Walk it out

Paul said we are saved by grace through faith and not by works, but James says a man is justified by works and not faith alone. So, who is right?

Well, they both are, and I am not just saying that because both statements are in the Bible and I need to find coherence. When we come across things in the Bible that does not seem to make sense or things that contradict one another we need to back up and look at the context (I feel like I say that a lot). So, what is the context here?

Paul is talking about salvation. Specifically, he is talking about being saved apart from our own efforts. James, however, was not talking about salvation. He is talking about showing your faith or living out your faith. I think an illustration might help.

Here is an obvious statement: When you have a child, you become a parent. But let’s break that down. You are connected to that child and you cannot be any more related to that child then you are as a parent. You cannot become more related or less related. I know that is redundant but stay with me. You share DNA with that child, you share ancestry with that child, you share a larger family connection with that child, and so on. You and that child and related. That is salvation. It happened the moment you accepted Christ as Lord and Savior, and it is done. That is what Paul was talking about.

James is talking about acting like a parent or being a parent. James is saying “OK, parent you have a child now be the parent.” This is the works portion. This is waking up a 4 AM to feed that child, teaching that child to walk, changing diapers, and so on. It is taking the thing you claim to have and actually doing with it what you are supposed to. The statements from Paul and James are not opposed to one another but completely connected.

Now as I have said many times all analogies fall short, but I hope this helps.

When we read these statements from Paul and James we should put them together to see the bigger picture. We should see that we are saved by grace, through faith, and now we need to live like that is true.

Just a thought,

Mike

 

Is Christianity too Narrow?

DSC_0142

Christians and or Christianity has sometimes been called, “narrow-minded” or that it is “not open to other ideas” and these charges are true. In all fairness, the charges (of those sorts) are true I have to give them that. It is not open to a lot of ideas, changes, or even modifications. While there are some things to keep in mind about changes (we’ll touch on that in a moment) we should first address why Christianity is so “narrow.”

To begin with it is narrow because that’s what Jesus said it is. In Matthew 7:13 Jesus said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it.” That one is pretty self-explanatory but just in case…. Jesus is saying there is an easy way and a hard way in life. The hard way is to accept Him, His teachings, and most importantly, trust in His atoning death and subsequent resurrection. The easy way is to do nothing. It is hard to trust and follow Jesus sometimes. There are times when you want to go your own way and do you own thing but to trust in the Messiah is hard at times. It requires you to fall back and remember what you once knew or what you cannot see.

Another example of why it is hard is because there is no room for additions to the Gospel. Paul said in Galatians 1:8But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel other than what we have preached to you, a curse be on him!” Again this one is pretty harsh and straight shooting. The Galatians were dealing with some legalist coming in and trying to tell them that they first needed to become Jews then they could be saved. That is like saying you cannot go to church until you clean up your act which we all know is malarky. Paul was so mad about this he wrote a whole letter (or book) to fight against this idea. There is nothing you can do to add to your salvation and nothing you can do to improve it either. It is what it is and it is finished! Jesus did all the work you just trust in Him (see above).

Christianity is hard because there can be only one way to God and that is the way He tells you to go. Jesus is not a way but the way (pay attention to the articles “a” and ”the”).

So what the other idea of changing with the times? There are some things that need to be looked at here. Remember that the Bible and the books that make it up were written thousands of years ago so the times have changed. Right? Well yes and no. Times have changed and situations have changed, but the issues remain. Sin is still bad, love and obedience to God are still good. When you read the Bible look for the principle in the original situation and then apply that to your situation. If you cannot understand the original situation then find resources. There are thousands of them. Email me if you need to I am happy to help you find out what was going on and put things in context (mike@freedomintruth.me). The point remains, Jesus is the way to the Father because He came from the Father to speak the Father’s words. That does not change.

Remember the Bible is 66 separate books that make up a larger book.

