Must faith be accompanied by works?

Forgive me, Father, I have sinned; it has been four months since my last blog post.

Just kidding!  . . . About the asking for forgiveness part.  Not kidding that it’s been four months since I’ve written anything here.  My personal life has been overwhelming and consuming and causing much anxiety — a ‘down-cast heart.’  I have simply not had the energy to blog.

But God is active and living and He is ever-present, dwelling in my innermost being, as I live through the storms of life.  Though the world may slay me, yet will I praise Him.

So, getting to the point, must faith be accompanied by works?  . . . Of course not!  We are saved by grace through faith, and we are sustained each and every day by His grace through our faith; through our trust in Him; our resting in the work He has already accomplished.

But what about the book of James?

But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? (James 2:20, NASB)

Gee, thanks for the encouragement, brother James.

No, sorry.  He is wrong.  Faith is IT.  Sola fide.  We are justified by faith alone.

The five chapters of the book of James are filled with things we must do.  There is not one mention of the death or resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.  No mention of the divinity of Jesus.  No mention of our forgiveness or justification by faith.  James believes we are justified by works.

You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. (James 2:24, NASB)

Did you know that the book of James was ABSENT from the first list of New Testament books known as the Muratorian Fragment.  James’ epistle was not confirmed as a book of the Bible, included in the canon of the New Testament, until the fourth century A.D.!  James was added to the Bible in AD 367, after the creation of Roman Catholicism!

Yet there is an excellent argument to be made concerning the fact that including the book of James in the Bible is important because is illustrates the differences between Paul and James, between a life of faith and a life of works.  (Check out Pastor Aaron Budjen’s audio messages on that topic.)

I’m thankful that I have been set free from a life of works.  I am thankful to live a life of freedom in Christ Jesus; a life where I am free to walk in the Spirit, and live each day according to the Law of the Spirit of Life, and not according to the Law of Sin and death.

In the Midst of the Messy

This phrase, “in the midst of the messy,” has been going through my head for about a month now.  I like it.  Because I’m somewhat of a literature geek, I like the alliteration almost more than the meaning behind the words.  Almost.

Our God loves us in the midst of the messiness of who we are.  We are flawed and imperfect, and yet He is the potter who is at work on His clay, molding and shaping us into something a little less messy than we were yesterday.

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6 NASB)

He is the One who began the work and He is the One who is continuing to work so hard to complete the work.  He is the One who works!  Hallelujah!  All we can do is rest.  Just be the lump of clay.  Be the branch who abides in the vine.  Be the guy lying down in green pastures, resting beside still waters.

What a glorious freedom we have in Christ Jesus!  We who have turned to Him for His grace and mercy and have been adopted into His family, we who are the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16).  We have freedom to live our lives, to be loved by Him, in the midst of the messiness that is US. 😀

Brothers and sisters, we need not work hard to please Him.  He is already pleased with us (because we believed in Jesus Christ).  We need not try to change ourselves (because He is the One who is working to perfect the work He began).  And we need not attempt to clean up the messes in our lives, the ugliness that is our sinful flesh.

Don’t get me wrong, I delight in cleanliness and neatness and order (when it comes to earthly things).  But when it comes to my relationship with the Lord God, my sanctification, my right-standing with Him, I live knowing that there is no work to do in that regard.

He loves me just where I am; just as I am . . . it makes me adore Him all the more!

I love Him because He first loved me.

We love him, because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19, KJV)

The Righteous Man Shall Live by Faith

man walking in the forest
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.” (Romans 1:17, NASB)

I’ve been texting with a friend, a sister in the Lord, about what it means to live by faith.  We are both learning what it means to trust in God and to wrestle with Him; we are learning how to live by faith through the hard times of life, through the difficulties, the pain, the struggles, and the circumstances that tempt us to trust in the world or to trust in religion.  Through all of this, through the storms of life, we are learning to remain steadfast and to trust in the Lord, to depend on Him for our strength. . .when we are obviously so weak.

I have been walking down this new path of freedom for 12 years, and my friend has been walking it for just a few, yet we are both learning the same thing . . . because the learning never ends.  And in 20 or 40 years, I will still be learning to trust in the Lord – because He is infinite and I am depraved.  While I remain on this cursed earth, I will grow to trust Him more and more as I experience the difficulties of life .

My friend and I began this texting discussion after both listening to a radio program by Aaron Budjen on “Living by Faith.”  In his message, Aaron talks about Romans 1:17 and the quote from Habakkuk that says that the righteous man will live by faith.

“Behold, as for the proud one, His soul is not right within him; But the righteous will live by his faith.” (Habbakkuk 2:4)

Although I was saved 28 years ago, I spent 14 or 15 years not trusting in the Lord, even though I was born again and had a relationship with Him.  I spent those years trusting in religion and trusting in my church.  I was trusting in the acceptance of other people, in the attempt to earn their acceptance through working so hard doing ministry work.

I looked to and trusted in religion which is really just an aspect of the knowledge of good and evil. (The Lord God said not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but we did, so the tree is a part of this world that we live in, it’s a part of this fallen world.)  Although I was not necessarily doing evil, I actually was, because Jesus said there is only One who is good.  He alone, God, is the only One who is good.  Other than Him, there is none good.

So even though we try to live according to the knowledge of what is good, it ends up being a life of evil, because our motives are wrong.  Our “good deeds” are often attempts to earn the acceptance of others, to earn the acceptance of God.  We try to remain in a relationship with God by doing good works, repenting of our sin, asking God to forgive us, and then being firmly devoted to living a life of obedience . . . but all of that is a life of vanity and emptiness.

Being set free from such a life by discovering that I am a forgiven person, started me down a path that will never end.  As long as I am in the flesh, I will always be discovering and anticipating and growing. Learning every day what it means to live by faith.