Today's post is not about legalism or works, but about something I haven't been able to get off my mind lately.
It's also not a salvation issue. I repeat that it's also not a salvation issue, but has more to do with the process of sanctification.
As all of you know, sanctification is an on-going process that begins the moment we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior and doesn't end until we leave this earthly body.
The Lord is the One who will complete what He started in us. Our only role then is to pursue sanctification from the moment of our salvation in as much as always confessing our sins and seeking His forgiveness, living obediently to His Word, and running towards holiness and righteousness as often as we can.
Now, the caveat to all of this, of course, is that even though the short list I just offered above is a list of "actions" or a "list of things we can do after salvation" we also need to be careful that we never fall into the trap of thinking that we're the ones in control, or that we're the ones that will ultimately determine what happens.
Only our Heavenly Father in Heaven can turn that pursuit of sanctification, those steps in obedience, that run towards holiness and righteousness, into a life that's pleasing to Him as well as one that will fulfill His plans for humanity.
Look at your life today. For the past week, God has been stressing to me the importance of doing just that. If you're anything like me, then I'm sure that some of you would have to admit that your actions don't always match up to your words.
Psalm 111:10 (KJV) The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever.
Isn't it true that if we give more lip service than produce fruits through our actions that we're really saying that we don't believe God's Word? How can that not be the case? I mean, if we truly feared God like we're supposed to, then we would tremble each and every time we sinned, falling to our knees in tearful repentance even though we know fully well that His grace and mercy will cover us.
Our salvation never gives us a license to sin, but something I've been seeing a lot more of these days and even battling in my own life to a frightening degree is this deceptive, subtle spirit that tries to twist one's faith into something along the lines of a free pass:
"Oh, well, Jesus died for my sins past, present, and future so He already probably knew I was going to slip and fall and do this. It's not a big deal. It's only one small sin. Gosh! It's not like I've been living like this for awhile now. I've been a model Christian for weeks -- no, months -- and it was only a matter of time before I sinned."
Yes and no. Did you catch that? Do you see why that type of thinking is so dangerous? Look, yes, we'll continue to sin until our final breath. Hopefully, if we're growing in our relationship with Jesus Christ, then over the years it will become less and less, but it will never truly go away because our spirit will always battle the flesh until the flesh is not longer a stumbling block to us.
I think about the Book of James:
James 2:24 (KJV) Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.
A person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone. The context? Just look at what Abraham was willing to do in order to understand the context. He feared God to the point where he was willing to sacrifice his own son for Him! Man, that's powerful isn't it? It's the willingness of a man who is willing to do anything -- even offer up his own precious son -- because he feared (loved) God more than anything else.
Obviously, God stopped him and in a crude paraphrase of the Scriptures pretty much said to Abraham: "You get it! You understand that I am a treasure that's worth giving everything up for -- even your own child!" It was at that moment, when Abraham's actions got to that extreme, when the Angel of the Lord knew that Abraham finally "got it", right? It was clear that Abraham feared God because he was willing to give it all up.
So, again, a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone. It's also important to note that this is not a contradiction to what Paul teaches about how we're justified by faith alone. Again, in context here, James has explained that we are justified by faith, but it's a "working faith" or a "living faith" and not a "dead" one. It's a faith that produces actions. That's the type of faith we're after and the type we're justified by.
If Abraham is too much of an "extreme" example for you, then just consider Rahab the prostitute.
James 2:25 (KJV) Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?
The illustration of Rahab the prostitute is used for that reason. Rahab risked her life to allow the Israelite messengers to hide in her house, and when the authorities came looking for them she committed treason by lying to the officials and telling them that the Israelite messengers went another direction. Her faith for God was so strong that she put her life on the line.
I'm sure that some will oppose and that's ok. I'm not sure what the Lord is working out in your life at the moment in His dealing with you. All I can tell you is that this is what has been on my mind lately and so I wanted to share it.
It reminds me of another aspect to all of this. What do we call a body without a spirit? A corpse. If we say that we believe in the one, true God, and that we believe in His Son Jesus Christ, and that we accept His free gift of salvation, but we don't have any actions to prove it then we're nothing but a corpse. That's why "action" and "doing something" is so much more important than "just believing" in Him.
Again, this is not about salvation. It's also not about going out and trying to do a bunch of stuff to make up for any lack of works to this point in your life. Heck, even movie stars give millions of dollars to various charities. It's mainly about a change of heart. Remember what Jesus said to the lukewarm person about how He's still knocking on the door, and He just wants them to let Him in finally.
You know, I also think about Baptism. Baptism was an action that's appropriate to this discussion today I think. Typically, it's a public action that people did right after they got saved. Aside from when I was a little baby, I've never been Baptized since.
The question that invariably follows mention of Baptism is: "Can you be saved without being Baptized?" It's a good question, and probably worthy of its own separate entry here. I'm sure it might even create a mini debate in the Comments Section.
I'm not hear today to debate that issue either, but if I'm being completely transparent then I also need to mention how this has been weighing on me too lately. After everything we just looked at, how can Baptism not be an integral part of a believer's sanctification process after they make a decision for Jesus Christ?
I mean, we're going to say we believe and then God tells us to go get Baptized, and then we ignore Him. If we're being honest, wasn't Baptism the first action of a believer? I'll tell ya, the Book of James has been having a profound impact on me this week for sure! I've been left with this thought that: "Ok, I say that I'm a believer, but I'm not willing to do the first step of obedience, which is Baptism..." Yet, it doesn't matter because most churches that offer Baptism after making a decision for Christ won't do it for you unless you become a member of their church. Sorry, I'm getting a little side-tracked here.
What good is our faith if we keep it to ourselves and no one can see it in action? If a stranger looked at just your actions would they still know that you're a Christian by what they see you doing, or do you look like anyone else on the street that they see?
Christians aren't called to be "just anyone else" because we serve a God who's not "just another god" and it's time we starting to realize that and do something about it.
I for one plan to try to do much more in this late and urgent hour. Stay tuned because it should be exciting watching what God does.
Proverbs 25:2 (KJV) A man's heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.
Lastly, just for emphasis (and to avoid any unnecessary debate here) please understand that I'm not promoting a "do-a-bunch-of-stuff-and-you'll-be-saved" type of theology here; not at all. I'm merely saying that if you are saved, then you'll do a bunch of stuff.
We are saved by one reason and one reason only -- the blood of Jesus Christ. No amount of "good works" is gonna erase all the junk that we've done in our lives. Jesus is our only path to forgiveness and salvation and eternity.
What We're Praying/Talking About
Our faith in action, or our small contribution in trying to apply what we're taught in Hebrews 5-6 and James 2:17-26 for the benefit of our dear brothers and sisters within the Body of Christ...
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