Friday, November 28, 2014

Faith to Believe

    Every year when this holiday season rolls around, I begin to ponder what it means to live for the Lord. In our family life, our churches, or jobs, and even in the things we do for pleasure. I begin to think about the ways that so many of us push aside what truly matters to put other things such as family, church, and pleasures in the place that only God should hold. The holidays start to roll in and instead of growing closer to God, so many people say "praise God for this" or "that" and yet they really don't mean it. Instead they merely want people to see what a great thing they have going for them. It is during this time of year that so many people try to reach out to the communities around them and it seems like efforts to "reach" others for Christ becomes the call of most Christians.
    Yet, what is actually the point? So what if we live in this way for two months or so? Two different things are occurring. First, those that are praising God for the things they have just so others can see what they have display the true issues that they have with pride that they probably struggle with all year long. Since they don't get the opportunity to display it publicly throughout the whole year, they use their faith and means to fuel their sinful desires for praise and honor for themselves rather than what the creator deserves. So instead of praising God, they are actually spitting in His face and letting all those around them see. This is the first way that Christians begin to distort what this whole season is even about. 
    Secondly, people begin to serve dinners, have clothing drives, food drives, and many other such material need driven events for those in their communities. I do want to clarify that there is nothing whatsoever wrong with doing these things for our communities, in fact it is something that is commanded of us by God. The issue that I am dealing with here is that so many churches and Christians do these things only for the "holidays". They don't do these things because they feel led by God to minister to people, but they do it out of guilt and from a place of pride. I guess that I am saying that both of these issues stem from the same issue. Our pride is our biggest stumbling block. Dinners are served because "people should be able to have a Thanksgiving" or "Christmas". It isn't, in most cases, because we want to share the gospel with strangers, no that would be too dirty. Instead we want to give them a warm meal, clothes, and say "oh look at us, look at the wonderful things we have done to help those in need." If this is the way that we "minister" to the community, we may as well let them suffer and perish. 
    Without the gospel there is no hope, none. If we do not purposely share the truth of scripture with those people we are ministering to, then it is a useless task. A warm meal or clothes will never save a person's soul and yet so many Christians think that if they do the material/physical things to help others, then they are doing what they were commanded by God to do. This is completely the opposite. Jesus talked about our Heavenly Father's love for us and the way that He cares for His children. He said that earthly fathers love their kids. So how much more so does our Heavenly Father love us! In the same way, people that are in need, they don't need us to be their earthly fathers. They have those and in most cases they at best were a pitiful example of what a father should be. No, God calls us to show others His love. That means that we need to love others in such a way that they do not see an earthly father or mother, something that they know and see the faults and flaws. But rather we are to show others the love of God that surpasses all understanding and reference. 
    This is what it means to minister to those in need. Jesus did not merely heal people of their physical needs, but spoke life and joy into them. Saying things like; rise and walk, your faith has made you well. It was never about merely healing people so that they would no longer have a physical problem, it was about ministering to people's souls and redeeming His bride for His glory. If we do not minister to people in the same way, so as to present the gospel of Jesus to them, then we have absolutely failed in what we have been called to do. 
    There are so many people that believe that if they do the right things, say a prayer, and live a good life that they will go to heaven. While at the same time, there are many people that would say that they are Christians that believe the exact same thing. If we do not repent of our sins and give our lives wholly over to God, then are we truly believers? In the book of James we see a discussion about faith. It hinges on two key points. Faith without works means absolutely nothing and works without faith are as equally futile. They go hand in hand. It it not a one or the other, it is both or none. If we have faith in Jesus as our savior, then we must proclaim that faith from the rooftops through our deeds and actions and testimonies of God's glory and grace. And if we minster to those in need, MUST proclaim the gospel to them. If we do not proclaim the gospel then we are telling those same people that we are claiming to love that their eternal damnation does not matter and that all that they need to worry about is this earthly life. Oh how grievously wrong they would be to think such a thing. 
     "James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion:
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?
If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead."
(James 1 - 2 ESV)