One last word. Taking one book, story, or verse and making it the focus is like taking a section from Lord of the Rings and saying the series is about a guy named Sauron who rules middle earth. Or taking Harry Potter and making it about a mean teacher who didn’t like Harry. No, you read the whole book and put it in context. Context of when it was written, who it was originally written to, and how these people wrote. You cannot judge history by any other standard than the standard that was used at the time. That includes events and the recording of events. We should not read into the Bible our thoughts and ideas but read the Bible and get thoughts and ideas. Did you know canon (as in Biblical Canon) means reed, measuring stick, or criterion by which something is judged? As Christians we are to let the Bible judge us.

Don’t exclude what or who Jesus Included!

Ok, one more last word. Because Christianity is a narrow way does not mean you get to be a um well how about we go with meany. Jesus is the one who made it narrow (I am the way the truth and the light), but is also the one who invited everyone including a thief dying on a cross, a prostitute, a tax collector, a host of other sinners, and me to come to Him. If I could sum up the message of the Gospel in a sentence or two. You cannot earn or make your way to God. He came in the flesh died on a cross, rose again three days later, and makes you clean so you can come. You just have to accept that God loves you that much and that is a hard thing to do.

Just a thought,

Mike

Reconciliation and other fancy words

Don’t use a five-dollar word when a fifty-cent word will do. – Mark Twain

I like that quote because it reminds me as I study new things to not to use the words to sound fancy.  However these words exist for a reason, and there are places and times for them.  There seems to be a general consensus that we need to dumb down everything in order to be easy on those that do not know.  To which I reply somethings are inherently difficult to comprehend and refusal to express them to appease those that refuse to learn is ludicrous.

Now that I have given a rant on to the topic.

I love the reconciliation.  I love reconciling my checkbook, and most importantly I love being reconciled to God.  I have been reading a book by an author I will not name and I must say that while I have gleaned a few things from it mostly I am frustrated with every word I read and page I turn.  Why am I doing this to myself you ask?  Am I glutton for punishment?  Do I enjoy wanting to throw a book?  No, it is because I want to better understand his (in general the larger movement) point of view.  I find that the most frustrating thing is not the ideals that are being espoused but the manner in which they are communicated. I have also noticed that the manner in which these particular ideas are communicated is indicative of the movement as a whole.  Chiefly it is arrogant, condescending, and overstating of their opponents views.   I will not name the movement because the very nature of how they label themselves is absurd to me, and I will not name the author because it would start an argument I do not wish to have.  I will however talk about reconciliation.

Again this is a bigger word than I typically like to use but it is very important.

The movement I am referring to likes this word and the 5 verses that contain it very much.  I agree, however as Inigo Montoya said “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

So what is reconciliation?  Reconciliation is the element of salvation that refers to the results of the atonement.  John calvin describes it as the peace between humanity & God that results from expiation of religious sin.  D.M. Loyd Jones says of reconciliation God & man are no longer at war.  Two great verses on reconciliation are 2 Corinthians 5:19-20 (below)

namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

From the verses about I will draw out a few important items.

God has reconciled us to Himself – God is done with the issue on His part.  He was the offended party and has said I forgive you, lets move on.  That is a done deal no questions asked (on my part).  The verses above and others (Rom 5:10-11, Eph 2:14-17, Col 1:19-22) are very clear that God has reconciled the world to Himself and placed all things in Christ.  That is not something I can or wish to argue.  The wall of separation has been removed, and now we can access the Father, through the Son, by the Spirit.  No arguments here.

Reconciliation is not relationship – This one is very important as well and cannot be missed.  As we read above, God is reconciled to us but that does not mean we have a relationship with Him.  Some of of the writings I have read will not say this but imply it.  That should not be.  God is no longer counting our sins against us but that does not mean that we have fellowship with Him.  Instead we can have a relationship with Him because He has reconciled the world to Himself.  How about an example.  I have a brother I have never met.  I know he exist, and he knows I exist.  Yet I have never spoken to him, and do not have a relationship with him.  We are reconciled as in there is no hostility there.  If he were to reach out to me (I do not have contact info for him) then I would welcome him with open arms.  One leads to the other but it does not equal the other.  Reconciliation does not equal righteousness (or relationship) as Romans 5:19 points out.

