Friday, March 30, 2012

By Faith I . . .

March 30, 2012

"So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless." James 2:17

What have you done because of your faith?

I penned this question in the margin as I devoured my latest choice of Christian non-fiction. Few questions, or books for that matter, have challenged me more.

I spent three months engrossed by the book Not a Fan by Kyle Idleman (Zondervvan, 2011). Normally I finish a book within a few days but this read required time to marinate. In his book Kyle challenges readers to determine if they are truly followers of Jesus . . . or simply fans.

Kyle writes, "Here's what fans tend to do: they confuse their feelings for faith. But your feelings aren't faith until they are expressed. . . . As we see in Hebrews 11, faith should have a story attached to it. There is a tendency to define yourself as a follower based on how you feel about Jesus, but following requires there to be more than a feeling. Following requires movement." (pp 105-106)

What have I done on account of my faith?

The question haunted me for days.

I attend church every Sunday. But that doesn't require faith, except for maybe a belief that the building in which I choose to worship will not collapse.

I'm kind and loving toward my family, friends and neighbors . . . er, um, most of the time. "But even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners do that much!" (Luke 6:32-33)

I found myself at a loss for words.

What have I done, in what area have I stretched myself to act because I truly believe what I say I believe?

The Gospels tell us that everywhere Jesus went people brought the sick to Him. Mark 6:55 reads, "and they ran throughout the whole area, carrying sick people on mats to wherever they heard He was."

I get the impression from this verse that "they" who carried the sick people on mats were not sick themselves. Rather, because of their faith in Jesus, these believers acted; they carried to Jesus those who were in desperate need of healing but who were too sick to carry themselves before the Healer.

What have you done on account of your faith in Jesus?

Oh friends, if all we do is attend church on Sunday, we're missing out. If all we do is listen to Christian radio, we're missing out. If we commit ourselves to Bible study but never share with another through our actions what we've learned, we've missed out.

We can't just listen to God's Word. We must do what it says. Otherwise, we are only fooling ourselves. Pure and genuine religion
in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in
their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt us. (James 1:22, 27)

What have you done because of your faith?

The question should not ignite a sense of condemnation but rather a sense of wonder, awe and excitement, "What have I done because I truly believe in Jesus?" We do not earn our way into Heaven. In John 6:29 Jesus said, "This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the One He has sent." We become reconciled with God through faith in Christ. But it is on account of our faith that we act. Faith by itself isn't enough. James said that unless our faith produces good deeds, it is dead and useless (James 2:17).

Maybe we travel out of the country to minister to those whom the world considers "the least of these;" maybe we simply walk across the street to take a meal to an unbelieving neighbor. Maybe we teach a class to share with others the hope we're found for ourselves through His Word; maybe we simply read the Bible and begin to share what we've learned with those inside our own home. Maybe we invite one of our child's non-church-going friends over to play. Maybe we forgo a cup of coffee or a fast-food meal and instead use that money to buy a meal for the homeless; maybe we travel downtown once a month taking the homeless bags, blankets, personal garments and hugs (I have a friend who does this, you can join her). Maybe we cancel our cable (only to discover the joy of FREE basic cable, including 5 Christian channels, through an antenna and converter box) so that we can afford to sponsor a child in need. Maybe we homeschool our children; maybe we begin a family devotional time at the end of the day. Maybe we travel 24+ hours in the car with our young children in one weekend to help tornado victims from out-of-state (nope, wasn't me); maybe we help a widow spruce up her yard for the spring. The possibilities are endless.

I invite you to respond. Post a comment to answer the following statement:

By faith I . . .

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