Matthew 7:17-20 says:
Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
For the purposes of this first post this month, I want to draw a clear distinction I see between "works" and "fruits". While it is true that MANY verses in the New Testament state unequivocally that we will be judged by our works, I think FAR too many members don't stop and ponder exactly what that means - and I am convinced it doesn't mean just what those words ("judged according to their works") appear to convey when they are parsed in isolation.
An oft quoted verse in the Bible we use to show the need for "works" is James 2:17. It reads:
Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
That verse is criticial to blunt the incorrect doctrine of "easy grace" (merely confess His name and be saved), since even the devils Jesus drove from the swine confessed His name, but it is easy to forget that Paul preached adamantly against "dead works".
Two verses (one from the Bible and one from the Book of Mormon) are interesting in how they illustrate the uselessness of "dead works".
Hebrews 9:14 says:
How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
Moroni 8:23, speaking of infant baptism, says:
But it is mockery before God, denying the mercies of Christ, and the power of
his Holy Spirit, and putting trust in dead works.
The point I want to make here is that there are "good works" and "dead works" - those that contribute to "life" and those that don't. Following that train of thought, it is important to distinguish between those things we do that are focused on "God's life" (eternal life) and "my life".
There are numerous passages that discuss the basic concept of living with an eye single to the glory of God - which is defined in Moses 1:39 as "the immortality and eternal life of man". I have come to beleive that the judgment will consist almost SOLELY of a measure of our willingness to let go of those activities ("works") that contribute only to "my life" ("my glory", as understood in mortal terms) and embrace those activities ("works") that contribute to "God's life" (His glory - lifting and raising and empowering and edifying others). I also have come to believe that the personal application of this concept is measured by how comprehensively we learn to listen to the Holy Spirit when it whispers to us - to follow our conscience - to do what we feel we should do when it is different than what we naturally want to do - to be dedicated to becoming more like Christ, no matter how difficult that might be at any given moment.
In conclusion, I would like to draw an analogy to a child in its mother's womb. It grows and develops and progresses when it is connected to its mother's nourishment. A mother, as a "vine", provides life and growth to her child - the "fruit" of her womb. She "produces" it - and to a large degree, she shapes her child's future by the substances she takes into her body and feeds to her child. Much of a child's life is a DIRECT result of the "vine" to which it is connected.
Those "works" that we do on our own are our own, and we "shall in no wise lose (our) reward" for them. However, the only "works" we can do that will have eternal impact and efficacy are those that are produced as a result of a connection to the Vine - that flow from the Spirit, are internalized into our very being and "produce" a more "perfect" (complete, whole and fully developed) soul. The challenge, in my opinion, is NOT to "do more". Rather, the challenge is to "do God's will" - to do what He wants us to do - to become what He wants us to become.
I also am convinced that this is a personal quest - that what he wants ME to do might be very different than what he wants YOU to do - and that I am forbidden to judge you if He produces peaches through me and grapes through you. That lack of judgmentalism (true charity) is one particular fruit of the vine - but my challenge this month is to be more able to understand and do what he wants ME to understand and do. In a nutshell, it is to be more in tune with personal revelation - and to follow it in my life to produce "good works" - the fruit he will share with and through me.