effectiveness.
Are the traditions being passed down in today's church causing the word of God to lose it's effectiveness? We all have to ask this question. Paul states in Romans that our righteousness should surpass that of the Pharisee's and scribes, and as we saw in scripture Jesus held them accountable. Will He be different with us if He expects more from us?
I hope this answers the question of what dead works are. This crosses all lines of denominations, from the oldest and most established to those who believe they are on the cutting edge of ministry and operate in all kinds of gifts. Jesus said in Matthew 7:21-23
"Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in Heaven. "Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord,' have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' "And I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me you who practice lawlessness!'
Selah
I believe it's safe to say that we need to know Him. We need an encounter with Jesus. I want to know Jesus.
Father I pray over everyone who receives this word as Your word to them. I include myself in this prayer, not because I want to look humble but because of the fear of the Lord I feel at this moment. Please forgive us all, as we turn from our sin and dead works and turn our hearts to You . Reveal yourself to us as we turn our hearts to You that You can say, "I know them, well done my good and faithful servant." I thank you for Your incredible love and mercy for those whose hearts are turned to You. In Your precious holy name, Jesus. Amen, Amen, Amen.

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