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 got that part 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 it illustrates the differences between Paul and James, between a life of faith and a life of works. (Click here for a Bible Study by Living God Ministries on that topic.)

Sure James makes some good points, such as “if you stumble at one part of the Law of Moses, you are guilty of the entire thing.”  But, mainly, when I read the book of James, I think, “Man, he’s a raging legalist!”

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.

 

 

November 6, 2019  9:58 AM

What is the unpardonable sin?

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What is the unpardonable sin?  What is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit?  I believe it is the sin of unbelief.

The writer of the book of Hebrews explains that there are two ways to commit the sin of unbelief.  The first way is to reject the mercy of the living God. The second way is for a believer to reject the promise of rest.

Writing to his Hebrew brothers and sisters, the anonymous author pleads with them to believe in Jesus as their Messiah.

“Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God.” Hebrews 3:12

The author illustrates this with the story of the Hebrews who refused to enter the Promised Land.  Their sin of unbelief prevented them from entering into the land of Israel, and instead they wandered in the wilderness for 40 years.

 “So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.” Hebrews 3:19

God promised them the land of Israel, and they did not believe that He could deliver on His promise.  That’s a hefty sin!  The author of Hebrews explains that their unbelief was an act of disobedience.

 “And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient?  So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.” Hebrews 3:18-19

The unbelief of the Israelites was a foreshadowing, and the reality is the sin of rejecting the gospel.  To reject the free gift of salvation that is being offered to you today is essentially to tell God, “I don’t believe you.  You are not trustworthy.”  Again, a very hefty sin. 

We need to believe in the gospel and be saved because we all have sin and we all are spiritually dead (whether Jew or Gentile).  Believing in the gospel message allows us to enter the true promised rest. We rest from our works of self-righteousness, and we trust that God has done all of the work Himself.

And that is where the second “sin of unbelief” comes in.  In chapter four, the author of Hebrews switches his audience and begins to talk to believers.  Hebrews 4 is often titled, “The Believer’s Rest.”

“Therefore, let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any of you may seem to have come short of it.”  Hebrews 4:1

As a born-again believer, if we fail to enter His rest, we have failed to believe in the complete forgiveness of sins.  In other words, we are still trying to do work that will make us holy and righteous and good.

Hebrews chapter four explains this in detail.

“For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience.” Hebrews 4:10-11

The land of Israel was a land of rest because all of the homes were already built, the vineyards were planted, the roads were cleared and the wells were dug.  The land of the New Covenant is a land of rest for us today because all of the work has already been done.  Obedience has been accomplished:  God Himself came to earth and obeyed the Law of Moses.  Forgiveness has been given:  God died on our behalf, so the debt has been paid in full.   Salvation is being offered:  He redeemed and justified us through His complete forgiveness of sins, and He now offers the gift of life — His Holy Spirit — through His work of resurrecting from the dead.

The great Bob George used to emphasize that the gospel is defined in 1 Corinthians 15, and that it is the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  We can add nothing to the gospel, and if we do we will be led astray into false doctrines.

If you are an unbeliever, we plead with you to believe in the gospel.

If you are a believer, we plead with you to give up trying to “work for God,” trying to “serve God,” and simply to REST.

We must believe completely that the only thing we can trust in today, tomorrow and next week is his death, burial and resurrection.

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Click here for an excellent verse-by-verse Bible Study on the book of Hebrews.  Aaron Budjen, a Hebrew himself, has made all of his messages available for free at his website, http://www.LivingGodMinistries.net

 

June 6, 2018  11:11 AM

 

Do Christians need to “fully surrender” to God?

My 16-year-old and I attended a mother/daughter Bible Study this past Sunday in which the overall message presented to the teenage girls was to “dream big” for God.  To dream up grand ideas.  To imagine bold plans.  To further God’s kingdom while solidifying your own faith.

A supporting argument was, “if you are fully surrendered to Him, then He will be able to use you.”

But what does it mean to be fully surrendered to Him?  I’ve been meditating on this question for the past five days.  In order to fully surrender to God, what are the prerequisites and requirements?  What are the markers used to determine the halfway mark, for example, and how will you know when you’ve reached “full” status?  How will you know when completion has been achieved?

My opinion is that you will never know.  The idea is too nebulous to ever be achieved.  Because the fact is:  He is the One who is fully surrendered to you.

Jesus Christ Himself – The Word of God that became flesh and dwelt among us — was fully surrendered to God.  God Himself left His heavenly realm, was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life and eventually paid the ultimate sacrifice:  He died.  What He did on the hill of Calvary by dying for the sins of the world was nothing less than full surrender.  You can’t get any more surrendered than that.

To tell a room full of teenage girls that they must be fully surrendered to God, without specifically defining the exact meaning of that phrase, is, I feel, insulting the work of Jesus on the cross.

But is there any place at all for surrender in a Christian’s life?

Well, yeah, there is.  First, we must surrender to the gospel.  And second, we must surrender to the New Covenant.

Surrendering to the gospel is the primary work that a human must achieve.  Otherwise, you remain in a state of death – spiritual death.  So, first, believe in the gospel, and receive the life of God through faith, by His grace.  That is the main WORK an earthling is required to do.

“Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”  Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.””  John 6:28-27

Believe in, trust in, rely on, depend on and fully surrender to the fact that Jesus Christ alone provided for the forgiveness of sins, and that He alone can offer to you the Holy Spirit of God which gives life to your mortal soul.  A simple prayer to the Creator is all that is required to accomplish this work.  Say yes to Him; tell Him you want to accept His free gift.

“Most certainly, I tell you, he who believes in me has eternal life.”  Jesus’ words in John 6:47.

After you receive the Spirit of life and are born from above – just as the Israelites wandered around for 40 years – you also will inevitably spend a few years of wandering in the wilderness of Churchianity.  But after you realize that your devotion to religion is empty, then you are ready to fully surrender to the New Covenant.  This is not a burden.  Surrendering to the New Covenant is like crossing the Jordan River.  It may take a bit of struggle to make it across, a bit of wrestling.  (The word Israel means, “He who wrestles with God.”)

So wrestle with God!  And then surrender to His grace!

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Surrendering to the New Covenant means that you have come to believe in the complete forgiveness of sins.   It means that you no longer quote 1 John 1:9 to get forgiven.  You have come to understand what Jesus meant when He said, “It is finished.”   You realize that the sin issue between you and God actually is finished.

God had to forgive the sins of the world and cast those transgressions as far as the east is from the west, so that He could clear the slate, wipe the table clean and finally have a bunch of humans – forgiven humans – to whom He could make an offer.

The offer is this: “Will you eat from the Tree of Life?”

So, do you see how surrender to the New Covenant allows you to understand the gospel in which you believed?  To really grasp that the two are part of one whole?  Things finally makes sense!  You are no longer trying to put new wine into old wineskins.  You have walked through the door.  You are finally inside the Promised Land of Rest.

Don’t let anyone judge you or condemn you for resting.  Don’t let anyone put a burden on you by saying you must fully surrender your life to God, and by implying that God is waiting for you to shape up, and if you don’t, He will ship you out.  When they essentially say that God is powerless and impotent without your FULL surrender…  just remember that it’s a lie.

Lies keep you in bondage; God wants to lead you into all truth, because the truth sets you free.

“But when He the, Spirit of truth, shall come, He will guide you into all the truth.”  Jesus’ words in John 16:13

 

March 22, 2018  11:28 AM