Reconciliation is not sanctification – This is one that gets hot but again they are not synonyms.  They are not the same thing.  Sanctification is both a one time event and an ongoing process.  Quick definition time; Sanctification is the act or process of acquiring sanctity, of being made or becoming holy.  It is being set apart.  We are at the moment of accepting the finished work of Jesus Christ sanctified (set apart, and looked at a holy) in the beloved.  But we must also continue to sanctify our lives as we grow more like our Saviour.  This is what I believe Philippians 2:12 means.  I have seen in my own life how it has become and how I have become different because I have continued to sanctify my life to the Lord.  It has been a process of continual growth and maturity one which I am confident will not stop (Phil 1:6).  Think Romans 12:2.

Reconciliation is not removal of rules – This is the one that might cause the most outrage among my friends.  Some will shout “He’s a legalist!” or “Pharisee!” or possibly (and quite likely) “I am under Grace not Law!”.  Well calm down already, I am not promoting legalism, or some sort of mixed grace message.  What I am saying however is there are certain shoulds and oughts you are supposed to adhere to.  Not for earning or keeping salvation but because you are saved.  For example, love the Lord, love your neighbor.  Thinks these don’t apply?  Jesus disagrees.  He said “If you love me, keep my commands.” John 14:16.  What does that mean?  Well He leaves that up to you to for the most part.  But generally speaking don’t be a jerk, help people when you can, treat God with the respect He deserves.  You get the general idea.  Two last points on this one.

First I have been told this analogy a few times.  You do not do things for your spouse (and children) because you have to, you do it because you love them.  I see the logic in that and believed it for a minute or two.  The problem is that it is wrong.  You do things for your spouse (and children) because you love them and are obligated to.  For your spouse, you took a vow to love, honor… sickness, health.. you get the idea.  It is because you love them you keep the vow to love and serve.  Your children come with an implied and legal obligation.  You do it out of love, but you must do it all the same.  It is still something I should and ought to do.

Secondly some claim there is no law that applies to them but yet they confess they still sin (at least on rare occasion).  This I do not understand.  1 John 3:4 defines sin as the breaking of law.  If there is no law there is no sin, therefore you do not sin, therefore cheating on your wife is OK, being a drunk is OK, murder is OK, and so on.  You cannot have one and not the other (as I understand it).  If you sin you break the law, if you break the law there is law.

The question is not is there law, and it is not how do I keep this law, and it is not should I keep this law.  The question is even though I break it what is left for me.  The answer is Jesus.  Jesus came in Grace and Truth.  He is bigger than my ability to fail, and by His working in me I find a removal of desire to sin.  I live by the faith of the Son of God, not I but Christ in me.

Reconciliation is part of the bigger picture.  When I look at a motorcycle, I see many parts working together to create a thing of beauty.  The wheels, the motor, the handlebars, and so forth.  They all work together to make it a motorcycle.  Reconciliation is part of a bigger picture called Salvation.  Lets not put God in a little box and say this is who God is instead lets unwrap His presents and enjoy each of them.

Just a thought,

Mike

ooh Mr Kotter, Mr Kotter

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. 2 Tim 3:16

Most believers know this verse and we know that it means the Bible is the Word of God and we can and should trust Scripture, but let me drop this thought on you. If Scripture is from God then it is Holy, and if it is Holy then we must treat it as Holy, that means to set it apart. We do not drop parts of Scripture here and there pasting bits and pieces like decoupage. No we must care for it and use it in it’s proper and rightful places. Some non-believers run around throwing out Scripture bombs because they do not understand it but we have an understanding and are called to treat it properly.

I have been given the privilege to share the word with some middle school boys today and I give it as much thought and prayer as I did when I spoke in the prisons, to congregations, or in weekly Bible studies because the avenue is not of importance, but the Word is of utmost importance. It does not matter if you speak to hundreds, thousands, or 1 the Word of God is mighty and the fact that you get the privilege to read it and share it is a gift from God. Do not take it lightly.

