Saturday, November 27, 2010

How's Your Sermon Coming?

What does it really mean to live by faith? According to the passage of scripture in Hebrews chapter 11 (often referred to as the "Hall of Faith") it involves acting on what you believe in your heart to be true.

More than simple "belief", Biblical faith is more about action than ideas.

"By faith Abel offered..." (v.4)

"By faith Noah..built an ark.." (v.7)

"By faith Abraham..obeyed and went.." (v.8)

"By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau.." (v.20)

"By faith Jacob...blessed each of Joseph's sons.."(v.21)

"By faith Joseph...spoke about the exodus...and gave instructions about his bones.."(v.22)

"By faith Moses..refused to be known as the son of Pharoah's daughter...chose to be mistreated along with the people of God.." (v.24)

The pattern seems to be that these people had faith and then they did something about it. Faith is doing something to demonstrate what you believe. It is not simply belief itself.

"You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did." (James 2:20-22)

What we do about what we believe is more important than what we believe. To believe something and to do nothing about it is equal to unbelief.

"You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone." (James 2:24)

Our lives are a living testimony of what we actually believe. If what we say we believe and our actions don't line up, we call that hypocrisy. Some call it Christianity. This shouldn't be the case.

I recently read through the epistles of Titus, Philemon, and 1 and 2 Thessalonians and 1 and 2 Timothy. One thing that struck me out of all of these letters from Paul was the importance of our character as followers of Jesus. Doing good and living lives of love and service to others wasn't an evangelism strategy, it was a way of life. Because they had been radically transformed by the living, resurrected Christ, they were changed into people who extravagantly loved and served and gave and shared all that they had with those around them.

Every one of us who names the name of Christ is living out a daily sermon to the world around us. We are pouring forth a message of the love of Christ to those who have yet to discover such love - or we're denying that such love is real by our attitudes and lack of concern for others.

"You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our service, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts" (2 Cor 3:3)

Each of us a living, breathing sermon testifying daily to the amazing love of Jesus our Lord.



Julie said...

I understand your point, but I don't understand how James 2:24 fits in with Romans, which seems to say that we're justified by faith alone. Can you make sense of that dilemma?

Keith Giles said...

Julie - I don't really think that there is any dilemna between Romans and James. The problem I see is our understanding of Romans and James helps to clarify our definitions of concepts like faith and works.

Works do not save us, and James isn't suggesting that they do.

The resolution is this: Our faith in Christ is proven by what we do once we have received His unmerited favor and grace.

I always say, "Swimming won't make you a fish, but if you are a fish you will swim."

Jesus saves us by grace (not by our works) but once we are saved we will do good works because that is what those who have been transformed by His love do.

Or, as Paul puts it in Ephesians, "We are saved by grace to do good works."

Our actions are evidence of our salvation, not the means of our salvation.

Hope that helps.

Bettie said...

I noticed with interest a while back that in the Greek, "faith" and "believe" are basically the same word, the former being the noun and the latter the verb form; which would mean that an assertion that is not acted on would not be faith or belief, but merely supposition.

I think you nailed it when you stated: "to believe something and do nothing about it is equal to unbelief." Belief/faith can not be completely expressed with mere words, any more than love can.

Marc said...

Good job Keith, this really is the direction theology in our time needs to proceed. We need to recognise PISTIS is not merely belief and that obedience is not merely a result of faith.

The Reformers have told us that justification is "from" (ek) faith and that faith is the antithesis of works, interpreted as moral achievement i.e. obedience.

They've told us that faith leads to works and that these things are contingent but distinct. But James won't have it. He saysfaith without works (i.e. obedience) is dead.

If James is correct then faith is contingent upon works and not the other way around. The Reformers got it exactly wrong.

If your works give life to faith then faith cannot exist without them and works logically precede faith. This only makes sense if faith is NOT belief but fidelity, faithfulness.

Run through your Bible and replace faith with faithfulness and see what happens.