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Faith at Work

A pastor once shared this observation with me, “There is more to Christianity than simply being right.” His point was a good one: knowing and believing the Word of God is essential to eternal life, for “man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord,”1 yet giving and serving in its truth and power is every bit as vital in the Kingdom of God. “As the body without the spirit is dead,” explained James, “so faith without deeds is dead.”2 Conversely, Paul warns against deeds without faith: “Everything that does not come from faith is sin,”3 he wrote. Faith and deeds—one does not live without the other; real faith lives in the company of obedience.4

Sometimes we are tempted to pursue good deeds in perpetual toil of gaining God’s favor. But works are not means of earning God’s approval; they are, instead, the gracious result of it. Paul reminds us, “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”5 Then into all who trust in Him God breathes new life of eternal significance: “For we are God’s handiwork,” Paul continues, “created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”6 God saves us unto purposeful life.

Yet even our “yes!” to the Spirit’s daily call is the outcome of God’s grace in us: it is the overflow of our faith in His promises. “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free,”7 Jesus promised, and indeed it does. For “we love because he first loved us,”8 and we “comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”9 Yes, Pastor, there is more to Christianity than simply being right—much more. For our acts of obedience flow from what we know to be true. So we go forward in faith today, for we have work to do.

“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.”—2 Corinthians 9:8 ESV

Father, “fill [us] with the knowledge of [Your] will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that [we] may live a life worthy of [You] and please [You] in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God . . .”11 In Christ we pray. Amen.

1 Deuteronomy 8:3
2 James 2:26
3 Romans 14:3
4 James 2:17
5 Ephesians 2:8-9
6 Ephesians 2:10
7 John 8:32
8 1 John 4:19
9 2 Corinthians 1:4
10 Colossians 1:9-10

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Standing Never Alone

“Ed” was part of an executive team engaging in an off-site strategic planning retreat. To facilitate the session, his company had hired “Mary,” nationally known for her analytic expertise but new to leadership consulting, and it showed. After hours of ideation, discussion and debate, the walls were covered with poster-size sheets capturing the group’s collective thoughts. “If you are in agreement with this vision,” Mary challenged, “please stand up.” One-by-one, the officers rose from their seats until only two people remained seated, including Ed, who could only imagine what his peers were thinking about him. When Mary asked him to explain to the group why he could not support the vision, Ed replied, “There is no vision. We’ve developed all sorts of good input from which we can draft a vision statement, but so far we have none.” A moment of awkward silence engulfed the room while everyone grasped what now had become glaringly obvious—there was nothing for them to support! One-by-one, the officers sat down.

Once after Jesus had spoken to a crowd, “many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.”1 He had spoken some difficult truths, too difficult for many to accept. Turning to His closest friends, Jesus asked them, “You do not want to leave too, do you?”2 It was Peter who answered for the group, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”3 Despite the actions of the crowd, Peter and the Twelve stood alone in Him who in His very being is truth and life. Yet there was also a time when Peter was the one influenced by the “legalistic” crowd, and it was Paul the lone voice in the room reminding Peter before them all, “a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.”4

At times we are easily swayed from what is real to what is comfortable. Perhaps we capitulate to ill-footed reason, offer feelings more credence than facts, or ride the comfortable current of popular opinion. Whatever form it takes, acquiescence to falsehood is far too easy for us and far too dangerous. How much better when tempted like this that we stand—alone if we must—as Paul did. “At my first defense,” he wrote to Timothy, “no one came to my support . . . But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength.”5 For the truth of the matter is this: whenever we stand alone in Christ, we don’t stand alone at all.

“I am with you always, to the end of the age.”6 —Jesus, to His disciples

“There is no one holy like the Lord; there is no one besides You; there is no Rock like our God.”6 Thank You, Father. Amen.

1 John 6:66
2 John 6:67
3 John 6:68-69
4 Galatians 2:16
5 2 Timothy 4:16-17
6 Matthew 28:20
6 1 Samuel 2:2

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Where We Go When We Sin

The man blundered big-time, just like the rest of us. So I always wondered why God declared David—this shepherd, musician, and king—to be “a man after my own heart.”1 How did David—this adulterer, deceiver, and murderer—emerge so favorably in God’s sight from among all the other wrongdoers in the world? Inherently, this king of Israel was no better than anyone else; his self-assessment mirrors our own: “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.”2 Knowing the blemished state of the human soul, David staked his life entirely on the abounding love and mercy of God. When his predecessor Saul faltered in faith, he distanced himself from God and consoled himself with a ready repertoire of excuses. But not so, David! Quite to the contrary, when David erred, he turned to the only place he could find help, God’s own heart—not running from Him in fear, but to Him in faith; not spurning God’s character with doubt, but embracing His goodness through trust; not hiding from God because of his shame, but presenting himself before the only One who could remove it.

We, too, can enjoy this confidence before God, for His character never changes—He is faithful, and His faithfulness overflows to us. Paul writes, “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation—if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel.”3

This is the reality in which we who are in Christ now gladly live. Though we blunder, we are loved. We are a new creation, 4 and our sin defines us no more. We need not run from God, for it is He who has brought us near to Himself through the sacrificial death and victorious resurrection of His Son.5 Then like David, we, too, live confidently before God, forgiven and reconciled to Him—people after God’s own heart. We are free to follow the Spirit of God, that we may “be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.”6 Where do we go when we sin? Straight to the Father through Jesus the Son.

Father, we praise You for Your great character—Your kindness, goodness, faithfulness and patience. Help us to accept in faith Your great love for us, and free us to live before You and others in great confidence, hope, and joy. Be glorified in Your people, Your church. In Christ, we pray. Amen.

1 Acts 13:2
2 Psalm 51:5
3 Colossians 1:21-23
4 1 Corinthians 5:17
5 Ephesians 2:13
6 2 Peter 3:4