Posts Tagged ‘ Works ’

Love Is An Act of Faith

Love is an act of faith, and whoever is of little faith is also of little  love. — Erich Fromm (1900-1980)

There are so many things in my life which I could have achieved up to this point. There are so many things in my life which I could have done up to this point. There are so many things in my life which I could have experienced up to this point.

I have not achieved many of the things which may have been achievable. I have not done many of the things which I might have done. I have not experienced many of the things which I could have experienced.

And I would not change a thing.

For starters, I may yet achieve, do, and experience many of those things. I do not know, and frankly I do not much care. I am aware of some of these things, but there is no point dwelling on them longer than a moment or two. (“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34)

The things most cherished in my life are those for which I had to sacrifice. I gave up time, resources, and possessions to help others because I love them.

As James said:

What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

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. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.

In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

James 2:14-26

Jesus explained that “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.” (John 14:21) In Matthew 25:31-46, He explained what this looks like. It is those who put their faith and professed love into action by feeding the hungry, caring for the stranger and needy, and visiting the lonely and imprisoned.

The great thing about our Lord is that He teaches by example. God sent promises throughout the Hebrew scriptures to send a Savior. We were told that “God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.” (1 Corinthians 1:9, only slightly out of context!) He demonstrated this faithfulness and love through a miraculous birth, preparing others to hear Him by raising up a faithful witness (John, the baptizer), throughout His ministry by doing all of the things He said those who love Him would do, and going to a crucifix to die to take the punishment for our unfaithfulness. A few days later, He even conquered death and the grave by rising again and offering a hope for everlasting life to those who believe in Him. This is the gospel message. This is the good news. This is the good word. This is the truth.

As Paul said:

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

Philippians 2:5-13

If you truly have faith, you will love others. It is not only commanded, but it is a direct outgrowth of a connection with God. Christians should be the most loving people on the planet. A failure to love is a failure to walk with God. Fortunately, God came to help all of us who fail constantly!

The Lovable Jerk

I know. A corvette and mention of a jerk. It must be that I have a corvette and you love me for it!

No, actually this is a dear friend and his first corvette. Trust me. It applies. You probably have a good question, though.

What is a lovable jerk?

To help you understand this, I have a couple of stories.

This past weekend was the monthly mens breakfast for my church. We had a great time at Denny’s with stories, life updates, and a great challenge about finishing strong. The pastor ducked out a little early. I jokingly thought to myself “He did not really finish! He left early!” When the rest of us walked to the front to pay our bills, there was some confusion at the register. It took a minute to figure out that “That one man with the glasses” (the pastor) “paid for it all.” I sent him a text message (do not get too mad at me, because I will explain myself):

“You are a jerk, but a lovable jerk who is greatly loved! May the Lord bless you and keep you, brother!”

(He loves me, too. And if you know about whom I am speaking, just praise God for his love.)

Another person is a lovable jerk. I put the same disclaimer here as for the pastor: praise God.

This man is that dear friend who, quite honestly, deserves a corvette. If you know this man, you agree. The story about him takes place when I was first allowed to see this man in action. Our car was having some issues, and (as has happened many times since) he offered to fix it. He fixed the car and paid for the parts he needed. I was at work when he did this, and I remember thinking “He better not have topped off the gas tank.” He did. He is still floored to this day that when I saw the gas gauge jump to “F” I looked at him and said “You jerk!” He asked his son later, “Was he mad at me?”
“No, dad,” he said. “He was saying thank you!”
Again, he still is amazed by this.

He has learned, though, what I really mean when I say it.

“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”
Matthew 5:14-16

When I call you a jerk, it usually means “You are jerking on my heart-strings, right now.”

When I call you a jerk, it usually means “You have done quite well!”

When I call you a jerk, it usually means “God, I praise You for this blessing through this person.”

You lovable jerks make me praise God.

Go be a lovable jerk for God. (See the related Philippians 2:12-13)

Go on! Do it!

(On a side note, today I was hired to work with 1st and 2nd grade autistic children in the same school district as my wonderful wife! Praise God! No, seriously … PRAISE HIM!)

Used goods

I once prayed “Father, use me for Your will.” When I say “once,” what I really mean is that I did not understand exactly what I was asking for when I first prayed that prayer.

Most of us would like to do something great for God. We have those dreams of leading thousands at a time to Christ or performing amazing miracles which lead many to investigate the claims of the Gospel message. Some of us want to write that devotional, Bible study curriculum, or song that changes the way people think about God.

We take Ephesians 2:10, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do,” and use it as evidence that we are to do great things.

I must point out that it merely says “to do good works” (and is also referring to our inability to gain God’s favor or salvation through works, but only by God’s grace). Jesus told us to do good works, as well.

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.

“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

Matthew 5:13-16

We must remember, however, that on our own “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6), which means our good works are worthless. It is only when we are used by God that our works mean anything, are in fact “good.”

“Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”

Philippians 2:12-13

 My simple prayer led me through many trials and tests. I was forced in many ways to re-examine all that I believe and think.

What have I learned?

Two things:
1) That I still have a lot to learn!
2) While we may be able to do things with good intentions, we can only truly do good things when used by God.

When we are God’s “used goods,” He will use us to accomplish His will, not only for us individually but for the all of Creation. We must remember that much of the time this means our good works may be doing the dishes, paying bills, and helping our neighbor. Sometimes it means scrubbing toilets, washing people, and feeding mean-spirited, smelly hungry people. Sometimes it means sharing the Gospel, preaching the Gospel, and leading ministries.

We must be open to God to know what to do. We must remember that much of our being used by God means faithfully living our lives in the day-t0-day routines of life. It also means faithfully following His leading if and when He uses us for “the greater things.”