Faithfulness

Faith and Works: Two Sides of the Same Coin

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?”– James 2:14

A family is on a road trip to the Grand Canyon. Shortly before they arrive, a young man comes out from nowhere and tells them to pull over quickly. “Don’t go any further,” he exclaims. “At the end of this road there is a cliff!”

What evidence will indicate the family really believes the young man? If they say, “we believe you,” but continues to go down the treacherous road, do they sincerely believe? Wouldn’t it make sense for the family to turn their vehicle around if they had faith in this man? Of course. Their action demonstrates their faith.

This is what James is arguing in his letter. If one truly has faith, their works will demonstrate it. Faith and works are inseparable. You can’t have one without the other. James makes it explicit in verses 19-23:

But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! 20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?22 Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? 23 And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God. 24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.

The book of Hebrews also makes it clear that faith and works are two sides of the same coin. Every time faith is mentioned, a reason is given. For instance, by faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain. By faith Noah prepared an ark for the saving of his household. By faith Sarah received strength to conceive and she bore a child when she was past the age (Heb. 11:1-11).

Does this mean our works save us? Not at all. Our works only demonstrate saving faith. Romans 5:1 makes this clear: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through out Lord Jesus Christ.”

But don’t fall into the trap of thinking faith is alone. There is no such thing as saying you believe in Jesus, but not doing what he commands. John 14:15 states, “If you love me, keep my commands. Furthermore, Jesus said to his disciples, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.”

There is a false teaching going around that says faith doesn’t require obedience. I want to make it clear that our justification is a free gift and nothing we earn, but why would a believer want to continue in sin? Yes, we struggle with sin, but it’s not a pattern of the Christian life. Paul says to those in Rome: “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? God forbid.”

1 Corinthians 6 warns us to flee from sin: “Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived:Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor homosexuals nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”

This is a serious verse. If sin is a constant pattern in your life, then don’t keep telling yourself: “I am saved by faith.” I am saved because God loves me.” While these are true statements, if they are used as an excuse to sin, then you are perverting them. I remember when I first became a Christian I would use God’s grace card all the time to comfort myself in sin.

But 1 John tells us, “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seem remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God.” Shouldn’t this bring holy fear to us? Let’s be real. I am a human too. I know what it’s like to lie to myself in order to satiate my sinful desires. Let’s just be frank. Don’t do it. Flee from it. Ask God to give you the strength to overcome. He will always provide a way of escape.

Remember the analogy at the beginning of this article? I told you about a family traveling to the Grand Canyon. If they don’t believe the young man, they may smile, act friendly, but tell him, “It’s okay. Don’t worry about us.”

If that’s you, then let me be the young man in the story, warning you to repent and trust in Jesus. Don’t be tempted to feel comfortable in your sin just because salvation is a free gift.

I was shocked to hear one preacher tell an entire audience. “Once you have eternal life, not even God can take it from you. Once he promises it, there is no way back. No matter what you do.” Really? You think that’s true?

God destroyed the entire world through a flood because of his hatred towards sin. God rained down fire and brimstone on Sodom and Gomorrah, annihilating everyone except Lot and his daughters. Even his own wife was turned into a pillar of salt.

God makes it clear in Romans 9:15 that He is sovereign over the fate of all of us: For he said to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”

You can’t manipulate God. You can’t even use God’s own grace card to get you out for fire insurance. It has to be genuine. Is eternal life a free gift? Absolutely. Will it ever be earned? Of course not. Jesus paid it all. But just because he paid it all doesn’t mean your covered in his blood. If you are, then his holy spirit will convict you of sin and lead you to a life of holiness.

Whoever is reading this, I care for you. It may sound harsh, but I don’t want to be a nice doctor that makes you feel better. I want to be a doctor who may say, “You have cancer and if you don’t treat it now, you will die.” That’s true, right? But the cure is trusting in Jesus.

Are you willing to do that today? May God give you the strength to persevere until the end.

Are you a Giver or a Taker?

Charity_to_Street_ArabDon’t you like experiencing the surprise of a family member or good friend open a present you bought them for their birthday? I remember when I was a freshman in high school; I got a special present for my Mom. I went to the Markland mall and found a good deal on golden loop earrings at Andrew’s Jewelers. I kept telling my Mom, “You’re really going to love this gift. You’re really going to be happy about it.” It took all my energy to bottle it inside so I wouldn’t tell her what the gift was. Finally, she opened the present and loved it.  Fourteen years later, those golden earrings are sitting in her jewelry box. What an encouragement.  Do you like to gift gifts?

