Working to earn God’s favor

I think we fallen men (this includes me of course) have the hardest time parting with the idea of works righteousness. I mean, a REALLY hard time. Even if we settle our understanding on a solid reformed doctrine of salvation (we are saved by grace alone), that STILL does not protect us from living in a manner where

  • good works = favor with God
  • sinning = back in the dog-house

That is NOT the gospel. Not of works lest any man should boast. It doesn’t stop after your first repentance. I’m not advocating sin here folks. I’m not saying God doesn’t answer prayer or doesn’t delight in good fruit in our lives or doesn’t reward hard work. I’m saying there IS no works righteousness. There can’t be. It’s a sham. Stop living like it’s real.

Travis Prinzi on the Boar’s Head Tavern illustrated this very well today with a quick rewrite of the parable of the prodigal son:

I’m going to get in trouble for this:

“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best copy of the Scriptures and the prayer mat and send him into the chapel. I can’t hear him, and I refuse to pay attention to him, because he’s been sinning too much, and I’m not going to answer prayers of someone who has not been doing his duty.’ …

“Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard the sound of his brother turning the pages of the family Bible. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ’Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has commanded him to go pray and study the Scriptures.’ And the older brother said, ‘Good. I’ve been saying for years that father shouldn’t listen to sinners until they start doing their duty like me.’”

That entire mentality is built on the idea that we are received back to God by grace, but after that, we need to start behaving like the older brother in order to get God to listen to us. We become better than the prodigal, and God begins listening to us and answering our prayers. Sorry. Every single time I come to the Father, I’m the prodigal.

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