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Archive for January, 2014

James on Saving Faith

January 30th, 2014

Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

James 1:21

Because James wrote of faith without works being dead, some have imagined that he wrote that works and faith are both together what saves us. But take look at the verse above in the first chapter of James. It is clear that James knew only one way of salvation, that is that someone would hear the gospel – “the implanted word” – and receive it with faith – here represented by “receive with meekness.”

He has, in fact, given us a wonderful illustration of salvation, it is like a seed being planted in the ground. If the ground receives the seed, it will sprout. If the ground is no good, for some reason, or if the seed is not good, nothing will happen, but everything that happens does so because of the act of planting. All the growth and fruit and future of the plant depends on that simple act of planting.

This is how it is with us as well. The seed of the gospel is planted in our hearts, communicated by someone else, but upon the conviction of the Spirit it penetrates our outer crust to go beneath the surface of our lives, and there we embrace it in faith. Like a seed, it does not need to penetrate very deeply at first, later as it grows it will send its roots down into our souls bringing deeper conviction, a deeper work of grace, along with deeper peace and joy. But at first it just needs to be “deep enough” for us to consider our need of grace and to hear the voice of the Spirit saying that Jesus is the answer to our need. And we turn to Him in faith and trust.

All that happens later in our life depends on that salvation moment, on that tiny seed of the gospel germinating in our souls and taking root. How much gospel is required to be saved? That is a good question, and from the apostle’s sermons in Acts we have an idea that the message is about Christ, His life, His death, His resurrection, about God’s love and our need of grace, and about our need to turn from sin and to trust in Him. Romans 10:9-10 gives some guidelines for us to believe that Christ is Lord, that He died and is risen. But a salvation event is really more about receiving a person, receiving Christ Himself, and not just accepting some teachings about Him. So He is present in the event and He calls out to people to trust in Him. This seed that is planted is the voice of God calling out to our hearts, and because of this dynamic I am not sure that any of us can say exactly how much of the gospel is needed. “Enough” is needed, but I have seen some people saved before I finished my explanation.

To me this validates the divine nature of salvation. The gospel seed is a living seed and it speaks on its own to the hearer. This is such a great relief to the preacher, evangelist, or witness. Otherwise, we may fear and think, “Did I say enough?” “Did I say the right thing?” But it is not like that. To share the faith is to bring someone to the living Christ who calls to them and urges them to believe in Him and receive Him as Savior and Lord. The messenger is just making the introduction.

Has the seed of the gospel been presented to you? Have you heard the message? Have you heard the voice of God calling to you through the message? Have you put your faith in Him? All that happens in your life here and for all eternity hangs on that experience.

Eternal Security, Evening Devotionals

The Proof of Faith

January 29th, 2014

Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him.

1 John 2:4

The proof of living in Christ is that we keep His commandments.

We make a big deal of our confession of our faith. Many a person believes that if they recite the creeds in the church service, that that act alone is enough to secure their salvation. But the finest words that can ever be said by people can still be repeated mindlessly in a worship service. It takes more than this on our part. It takes genuine faith, personal faith, life-changing faith.

The question here is not whether believing in Christ is the act in our hearts that secures our salvation. That is the clear biblical testimony and nothing else is given to us to do other than repent and believe in Christ. So if someone says that faith is not enough, that we must add works or rituals in order to validate our faith, then he had removed the one thing that Christ has given to us to do. If we add anything to faith for our salvation, we will have removed faith as the one and only response that we must make for our salvation. And we will also drift into spiritual and doctrinal error of supposing that Christ is unable to save us by Himself, that we must add to His work on Calvary by our good deeds, ritual participation, or whatever else someone may add.

The question here is what is the proof of true faith, and the inspired author said it is “keeping his commandments.” The words are not “obeying” but “keeping.” The word in the Greek appears more than 60 times in the New Testament and it means “to watch over, to guard, to protect.” It is the idea that someone tells you to do something, but they add, “Watch out for…” or “Keep an eye on…” If we do that thing and intentionally ignore the advice, we are not acting in a spirit of friendship or obedience.  If a carpenter tells his assistant, “Sand down this board, but watch out that you do not sand it down too far.” He expects that his provision would be obeyed and followed, and for his assistant to ignore it would be unacceptable.

The emphasis here is not on perfect obedience, but on consistent watchfulness, careful attentiveness to the standard of Christ. And it is this consistently watchful attitude that proves our faith is real and that results in obedient lifestyles. Oh, we will fail. There can be no question about that. None of us lives the Christian life perfectly. We all, we each fail in some way. But the person who can fail and not feel any pang of conscience, no ounce of conviction, and who does not consider the will of Christ and the commands of Christ as binding on his life, that person has never believed at all. He is a pretender.

Our “keeping” the commands of Christ will lead to “obeying” the commands of Christ. When we fail – and we will fail – we are quick to confess, quick to repent, quick to return to Him. The issue for the disciple is always what is the will of his Master. If we have come to know Him through faith, we will keep His commandments in our heart, and we will act out His will in our life. There is the proof of our faith found.

Eternal Security