Of Tickets and Spelunkers – Grasping the Two Sides of Works

by Barry Newton
Several miles from our house a billboard advertising a cavern boasts, “Largest Underground Attraction In Texas.” As I stood in line to purchase some tickets, suddenly my rambling gaze froze still upon the posted entry fee. While wishful thinking desperately fantasized of another way to enter the cave, reality immediately set in. Entry required a ticket.

The display listed two types of tickets. One was for mild-mannered tourists like myself who enjoy paved sidewalks, steps and hand railings as needed. The other untamed experience offered the opportunity to squeeze through a rock formation called the birth canal, rappel down into the depths of darkness, and crawl on your hands and knees through whatever it was that had washed down into those subterranean cavities.

No one would confuse the activities of climbing, crawling, squeezing or rappelling as how to earn an entry ticket to a cave. Nor would anyone be so silly as to think that simply holding a ticket tightly in one’s hand makes a person a thrill-seeking spelunker. Yet, when it comes to salvation and service, even people who should know better sometimes seem to confuse being saved with their purpose.

To a world that has messed up their lives, God offers us the invaluable ticket of becoming his forgiven and saved people who will go to heaven. One way to describe this ticket would be that God puts the stamp of the Holy Spirit upon those who are entering.

Any attempt to earn this ticket by demonstrating how good you are is called works. The works of righteous living or even telling others about Jesus does not get anyone any closer to owning a ticket. Rather, God gives his salvation ticket to everyone who will rely upon Jesus through being immersed. This is called salvation by faith. Since the ticket is offered to an undeserving world, salvation is by grace.

Becoming a part of God’s people, not only entitles a person to tremendous blessings such as salvation, there are also responsibilities. To use the cave metaphor, if you are going to be God’s spelunker you have got to crawl, climb, rappel and maybe even swim. Such actions of service and faith are also called works. But whereas works will not get you into the cave, works are required of those who are God’s spelunkers.

The motivation for God’s people to work should not arise out of guilt wondering if they have done enough to be saved, but rather joyfully fulfilling their purpose as those rescued from death and given life with a purpose. Just as to be a spelunker you can’t just stand there holding your entry ticket, so too, Christians need to be busy fulfilling the work God has prepared for them to do.

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