You’ve heard the old faith-related question, haven’t you? “If you were accused of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict?” Showed up sometime in the 80’s. Morphed into a bumper sticker and a sermon topic. Don’t know if it ever became a bracelet.
Haven’t seen the question around much lately. I could insert a snide comment or two about how I haven’t seen a whole lot of evidence from many so-called Christians, either, but that might rile folks up with the flavor of “judgment,” so I’ll focus on me and you can apply however you wish.
One of the great church debates is faith vs. works. Is faith all that’s required to be a Christian (useful for death-bed conversions) or do works have to be daily and obvious (like volunteering at a soup kitchen while knitting caps for orphans) to count as salvation? The question bothered the first believers because it pops up time and again in the New Testament.
Annoying to the logical among us, the answer seems to be “yes.” Faith is all that’s required, but works are a symptom of faith. “No works” can equal “no faith.” The deathbed conversion is the possible exception.
The book of James is our pastor’s inspirational topic this quarter. James has a lot to say about faith and works. Yesterday, we focused on chapter 2, verses 14-20. The last part really got to me.
“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 2:19, NIV
About six years ago, God made me look at my life. He showed me my faith was dead, because I didn’t back up my beliefs with action. I didn’t talk about Him. I didn’t do anything to help the widow, the orphan, the prisoner, the homeless. My checkbook showed my devotion to Hollywood and gardening more than God. Basically, He smacked me upside the head.
Being God, He was right. Works don’t earn my place in heaven, but works do illustrate the depth of my conviction. Jesus says more than once to love Him is to obey Him and do what He does.
With God’s help, I’ve taken steps to rearrange my priorities. To put my money where my heart should be. To put my efforts into opportunities as God presents them. To focus my time where He would want it to go.
Following Christ is a daily event, not a check box. Some days I follow more closely than others. I feel like I fail more than I succeed. That’s where faith comes in. My perfect Savior covers my numerous imperfections. He did what I can’t. Doesn’t mean I can’t try. It is in striving we succeed. Pretty sure I read that on a bumper sticker, too.
Pastor’s final point was this.
According to James, and said first by Jesus in Matt 25: 31 et al, faith always produces fruit. I say I follow Christ. You should be able to see it in my life. If you don’t, you have every right to question the sincerity of my belief.
With God’s help, I’m laying out my trail of evidence. How about you?