Can a person work themselves into heaven? The answer is a firm “No!” Paul said salvation is “by grace through faith, not as a result of works..” (Ephesians 2).
But, James tells us, “Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds” (James 2:18). Then, James added, “Just as the body is dead without breath, so also faith is dead without good works” (James 2:26).
Again… to quote James… he says.. “… faith is dead without good works.” So, does James contradict Paul? Can a person work themselves into heaven?
Again, the answer is “No.”
The answer to this little debate is that our faith will result in works. No, we cannot work ourselves into heaven, but if our faith is genuine, it is going to lead us to do good works… not because we are trying to earn salvation but instead, as the natural out-growth of real, sincere faith.
So, what are you doing for the Lord? If your faith is real, you will be doing something for the Lord. Let’s start off very basic; are you worshiping? If not, you should need be and you need to be.
What about studying the Bible? Are you taking time to read God’s word? What about giving? Are you tithing? What about serving? Are you serving in any capacity?
We are not saved through works… we are saved by grace through faith but, if our faith is genuine… if it’s sincere… our faith will lead us give, serve, etc…
C.S. Lewis once said, “Regarding the debate about faith and works; it’s like asking which blade of a pair of scissors is most important.” Both are important and both faith and works are important.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “Faith without works is not faith all; but a simple lack of obedience to God.”
Do you have a temper? You can admit it…lots of people do. I’m a little reluctant to say so but, I do and it’s something I am not proud of and I am trying to get a hold off. What causes someone to have a temper?
Sometimes, maybe some member of our family had a temper so we learned it in our home. Or, maybe something happened to you that really hurt and that caused you to develop a temper. Or, maybe there is something you wanted to do in life… it didn’t happen and you’ve been angry since.
Most of the time, anger is bad. But there are times when a person can have “righteous indignation” meaning, they are angry because someone has been mistreated or something wrong has been done. You recall that Jesus became angry at the carnival atmosphere in the temple and overturned the tables of the money-changers.
But, if we are honest… most of the time when people get angry it’s not because someone has been mistreated. Most of the time something happened to us that was not significant enough for us to get angry but we did.
What makes us angry? It’s different things for different people.
Some may get angry when they don’t get their way. Maybe as a child they got angry when things didn’t go their way… then they got their way so they learned that anger made things happen. Yes, there is another word for that and it is “spoiled.”
For others, maybe waiting makes them angry. . Impatience is often associated with anger. For others, maybe change makes them angry. Maybe something is changing at church that they don’t like and they get angry. I could go on and on… Everyone has different triggers.
But know this… in most situations, anger is not good. James 1:19-20 says,
“Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.”
James says that instead of getting angry.. we must be quick to listen and slow to speak…” For most of us, that may be tough… Being “slow to speak…” How many times have you said something… in anger… and later thought, “I wish I had kept my mouth shut.” I’m raising my hand…
So,, if you know you have a problem with temper, how do you deal with it? I think it’s helpful to know what your trigger points are… what makes you angry…. and try to avoid those or at least prepare yourself when you are in those situations.
Ask the Lord to help you. One of the fruit of the spirit is “peace…” Peace is the opposite of anger.
So today… if you have a temper, recognize it and ask the Holy Spirit help you manager it. Ask the Lord to help you be “Quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger.”
Are you going through a tough time? Maybe money is tight? Maybe you are having some health problems? Many you are experiencing problems on the job. Whatever it is, you are going through some tough times. None of us want tough times. I mean… if you had to choose between a tough day or a good day, you would pick the good day. But, the Bible says tough days can be better for us.
James 1 says, “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy..”
“Consider it an opportunity for great joy…” I’m pretty sure most of us don’t think of trials that way. When we are going through adversity we problem don’t say, “Man, I’m so glad I’m going through some tough times!”
No, most of us are praying, “Lord, I need your help… when will this end?”
But, James says adversity is good for us. He says, “For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”
When we are tested, God burns away the things in our lives that aren’t important. Adversity has a way of leading us to re-order our priorities. I have a book by Warren Wiersbe that is entitled “The Bumps Are What You Climb On.” The “bumps” are the tough times. When we face bumps in life, God uses them to help us grow.
So, if you are going through some adversity, God will us it to strengthen our faith. Hang in… Don’t give up. God is using the adversity make you a better Christian.
Have you ever known someone who was your friend for a long time. But, maybe they got a promotion at work or, they got a significant increase in salary or maybe they won an award and…. they changed. We might say, “they got the big head.”
You may have known someone like that. Someone who once was a friend but, they changed.
That kind of thing can frustrate you… it can disappoint you and maybe even hurt you if you let it. At one point, y’all were friends but then, your friend changed. If that happens, you may find yourself thinking, “people will let you down” and you are correct; people will let you down. But Jesus never does.
