Archive for January, 2011

Faith & Works

January 21st, 2011

For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. – James 2:26

Everybody believes something. And whether what we believe is true or false, right or wrong, we will act on what we believe. That is to say that faith affects behavior. As we learned how the Scriptures define faith, now we will take a look at how faith works it way out in our daily living.

Those given to us as examples of faith in the Scripture did things as a result of their faith. Faith produces action. Faith works. Faith is not a work in and of itself. We are not saved by works (Ephesians 2:8-9). Faith is trust; it is belief. Specifically as we discuss it, faith is trust in the person of Jesus Christ. So while faith is not a work, faith does work. If it is alive and active and real, then faith will result in good works. Why is this? Faith leads to behavior. If we believe something it shows in how we live.

James tells us in his letter in the New Testament that faith that does not work is dead. Dead faith is useless. It cannot save. It is dead, lifeless, meaningless, and void. On the other hand, faith that results in works is living and active faith.

Let’s make a practical application here. If we claim to believe something but that belief does not result in action or behavior then we really do not believe what we claim to believe. The best example I ever heard of this came from my mentor in the ministry who stated it this way:

If you are in the woods and believe that you hear a bear coming to get you, you will run just as fast as if a bear is really there coming to get you.

Belief results in action, in works, in behavior. If we really believe something to be true, we act accordingly. This truth can have a kick to it when we start to examine our belief system. If we claim to believe something but it does not have a direct effect on what we do, then we really do not believe it. As I stated, everybody believes something, whether it is true or false, and we act on what we believe.

There is a two-fold danger here of which we need to be aware. First there is a danger in believing a lie. If we have a false belief in our belief system then how will that affect the way we act? For example, in the Old Testament King Saul became jealous and thought that David was out to kill him. He acted accordingly, becoming suspicious to the point that he tried to kill David by throwing a spear at him while he sat at the dinner table. Saul’s false belief led to murderous intent and actions (1 Samuel 18:9-12).

Secondly there is a danger that we will think that we believe something, but in reality we do not believe it. How do we know? If we think we believe but do not act, then we do not really believe. This happens when we mentally assent to something accepting in our minds that it is true, but we really do not embrace this belief with true faith, and as a result, we do not act on what we claim we believe. Assent without belief makes no difference in the way we think, talk, act, or live.

This would be exemplified in the life of a person who believed that a bear was coming through the woods to eat them and they just sat there. It makes no sense to think that your life is in danger and not try to fight or flee. Yet when it comes to doctrine, people claim to believe sound doctrine while in truth they may not even understand that doctrine at all. They think they believe the truth, but it does not affect the way they live. They hear, but do not do (James 1:22).

The real, eternal danger here is that we either believe a lie (false doctrine) or we think we are trusting Christ when we really are not. If we believe a lie, we are doomed, for only the truth makes us free (John 8:32). If we think we believe the truth but do not actually believe it, then we are self deceived and are in danger of hearing those most awful words in Scripture, “I never knew you, depart from Me” (Matthew 7:23).

Remember the Parable of the Soils from Matthew 13? Two of the four soils mentioned embraced the Word quickly but then died without bearing fruit – the shallow soil where the seed had no root and the thorny soil where the cares of this world choked the plant – they represent people who emotionally or mentally embrace the preaching of the gospel but do not actually have faith. They do not really believe what they have heard. What proof do we have of this? There is no root and no fruit. They wither and die with no root, or they never bear fruit being choked out by the cares of this world. If they had true faith, they would yield fruit (good works).

In order to understand faith we must strive to believe what God tells us so that we might rightly inform our belief system. We must be sure that what we claim to believe affects the way we live. In the Scriptures this is the idea that a good tree bears good fruit. If we have faith in Jesus Christ, we will bear good fruit. If we do not bear good fruit, then we need to examine what we really believe. We may believe in ourselves all the while thinking that this misplaced faith is the same thing as faith in Christ.

Saving faith is alive, it produces spiritual fruit, it is active and real because it is faith in the Word of God and in God Himself. Saving faith has no room for self, for pride, or for licentiousness (using grace as a license to sin). Saving faith is a gift from God. It is trust in Christ. It is proof of what we cannot see and the reality behind that for which we hope (Hebrews 11:1).

Broken Hearts, Dating and Being a Believer….

January 2nd, 2011

On another message board I occasionally visit, a member posted this question a while back (minor edits such as spelling out words added):

Didn’t have anyone else to talk to so i thought I’d try here…Just ended a two year relationship with this girl.

She basically told me she didn’t believe in God anymore and she was going to return to her old lifestyle (ie. going out partying, drinking, etc.). So I told her we couldn’t be together, unless she was with Christ. She knew it was coming [because] she knew my convictions on this type of stuff, so it ended well and there was a mutual understanding, but we both were on the phone crying for hours (yeah I’m not gonna lie, I cried like a baby lol) because it sucked that it wasn’t working out.

We’d actually been on and off for a while and I know two years isn’t long but she was my first love and I’m really having a hard time dealing with this…could use some encouragement from other believers.

Anyone got any help getting through this? I know this is God’s plan and I’m doing the right thing…I just need help and a lil support at the moment.

I responded:

Sup fam.

As someone who more than once has been in your shoes, I empathize with your situation.

Be of good cheer. Your heart will heal in time and life will go on. It’s always hard at first.

