The Bible can be very confusing.
Repeatedly we are told that salvation comes by faith. Reconciliation with God is not something we earn like a stuffed animal at a carnival where you knock down the pins and a clown hands you a ticket to heaven.
Yet the Bible talks about good works and doing and being and overcoming.
Typically when we try to understand what they Bible says and who God is, we do so through a perspective that is limited by time and space and the created. We know nothing of eternity. We know nothing of omniscience. We can only grasp the present. We can only grasp having been created.
To give an example, in my small group, we discussed this very balance between faith and good works. Someone quoted James 2:14 and 17.
14. What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? (ESV)
17. So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (ESV)
So which is it? Faith or works?
The problem that most of us have with this passage is that we approach it from our “created” perspective, not from God’s. When we think of works and of good deeds, we can only think about what the church has taught us. Such good works include going to church, reading our Bibles every day, praying, not cussing, not drinking, not smoking, home schooling our kids, and voting for Republicans.
Our concept of works is completely wrong. It is limited by our perspective. Or lack of.
The marriage between faith and good works makes sense if you view them from a heart that has experienced grace.
What is grace? God’s unmerited, unchanging love for us. It is a love that pays a debt that we could never repay. It is a love that will die for our benefit.
It is God giving us the good gifts that we have not earned by suffering the punishment that we deserve.
When we have been forgiven and when we have been loved perfectly by a holy God, how do we walk away from this love unchanged? How could we not love others as we have been loved?
I don’t think James is telling us that we need to create a list of things that every Christian should be doing or not doing. I don’t think he is talking about the culture of religion that is present in our churches. He is not describing a list of good deeds that we can easily check off.
James is telling us that if you have experienced this kind of love, it will change you. You will start loving others and because of that love you will start doing for them.
If we view these commands through a “grace perspective,” then not cussing anymore hardly seems like a goal worth pursuing.
How have you responded to grace? Do you feel you comprehend who God is and how much he loves us? Share here.
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