FAITH ACCOMPANIED BY WORKS

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? (James 2:14 ESV)

Is James contradicting Paul? Paul writes:

And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, (Romans 4:5 ESV)

Both James and Paul are addressing the topic of true saving faith. What is real faith? What is the relationship of works to faith and salvation?

In Romans, Paul is addressing a faith problem. Apparently, some thought that salvation was earned by good deeds. They acknowledged God and Jesus Christ, but they were still in bondage to the Law. The overriding motive for their good deeds was to earn a place in Heaven rather than to glorify God and live righteously. Paul is pointing out that righteousness before God is obtained by faith alone.

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IMMEASURABLE RICHES

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10 ESV)

The Scriptures teach that Christians are created in Jesus Christ for good works. At one time, we were all in rebellion against God because we each wanted our own way and to pursue our sinful passions with unrestrained lust. We were all spiritually dead. Yet, because of God’s great love, He has made us alive through Jesus Christ.

We are saved by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone. In the above verses we are taught (as previously stated) that we are created for good works. Man cannot do, perfectly, enough good works to earn his salvation. Salvation is a work of grace through faith. Therefore, good works are a sign of the grace we have been given and our gratitude for the gift of salvation. Good works are done to glorify God, not to gain anything from Him. Since only God knows the spirit of a man, good works are a witness to others confirming our faith in Him.

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UNDERSTANDING THE END FOR WHICH WE WERE MADE

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. (Colossians 1:16 ESV)

There are many people, including Christians, who do not  godhave a clear understanding of the purpose for which God made them.The Westminster Shorter Catechism states this doctrine by way of a question and answer:

Q: “What is the chief end of man?”

A: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.”

The ultimate end or chief purpose of man is to glorify and enjoy God. Too few people have any concern for the glory of God and therefore, certainly cannot enjoy Him.

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PRAYER AND THE WORD OF GOD

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. (John 15:7 ESV)

Evening PrayerPraying is difficult for many people. Some don’t think about it because they lead such busy lives. It is certainly not #1 on their “To-Do List”. Francis de Sales wrote:

Every Christian needs a half-hour of prayer each day, except when he is busy, then he needs an hour.

Martin Luther said on this subject:

I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.

The Apostle Paul reminds us that it is God’s Will that we should pray without ceasing. (1 Thessalonians 5:1 ESV) Prayer leads to greater intimacy with God. Prayer changes things and my personal experience has been that God changes me through prayer. God’s desire is for us to pray. (1 Timothy 2:8 ESV) Studying the Bible and hearing God’s Word helps to make our prayer life more effective. If we are slack in seeking wisdom from God’s Word, our prayers may become an abomination to the Lord. (Proverbs 28:9 ESV)

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FEELING RIGHT WHEN WE ARE SO WRONG

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9 ESV)

Narcissus

Narcissus

Christian men and women are human and therefore often pray, worship, and read the Bible without consideration of the personal prejudices which influence their thinking about these practices. We allow our feelings to become the unassailable doctrines of our belief without the Berean’s objectivity and careful study of the Word of God. This is a self-centered theology driven by our emotions and personal whims. The basis upon which we decide what the Scriptures actually mean is driven by how it makes us feel. To any thinking Christian, this system is unacceptable.

God requires that we seek Him as He has presented Himself in the Bible. As Jesus said:

“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32 ESV)

Christians must learn to depend on the Scriptures which offer truth and reason to guide our prayer, worship, and Bible study. Although these practices may give rise to emotions, they must not be guided by selfish emotionalism. Seek instead to become a Bible-saturated and Holy Spirit filled Christian. Jesus reminds us that “true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth.” (John 4:23-24 ESV)

ARE YOU SMARTER THAN THE BIBLE?

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12 ESV)

sword_imageThere are always people who think they are smarter than the Word of God. They believe they have evolved intellectually far beyond the men and women who lived in centuries past. They disregard the Bible as an ancient book written by a primitive people. Some, who claim to be Christians, believe the Gospel needs to be modernized to give it more relevance to contemporary life.

While many ignore the Bible, others try to bring it “up to date” by inserting false teachings; delivered by deceitful men who bring destruction upon themselves and those who follow them. (2 Peter 2:1 ESV) They relativize and suppress truth in order to avoid living under the rule of God. (Romans 1:18-20)

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CELEBRATING THE LIGHT

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12 ESV)

lightI love light because it makes vision possible and generally makes me feel better. Have you ever heard of seasonal affective disorder? It may be caused by the reduced level of sunlight in fall and winter. This decrease in sunlight disrupts the body’s internal clock and leads to feelings of depression. December, January, and February are my usual months for dealing with this problem. When the sun does come out during these months, you can bet I surely want to get outside to soak it up if possible.

The apostle John describes Jesus in terms of light:

In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:4-5 ESV)

In this context, Jesus is described as light. Light and darkness symbolize good and evil; godly wisdom and worldly wisdom; the kingdom of God and the kingdom of man (devil). We were all once enslaved to the darkness, but Christians are now able to walk in the light. On the road to Damascus, Jesus told Paul that He was sending him to the gentiles to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God; to receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in Him. (Acts 26:18 ESV)

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