In Hebrews 11:8 the Bible says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.” Think about that verse… in a world where people can let you down.. in a world where people can become arrogant and forget you, Jesus Christ never changes. Jesus loves us at all times.
Jesus loves us regardless what our salary is.
Jesus loves us regardless of what job we have.
Jesus loves us regardless of our level of education.
Jesus loves us regardless of what we drive or where we live.
We don’t have to be “somebody” for Jesus to love us.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. He loves us today and He will love you tomorrow and in the days ahead. Jesus never changes. That’s why we should worship Him.
The Holiday season is approaching. A time when families will gather to share a meal and give thanks. But the Holiday season is also a time when friction between loved ones may become worse. If there is a family member that you don’t get along with it is especially tough during the Holidays.
Getting along with our fellow man has been a challenge for man since the beginning of time. You recall that in Genesis 4, Cain killed his brother Abel because God was pleased with Abel’s sacrifice but not pleased with Cain. So, instead of getting right with God, Cain took his own brother’s life. And, mankind has been killing one another since that time.
One of the things that should be different about Christians is, we should get along with one another. Hebrews 12:14 says, “Work at living in peace with everyone… then, in verse fifteen, the writer adds… “Watch out that no root of bitterness grows up to trouble you.” A root of bitterness grows from bad relationships. So, in order to avoid a root of bitterness we need to work at living in peace.
Is there someone that you are bitter with? Someone that there is some friction between you and them? If so, you need to resolve it. Now, if you have tried to resolve it and the other person will not forgive, then shake the dust off your feet and move on.
Notice the writer says… “Work at living in peace with everyone…” To do that, we need to be kind to one another. We should live with one another following the standard of the Golden Rule.
There is an old poem that goes;
“Oh to live above with the saints that we love,
Oh that will be glory!
But to live below with the saints that we know,
Well, that’s another story.”
Today… work at living in peace with everyone.
Work at living in peace with everyone…..Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.
What trips you up? What is there in your life that you struggle with more often than others? Or, to put it another way; what is your “besetting sin”?
Is it your temper? Or maybe it’s laziness. Or maybe gluttony or maybe lust.
The phrase “besetting sin” comes from Hebrews 12:2 which says; “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” A “besetting sin” is something that we are tempted by or something that we struggle with more than others.
For example; I’m not extremely tempted in a hunting store… I’m not a hunter so hunting supplies don’t necessarily tempt me. But, put me in an Apple Store or a Barnes & Noble….and I’m big-time tempted there. Someone else however, would be very tempted in a hunting supply store but Barnes Noble wouldn’t tempt them much at all. So again, what is your “besetting” sin?
In order for us to live the Christian life victoriously we need to know what our besetting sin is. We need to know the area we are more tempted in than others. This requires honesty and reflection.
We may be tempted to say, “Well, you know.. my “besetting sin” ain’t as bad as the besetting sin of someone else. Not true. Sin is sin in God’s eyes.
One person may struggle with alcohol. Another person may battle drug addiction. Someone else struggle with porn. Maybe someone else struggles with pride. It is all sin. I read something recently that went; “Don’t judge me because you sin differently from me.” That’s absolutely true.
So, what is your “besetting sin?” Whatever it is, be aware of it.. and ask God to give you the power to deal with it when you are tempted.
In my Facebook and blog posts, I’ve shared many of the lessons God has taught Holli and me over the last nineteen months. Another lesson God has taught us is provision or… faith.
During this time, there have been many times when our money was tight. God has reminded me of the difference between “needs” and “wants.” There are lots of things I want… God has promised to provide for our needs. And He has.
There is a story in the Bible that God has impressed on my heart during this time. It’s the story of Abraham and Isaac. You recall that God gave Abraham and Sarai a son late in life. And, as you can imagine, Abraham LOVED Isaac.
One day God told Abraham to go to Mount Moriah and offer him as a sacrifice. So, Abraham and Isaac set out for Mount Moriah. Arriving there, Abraham begins preparing an altar to offer Isaac on. Then, he places Issac, on the altar. Abraham takes the knife in his hand. He raises his arms preparing to kill Isaac. As Abraham’s arms are raised above his head, just before he brings his arms down he hears the voice of God; “Abraham! Abraham! Now I know that you love Me more than anything…. ” Abraham was then told to look in the thicket and there he saw a ram that God had provided for the sacrifice. The Bible says that Abraham named that place “Jehovah-Jireh,” meaning “the Lord will provide.”
Many ties in the past eighteen months, God has reminded me of that story… and it’s lesson… that God will provide a lamb.
I didn’t say “wants..”… God promised to provide for our needs. In Hebrews 11, the writer reminds us of Abraham’s act of faith. He says, “It was by faith that Abraham offered Issac as a sacrifice when God was testing him…”
Today, if you are concerned about provision… let the story of Abraham and Isaac remind you that God will take care of our needs… God will provide a ram…