Just a thought,
Mike

Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.
James 3:1

Joy to the World

Christmas is tomorrow!  I remember as a kid hardly being able to wait for Christmas.  Christmas Eve was usually spent in agony waiting for the day to finally arrive.  I used to try and make myself go to bed early just so it would finally be Christmas.  Now that I am grown up (at least in age) and have children it is not much different.  To see the joy they have on Christmas morning is wonderful.  But there is one thing that is different now.  There is something that has changed.  Now I have Christ in my heart and life.  Now I have redemption and forgiveness, and that has drastically changed how I view Christmas.

Before I start let me say I do not know exactly when Jesus was born, and to a large extent I do not care.  From an academic point of view I enjoy the topic and discussion but really it makes no difference to me.  If it was September, October, June or December it would not change what Christmas is.  Christmas is Joy.  Joy to the world.

I was thinking the other day about Mary, and how she was waiting to deliver her baby.  Thinking about how all Jewish women from Eve to Mary were hoping that the baby they were carrying was the Messiah.  Mary knew the baby she was to deliver was the Deliver.  Think of the centuries of anticipation.  Then I started thinking about the Angels and the Earth.  They too were waiting for the Deliver to come.  The angels did not know when He would come but that He would come.  The Earth did not know but it knew.  They too had centuries of anticipation.  That is why the angels sang they had been waiting to see this day.  When the king would come.  

This year when you sing Joy to the World sing with rejoicing that you do not wait for Him to come the first time.  Now we sing with anticipation for His return.  

Just a thought,

Mike

What does He want from me?

Have you ever asked yourself “What does God want from me?”  I know I have from time to time.  I know that He does not need anything from from me but sometimes it seems like He asks a lot of me.  So what does God want from me?  What does He want from you?  The simple and short answer is He wants everything, or to be more clear He wants all of you.  

God wants all of you because He has created you to belong to Him.  He created you to choose and then presents Himself as the clear and proper choice.  There is not a single verse that points this out but as you search the Bible and the entire story of redemption you start to get the picture.  But what kind of man would I be without a Scripture to help point this out?  Ephesians 1:5-6 gives quick synopsis of this:

having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.

God wants you so bad that He chooses you first, and then makes us acceptable in His Son Jesus.  He has done all of the hard work to make the relationship happen.  But I digress we are not talking about what salvation here.  Nope this time we are talking about the Christian who struggles with wanting to know what God wants from you.  Hummmmm.  I have a problem now though.  I cannot separate the two.  It seems I cannot find a way to distinguish between God saving you and what He asks of you.  This might be harder than I first thought.  Give me a minute to think about this…….

OK I am back.  Did you miss me?  Still with me?  Here it is here is what I have for you.  1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says you are not your own you belong to God because He purchased you at a price.  You are not your own, but you belong to another and you have someone to answer to.  Now let me give you an illustration or two.  First is from marriage and the second from family.

In marriage you take a wife (or a husband), you pledge to honor, cherish, love, and devote yourself to that person.  You go into the relationship choosing to give yourself and your thoughts over to that person right.  Well the Bible says that we are the Bride of Christ and we should go into that relationship the same way.  When making a decision in marriage you ask what the other person would want and make a mutually consenting, and beneficial choice.  Same way with walking with God.  The only difference is He is smarter than you and knows what is best, but He still talks to you about it.

Second is the family example.  If you have children you want what is best for them and you know what they are capable of.  More than that you know if you ask more than they are capable of you will help them achieve that goal.  Well again God is the best father ever and He knows what you are capable of and if it is more than you can do He will help.  He does not want you to fail, but has given you every spiritual blessing, and every good and perfect gift comes from Him.

So what does God want out of the person He has purchased with the Blood of Jesus?  He wants it all.  He wants you to listen and respond.  He wants you to obey.  He wants you to love those you need it.  He wants you to give the same way He gave.  He has shown what love is and He wants you to love.  Sometimes it is hard, and it hurts.  Sometimes people hurt you, but when they do you pray “Father forgive them, they know not what they do.”  He wants you to give your will over to His.  He does not ask for too much though, He asks for it all.

Just a thought,

Mike