Just for reference sake, I’m 37 [at the time this was written]. My ‘first love’ broke my heart in 9th grade and I cried like a baby. I had my heart broken again about two years later with one girl I dated, who ended up cheating on me…twice. My high school sweetheart and I (my senior year) broke up when I was on my way to freshmen year in college, so I left high school feeling I had everything (I even asked her to marry me, we had the ‘perfect’ prom, etc….) and entered college to a new culture, no girlfriend and no friends (since most of the people I went to HS with ended up going to another college). I had one major relationship in college and just KNEW she and I would grow old together….until she moved away and we broke up (I later found out she’d cheated on me, gotten pregnant and didn’t want to tell me). I was so jacked up, I literally wasted two years of college (still paying back loans for that time period NOW….) and then dropped out for 2 years. Christian walk floundered somethin’ terrible – one minute I’m on the internet debating atheists, then after I shut my computer down, I’m in bed with my girlfriend.

Fast forward through 2 more major relationships (I’m purposely excluding all the minor ones) and I’m here in 2010, sitting next to my wife, supposed to be putting grades in for students, but I’m posting on HCR. A few days back, I told my wife that these (the times she and I were having now) are some of the happiest times in my life.

I look back at 20 years (literally – from 88 until now) of how I handled relationships, who I allowed myself to get close to, how much of myself I invested in people emotionally, etc…. and realize that a lot of the heartbreak I endured over the years, I could’ve avoided. Hindsight is always 20/20….

I forget how old you are, fam…but let me hit you with a few words of wisdom I’ve learned over the years.

Guard your heart.

The world’s model is ‘boyfriend-girlfriend, invest your feelings and time and ‘self’ into the relationship….just like you would if you’re married…and it’ll eventually lead there.’ The problem is…these relationships AREN’T marriage. They ACT like marriage…to the point where ‘breaking up’ almost feels like a DIVORCE in some cases (emotionally, mentally and psychologically, since you feel yourself breaking a ‘bond’ you’ve established with that person). Too often, people (including Christian folk), in the absence of better and wiser counsel, simply assume ‘well, that’s the way we did it, we ended up married and ok’ and they let their kids do it or they themselves do it.

We ‘date’ for long periods of time, emotionally testing out each other, but never leading to a commitment (in scripture, the only commitments are betrothal – which is way more than engagment…and marriage. There are no ‘dating’ relationships). What that does is actually make it harder later in life for you to ‘attach correctly’ to anyone once you do get married. Dating-invest your emotions- breakup – dating – invest your emotions – break up…..(repeat) eventually trains your heart, body and emotions that attachment is temporary. But the way God designed us, the concept of ‘one flesh’ was meant to be permanent. It didn’t just involve sex and all that we are physically, but also our emotional and mental oneness with another person. So even in relationships where people don’t have sex, if they are investing themselves emotionally with people they aren’t married to and have no immediate intention of marrying, they are setting themselves up for heartbreak.

I’m not saying all of this to jump on you – I’m the LAST person to jump on someone in this area, as it’s literally taken me all these years to figure out a lot of this stuff (even though I’d read some of it in Don Raunikar’s book Choosing God’s Best and Josh Harris’s I Kissed Dating Goodbye). I share all of this to warn you, as a younger brother, and others reading who may think that ‘people who advocate courtship are too strict’. There’s a reason (always is) behind the things that older folks tell younger folks and younger folks think it’s stupid.

As far as how you handled things….praise God. You chose well, especially in light of 1 Cor. 6:9-10 [2 Cor. 6:14-18 as well]. God will honor your decision to serve Him rather than yourself. You already know it was the right thing to do….so for now… life will go on.

One huge part of helping with this is to spend some time establishing relationships with oldersame age and younger folks in your church. I say this as the guy who, back in the late 90’s, had more ‘internet friends’ than friends physically present in my life.  Invest yourself in the lives of others. There’s some kid younger than you (12-13) who is about to start ‘dating’ and having a girlfriend and think that ‘this is what you’re supposed to do’ and ‘there ain’t nothin’ wrong with dating non-Christians’. Do you want to see him where you are (emotionally) right now ? He needs you. There are older believers who would be more than willing to pour into your life right now from their life experience. Fellowship with the rest of the body can be some of the sweetest times in life, bro. And by fellowship, I mean shut down the computer, sit in person with folks, eat and talk theology, life, doctrine, problems and encourage each other from scripture. The less time you have alone to fixate on your heart being broken, the faster it will heal.

I say this as the guy who used to listen to Metallica back in high school whenever I got depressed, especially if it was over a girl. It’s a wonder I didn’t become suicidal at the time.

Now for the future…guard your heart better. Boyfriends and Girlfriends aren’t the healthiest (emotionally) thing for folks who aren’t ready for marriage, to be engaged in seeking out. Key words. If you’re ready for marriage, seek with a purpose and move toward it quickly (That’s a WHOLE SEPARATE conversation). Otherwise, keep the relationships brother-sister, as scripture says we’re to treat those we ain’t married to (1 Tim. 5:2). You don’t invest your heart and emotions in a sister like you would a wife. Now when THAT sister comes along, then yes. This will save you from a lot of heartbreak in the future AND free you up to love your WIFE the way you should in the future when you do get married.

Hope this helped and encouraged you, fam.