If you’re a Christian and the Holy Spirit is in you, you should desire to give. You know that God’s a giver, and to be a giver is a good thing. God so loved the world that He gave us His only Son (Jn. 3:16), The Lord Jesus himself said: “It is better to give than to receive (Acts. 20:35). Paul tells the church in Corinth that God loves a cheerful giver (2 Cor. 9:7), and here Paul is telling the church of Ephesus that God freely gives spiritual gifts to each one of us according to His marvelous grace.

Our God loves to give, and the more you get to know the God who gives, the more you become like the God who gives. One of the greatest tests of Christian maturity is whether you’re defined as a giver or a taker. What would people say about you? Think about this for a moment. Do you give people your time and energy (help with homework, drive someone to work, go out for breakfast and buy coffee) or do you make excuses that you don’t have time?

Here’s the truth. All of us are busy. Typically, the person who gives the most is busier than most. How does the busiest person give the most? They have prioritized their time. If a project needs to be done in seven weeks, this person will get it done in two weeks. Why? Because she knows that when the seventh week comes, she will be extra busy. By prioritizing her time, she is now more available and resourceful than others.

Here is another litmus test to determine whether you are a giver or taker. Do you contribute to the church? Do you give money that you make from your work or do you keep it all for yourself? I distinctly remember at seminary, when Olya and I started dating, she would always give money during the offering time. I thought to myself, how does she give? She works at seminary dining (minimum wage), is an international student, and the majority of her money goes to school. Her answer was simple: I give because God calls us to do so. See, I held all my money back and gave every once in a blue moon because my excuse was I had a dead end job. This was my excuse, but what about the widow in the Bible? She gave a tenth of what she had, which wasn’t much, but it was more than everyone else. It’s all about the motive of the heart.

J.L. Kraft, head of the Kraft Cheese Corporation, who gave 25% of all his enormous income to Christian causes for many years said, “The only investment I ever made which has paid consistently increasing dividends is the money I have given to the Lord. J.D. Rockefeller said, “I never would have been able to tithe the first million dollars I ever made if I had not tithed my first salary, which was $1.50 per week.” Don’t feel ashamed about giving little. Ask yourself again: Are you a giver or a taker? Once you determine the answer to that question, never forget the purpose of giving: To honor and glorify the Lord Jesus Christ.

FAITHFULNESS

English: Old Faithful Geyser as seen from the ...

“Therefore, holy brothers,1 you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, 2 who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God’s house. 3 For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses—as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself. 4 (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.) 5 Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house was a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, 6 but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope (Heb. 3:1-6).”

Can anyone tell me what this is a picture of? It’s the Old Faithful geyser at Yellowstone national park in Wyoming. Eruptions can shoot around 8,000 gallons of boiling water to a height of 185 feet, lasting from 1 to 5 minutes. Why do you think it’s called Old Faithful? Because it’s the most predictable geographical feature on Earth, erupting almost every 90 minutes. Just like the geyser, someone who is always consistent, on-time, and doesn’t break promises will be known for being faithful

In Hebrews 3, we learn that Moses was a great leader. He saved the Israelites from Egyptian slavery, took the initiative to fight with Pharaoh to let “his people go.” Moreover, he continued to serve the Lord in the wilderness for 40 years, despite the fact that the people who followed him constantly complained. If any of us were Moses, we would have lost our patience and temper long before he did.

However, Moses was not perfect. He was not always faithful. For example, God commanded Moses to speak to the rock, but instead he struck the rock with his staff. Also, Moses took credit for bringing forth the water as a miracle instead of giving glory to God. Let’s not give him too hard of a time. Haven’t all of us made similar mistakes?

Moses was a good leader, but he was a sinner. Jesus, however, was without sin and always obeyed His Heavenly Father. Hebrews 4:15 states, “For we do not have a high priest (Jesus) who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect was tempted as we are, yet without sin.” That is why Jesus is counted worthy of more glory than Moses. He is the God-Man, the Savior of the World, the Prince of Peace, and the Faithful Servant.

Throughout our Christian life, we will have heroes of the faith like Moses, Noah, Esther, and Elijah who do marvelous things for the Lord. There is nothing wrong with looking up to these people. Yet, because of human sin, our heroes will ultimately disappoint us because they are not perfect like Christ. We live in a world today where we desire to idolize the creation rather than the Creator. It’s no surprise to me that we are blatant about this concept, especially in the entertainment world: American Idol. There is an evil inclination for us to worship humans who are athletic, a brilliant scientist or doctor, or even charismatic preachers. Hebrews 3 reminds us that only God is worthy of receiving all the glory, honor, and praise because He is perfect in love, wisdom, strength, intelligence, art, you name it!

Application: This week, think of 5 times in your life when God was faithful to you. Give Him praise and honor for fulfilling His promises. Then, I want to challenge you to share with someone a time when God was faithful so that He receives glory from us. God bless!