Monday, July 26, 2010

Finding Time For the Bible

A few months ago in the House-to-House bimonthly publication that Four Mile Hill sends out to the surrounding community, brother Allen Webster put a list of ways that we could read the Bible throughout the day. The list included:
--Put a Bible under your pillow to read each night before you go to sleep.
--Wake up ten minutes earlier each morning.
--Turn off the TV at 8:00 p.m. each night and read to your children.
--Read a few verses at mealtime when the family is together.
--Talk less to have a few more minutes to read.
--Keep a Bible in the kitchen, to read while waiting for food to cook or for water to boil, or near the phone, to read while on hold.
--Carry a Bible in your purse or pocket, to read while waiting in line for doctors or when arriving early.
--Take a Bible on trips and read on a plane or in a hotel.
“Don’t just own a Bible—read it!”

Brother Webster is certainly on to something big concerning the Christian lifestyle. How many Bibles do you have in your homes that are just dust collectors? You may even have one set-up on a pedestal in the entrance to your home open to a favorite verse and looks are its only purpose. Looks can be deceiving though. Are you neglecting the “pure spiritual milk” that Peter tells us to “long for like newborn infants?” He wrote, “…that by it you may grow up into salvation” (1 Peter 2:2).

How can you long for something if you go without tasting it? In order to long for it we must consume it. Every Valentine’s Day my wife, Kayla, buys me a bag of delicious Cherry Cordial Cream Hershey Kisses. It seems the more I have the more I want. Once the bag is gone, I have withdrawals for a while and soon lose the craving and near forget about them until she surprises me with them the next year. If we go without the pure milk of the Bible, we too will soon lose the craving for it. Peter wrote, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith,” (1 Peter 5:8-9a). If we do not find time for the Bible, Satan will devour us. Where will you find time for the Bible this week?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Be a Show-Off

As a kid, whenever I received something new to me, I wanted to show it off to everyone. One of my most memorable Christmas presents was a miniature John Deer tractor with pedals on it that I could ride around. I hooked a wagon on the back of it and off I went loading up sticks, straw, dirt, pinecones, brothers’ G.I. Joes, and whatever else I could find. I was proud of that tractor and wanted everybody to see it.

James was concerned about Christians not showing off with good works the gift of salvation that had been given to them. He wrote, “But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works” (2:18). Some Christians were under the deception that faith only was sufficient for salvation. James course corrected, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?” (2:19-20).

James gives two examples of people who showed their faith by their works and did not even conceive that their faith alone was sufficient. The first example is when Abraham offered his son Isaac on the altar. Abraham believed in God and he showed that belief with an active faith through his works. “You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works,” (James 2:22). The second example is Rahab. She heard of the mighty works that God did for Israel and she believed and feared (Joshua 2:8-11). Rahab was justified not simply because of her belief in God, but because of her works in helping the Jewish spies escape sure destruction by the king.

As Abraham and Rahab were justified by works, we must also have more than just faith in God. Our faith must be active producing good works which play a role in justification. If you are thankful for the gift of grace that has been offered to you through Jesus Christ, why not be a show-off? How can you show-off this gift that has given you hope in the midst of despair? Paul wrote, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” (Romans 1:16). Are you ashamed? Be a show-off for the gospel today.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Why Would James Contradict Paul?

“So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:17). It cannot be much clearer of a statement for those who advocate faith alone is what saves us. Is one of these proponents the apostle Paul himself? He wrote, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:8-10). It appears that James and Paul hold two opposing viewpoints. Should we listen to Paul and count on grace through faith alone to save us, or do we adhere to James and accompany our faith with works?

If we are to read Ephesians 2:8-9, we cannot leave out verse 10. Paul describes two different kinds of “works.” Christianity derived from Judaism where certain “works” were required in order to keep the covenant with God such as circumcision and dietary regulations. When the New Covenant was established, those old works of the law were useless to be in right standing with God. Paul also wrote, “Yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified” (Gal. 2:16). Paul never once suggests giving up good works, only works of the law, “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10).

When James wrote that “faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead,” he did not contradict Paul, but agreed with him. James would never contradict Paul as no writer in the Bible would contradict another because it is God’s word (2 Tim. 3:16). There is no amount of works of the law that could justify us from sin; this is where grace through faith comes in hand. We make our faith alive by the good works we do. Paul did write that we were “created in Christ Jesus for good works…” (Eph. 2:10). Have you neglected to show someone the love of Christ through your good works? If not, you may need to grab a shovel to bury your dead faith.