December 2, 2010

Being a Christian Ain't Easy (Part 5 Faith and Works)

Faith or Works or Both?
We know the problem.  Humans are not capable of being “good” all the time.  Our intentions are to do the right thing, but it is hard to do the right thing. Our natural instinct of self preservation makes it difficult to submit the control of our lives to someone else. God knew this and sent Jesus to bear the punishment that is required for our sins. It’s like Jesus agreed to serve a 30 year prison sentence because I committed some heinous crime. And all I need to do is believe that Jesus is taking my punishment.

It all sounds pretty easy doesn’t it? If that were the end of the story, it would be easy. But James, the
leader of the early church in Jerusalem, was a very practical man. He knew having faith in Jesus could change a person forever. He also knew that many would proclaim their belief in Jesus but few would really be changed. He, very famously, said, “Faith that doesn’t show itself by good works is no faith at all- it is dead and useless.” (The Living Bible Paraphrased 2:17) Jesus said a similar thing, “Yes, the way to identify a tree or a person is by the kind of fruit produced. Not all who sound religious are really godly people.  They may refer to me as ‘Lord’, but still won’t get into heaven.  For the decisive question is whether they obey my Father in heaven” (The Living Bible Paraphrased, Matthew 7:20-21)

It is clear that both are looking for evidence that a person has real faith in Jesus. It’s not that the evidence (works) save the person.  The evidence simply verifies the faith the person has.  The true person of faith will live a life that reflects that faith.  And this is why it is important that a new, or old for that matter, Christian should be reading in God’s word constantly to discover the characteristics of a life pleasing to God. Frankly, this can be a life-long endeavor. There are many characteristics of a Godly life and obtaining those characteristics can often be difficult.

For example, read the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapters 5, 6 and 7 and you will find enough to keep you occupied for quite a while.
            * Do not swear at all
            * Do not resist one who is evil. ...if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to   him the other also.
            * Give to him who begs from you.
            * Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
            * And when you fast...
            * not be anxious about your life...
            * Judge not, that you be not judged...

And so on. Get in the Bible. Learn how to live as a Child of God. Live as a person who believes that God loved you so much, He was willing to sacrifice His only Son so you would not have to pay the price for your own sins.  Live a life trusting God has your best interest at heart and will take care of you.

Being a Christian Ain’t Easy, but it is well worth the effort!  

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