Life Verses, part two

Today I continue to look at my three life verses.  These are special verses that have really just taken up residence in my heart and have become a big part of who I strive to be.

My second life verse is one that’s come to me only over the course of the past few months. I’d say this one probably dates back to July of this year. It’s an aspect of the Bible that has tripped up many people, but I find to be such a deep and honest look at what it means to truly be a follower of Jesus.

James 2:14-17 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

If you wanna watch some super intellectual Christians get into a heated discussion, bring up this verse and the whole faith vs works debate and then just sit back and grab some popcorn. This set of verses can be so divisive in the Christian faith, but for me I’ve never even had a tiny bit of an issue with it. Here’s the fact about salvation, straight from the word of God.

John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

I mean, it really doesn’t get much more clear, right? You don’t earn your way to salvation, you can’t work your way into heaven. The only way to salvation is through Jesus, through accepting this incredible gift of His sacrifice for our sins.

With that so clearly established, and with the knowledge that the Bible isn’t going to come along late in the book and start contradicting the most important thing in the book, I never had any great theological issue with James 2:14-17. It’s not saying that somehow you have to earn your way into heaven, it’s saying that if you’re truly following after Jesus, there is going to be evidence of it in your life.

You know, I didn’t realize it until just now, but this verse actually goes perfectly with the verse from yesterday. I talked so much yesterday about how when you start to delight in the Lord it naturally changes the desires of your heart. Well, when you start to chase after Jesus, when you start to live out your faith, your faith naturally produces works.

The verses mention clothing for someone, and every time I read it I picture the following scenario. You’re walking somewhere and it’s cold, and you’ve got on a long sleeve shirt and a jacket. It’s your blue jacket, the one you wear when it’s only sort of cold. At home you have your heavy jacket, and then a few hoodies, and that one jacket you haven’t worn in a few years. And you go by a homeless person who only has on a t-shirt. So you stop, and you ask if they’re cold, and they say yes. So you pray for them, ask God to keep them warm and take care of them, and then you walk away.

Now, prayer is always good, and I always recommend it, but God had you positioned to be the answer to a prayer in that situation. I still would pray for someone in that situation, but uh, don’t you also pull off your coat and give it to them? You have more coats at home, probably have a job, so you could conceivably buy a new coat, probably have somewhere warm to sleep that night. The loss of that one coat doesn’t mean much to you, and yet it could mean everything to that homeless person.

To me, that is the embodiment of these verses. Being a disciple of Jesus is about more than just having pretty words to share with people, it’s about emulating the behavior of Jesus. It’s about going above and beyond what’s expected of you. My great fear in life is for someone to have a religious/spiritual encounter with me and get less than what they expected. Jesus never walked away from helping someone and left them saying “Oh, that’s it? That’s all He’s got for me?” He’s an above and beyond kind of King, and we’re called to be just like Him. We’re called to go the extra mile for people, to love on a level that surpasses expectations, to help on a level that forces people to ask “why are you doing all of this for me?”

Everything we do should be in the pursuit of bringing glory to God. It should be in the pursuit of sharing God’s love with every single person we can. If I toss a dollar at a homeless person on a cold winter night and say “God bless you” as I walk by, but you stop, talk with the homeless person, give them your coat, pray with them, encourage them, and then say “God bless you”, which one of us gave that homeless person a more accurate portrayal of God that night?

If I died tonight, and tomorrow people said about me “he went above and beyond for people”, then I tell you that I would die with no regrets. Because that means I was displaying the love of Jesus to others, that my faith was alive in me, that it was producing visible works. I’ve lived the dead faith lifestyle before. Not only did I rarely ever impact anyone’s life, but my own life was empty as well. When you’re serving others, when you’re going above and beyond for them, your heart beats in rhythm with the heart of God. Your life is overrun with goodness, peace reigns inside of you, and the more love you pour out into the lives of others the more room there is for God to pour into you, and you’re constantly renewed and refreshed by Him. Faith without works is dead, but living faith, a faith that moves you to help others, that faith will carry you up mountains. It will carry you across oceans, it will make you a witness to the outpouring of God’s love, will give you a front row seat to God changing lives, healing sickness, and saving souls.

PRAYER AND CLOSING

Father God, thank you so much for the book of James.  I love this book, it holds a special place in my heart because it’s the first one I studied last year when I rededicated my life to you.  Lord, let us be a people with living faith inside of us, let there never even be the possibility of questioning whether or not our faith is alive.  And God, for anyone who is living that dead faith lifestyle, I’m asking for a resurrection right now.  You’re the God who conquered death, and I’m asking you to raise faith to life in people today.  I know you do it and I know it’s possible, because you did it in me last year.  Thank you that you’re bringing people back to laugh, that you’re flooding them with passion for you again.  I’m so excited about you, God, you just keep doing amazing things.  Thank you for all that you’ve done, all that you’re doing, and all that you will do.  In the name of Jesus I pray, amen.

Well, I love you guys.  As always, thanks for reading, I hope God is speaking to you through these blogs.  Keep studying your Bible, stay in prayer, it’s just such a special time to be chasing after the heart of God.  He’s got some incredible stuff in store for us!

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