• Matthew Thornton

Works and Evangelism: Part One

Feeling an overbearing sense of pressure to do works and evangelise? Well then, this post is for you.

I once went through this stage where I felt an overbearing sense of duty and obligation to work and evangelise for God. I kept reading verses like: Psalm 105:1, “Give praise to the Lord, proclaim His name; make known among the nations what He has done,” or Matthew 28:19, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations.”


I'd set myself a to do list for each day at school: tell 3 people about God, be selfless with my money, give up my lunch times to help people even if I needed the rest.  I'd force myself to speak to people about God, force myself to help others, make myself to do things even if it was the last thing that I wanted to do. Whilst I was "evangelising" and "doing works," my actions were mechanical and weren’t birthed from a place of love. They came from a sense of obligation.


Can you relate? Have you ever felt an intense pressure and duty to do works for God? One of the reasons I found I felt this way was because I felt inadequate as a Christian if I didn’t do these acts. I compared myself to those pastors, those missionaries, those charity founders and felt ashamed that I hadn’t done the same. In my mind, I felt God approved of those ‘super-Christians’ more than myself, so I kept striving in hope I could earn His approval.


Thankfully, there is good news. Jesus’ death on the Cross means that I, along with you, already have His approval; He didn’t die for us to then kill ourselves trying to earn it.


‘Well Pleased’


At Jesus’ baptism, he heard a voice saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). Here’s the thing: before Jesus had turned any water into wine, before he’d brought the dead back to life, before he had fed the 5000, God was "well pleased". He loved him, not because of Jesus had done, but because of who he was - His Son.


The same is true with us: God loves us, not because of what we have done or ever will do, but because of who we are - His children.

Jesus’ death on the Cross means that I, along with you, already have His approval; He didn’t die for us to then kill ourselves trying to earn it.

Mike Donehey, lead singer of Tenth Avenue North, poses the question:


“Isn’t it incredible Jesus didn’t begin His ministry until He heard the Father’s voice in the Jordan River? Jesus breaks the surface and is met with a flood of the Father’s approval. It is out of that approval - not for that approval - that Jesus begins his mighty works.”


That is the important distinction. Works should be an outpouring of God’s approval, not a means for it.


Changing the Heart


Something else that freed me was changing my approach and my focus. I was so fixated with the end goal, with the works themselves and I paid little attention to the root from which they came from.


You see, I think we shouldn't so much aspire to do works or to evangelise, rather aspire to simply love God in our hearts. Luke 6:45 says, “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart.”


Our actions are an outpouring of what our heart is full of, therefore, if we are to change our actions, then we need to change our heart first. How do we do this? Simply - love God. God said the most important commandment was to, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37).


This is our purpose and should be our focus: to simply love God. Once we have God in our heart, once our heart overflows with God’s love, I can’t help but to love my neighbour, I can’t help but to tell of the treasure I have discovered, I can’t help but to pray, I can’t help but to serve the poor and needy.

Works should be an outpouring of God’s approval, not a means for it.

I decided to write this post because I know how it is to feel burdened by that voice telling you that you have to keep earning God’s love, that you have to keep deserving it. When we listen to that voice, we discount the Cross. Through the cross, we are made worthy of God’s love. Do we deserve it? No. Does He still unleash it on us? Yes.


So, let us stop seeking to deserve God’s love and approval, and instead, start living from it.


Let us allow the love of God to bubble up and overflow in our hearts. Allow it to overflow into the way we love others. Allow it overflow in our words to others. Allow it to transform ourselves and others.


For once your heart overflows with the love and rhythm of God, you will develop an unrestrainable, uncontainable, insuppressible urge for others to know of the treasure you have discovered. The actions and the words will follow naturally. Let’s love God with our everything. All else will fall into place.


Matthew is currently studying at the University of Auckland . He'd love to hear from you -contact him at matthewcthornton13@gmail.com .

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