Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Time to Get Real: Be Different

What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds." Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.
James 2:14-19 

Becoming a Christian changes everything. Scripture says that when a person gets saved she becomes a “new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17) The gospel has the power to change your life. In fact, that is what the gospel does. The gospel changes lives. You can’t have the Holy Spirit of God living in you and still be the same sinful person that you always were. Jesus puts it this way. “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit"(Matthew 12:33). In other words, apple trees produce apples and fig trees produce figs. An apple tree will never produce a fig or vice versa. It is the same with people. Christians haven't merely been forgiven, they have been changed. Who they are has changed, the Holy Spirit of God now lives in them and they produce good works in keeping with their new identity and relationship with God.
The sad truth is that although this should be the case most surveys and studies find that American Christians on the whole aren't as different from their non-believing neighbors as they claim to be. Divorce rates are roughly the same. Christians don't really give much more money to the poor. Half of evangelical pastors admit to a struggle with pornography. And generally speaking non-believers don't have too high an opinion of Christians because they see our behavior. They know that we aren't really that different. The question is, "Why aren't we different?"
I think that much of the answer lies in the above passage. It says that even the demons believe there is one God and shudder. The implication is that such faith is not enough. It is not enough to simply believe that God and Jesus Christ exist, or even to believe that Jesus Christ is God. This is a dead faith. You need a living faith to be saved, and this living faith produces good deeds and a changed life.
Let’s look at how you get a living faith. Romans 10:9 says, “If you confess with your mouth [that] 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” The word that is used for "believe" in this passage and all throughout the New Testament does not mean to simply believe something intellectually; it means to believe it physically. It is positional. For example, intellectually you might believe that a chair or a tree limb can support your weight, but until you sit in that chair or climb out on that tree limb you do not believe it in the New Testament sense of the word.
Many of us “believe” that Jesus is God and that He died on the cross for our sins, but we have not BELIEVED in Him and put our weight on Him. We confess that He is Lord, but we don’t confess Him to be Lord of OUR life and we don’t give control of our life to Him nor do we live our life for Him. A living faith, a faith that saves, is a faith that puts its weight on Jesus. A living faith says I am going to live my life for Christ because I believe that He died on the cross for my sins and that He rose from the dead. It is not simply a matter of intellectually accepting this to be true in the way that you might accept the answer to a math problem. It is about placing your faith in it physically and positionally. Until you do that you don’t really believe it.
Let me be clear on one thing. We are saved by grace! We do not earn God’s favor by doing good deeds. Praise God, and hallelujah! Because I know that I could never measure up to God’s holiness. If I had to please God by my good deeds, then I would fail. In fact, the Bible says that “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). So we are saved by faith and not by doing good things, but true faith produces good works in keeping with repentance. Have you believed in the physical sense of the word? Give your life to Christ today.
The good news of the gospel is that in spite of our sins God loved us and made a way for us to receive forgiveness through Christ’s death on the cross. But Christ did not stay in the grave. He rose from the dead, defeating death so that we no longer have to fear it or be enslaved to sin. Confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead and you will be saved.
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