Sunday, July 17, 2016

Faith without Works is Dead

wait a minute ... isn't pitch black?
Recently, the image to the right reminded of my heritage, as a Bible Thumping Baptist.

The image didn't set right with me, and it took a few moments to process why.  First, it called back to the legalism I was entrench.  Secondly, it touched that old spirit of division and elitism that so easily ensnares all of us through Denominational Doctrine.

It's been a while since I've last read Genesis and Hebrews, so I headed back there to re-read the story of Noah.

And what do you think I found?  

Noah was saved by grace, through faith - not through obedience as many would like to believe.
But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord (Genesis 6:8)
By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith (Hebrews 11:7

But ... Obedience!

So then, what do we do with obedience? 

Obedience from the heart is what matters, not obedience for the sake of obedience - and that's where my Bible Thumping Baptist heritage took me through "learning the Bible."  They were all about being obedient to God.  Granted, there are many who can consume that doctrine and respond from the heart.  But since Christian denominations are rooted in Doctrine (which divides) rather than Relationship (which unites), I find it very unlikely that Mr. or Mrs. Average Christian actually gets it.  Rather, they find themselves right in the midst of living up to a standard through regular church attendance, singing in the choir, feeding the homeless and knocking on doors:
“What are your multiplied sacrifices to Me?”  Says the Lord. “I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed cattle; and I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs or goats.  “When you come to appear before Me, Who requires of you this trampling of My courts?  “Bring your worthless offerings no longer, incense is an abomination to Me.  New moon and sabbath, the calling of assemblies—I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly. (Isaiah 1:11-13)
The modern church doesn't need a relationship with God in order to function: they just need charismatic leadership, money and enough nicely designed programs to keep people entertained in their pursuit of pleasing God and measuring up through obedience.  So it's not the style of music that drives people away from God, it's doctrine without relationship enabled through good works programs.

Paul addressed this problem at Corinth.  He learned early on to not attempt to "wow" people with his dexterity of doctrine, but to bring them into an encounter (an experience) with God:
And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God ... and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God. (1 Corinthians 2:1-5)
But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I shall find out, not the words of those who are arrogant but their power. For the kingdom of God does not consist in words but in power.  (1 Corinthians 4:19-20)

Conclusion

It wasn't obedience that built the Ark, it was the works of faith, based in a relationship with God.
But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? (James 2:20)

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