Tag Archives: faith

The Fast and the Furious Series Review

This is going to be the first time for some of you to read one of my more “secular” posts, but as always I believe you can often find the sacred in the secular.  I admit it, I’m a Fast and Furious fan.  I fell in love with the first movie when it came out, and have followed it ever since.

If you find cussing, violence, and scantily clad women offensive, or if you’ve been led away from those things, avoid these movies.  So, why am I writing this review?  Because I believe most people are missing the main point and feature of the movies in this series.  I also believe that Vin Diesel is trying, in his own way, to get people to realize several key themes.

First, that the world is now connected in ways that it never has been in the past.  Culture is bleeding over political borders, and with it the good and the bad.  Crime, and crime bosses can now go global.  They can do so digitally or physically, and this is one lesson that we all need to learn in a very real way.  Two examples spring to mind; the recent reports of Chinese hackers invading US systems, and the violence on our Southern border.  We all now owe it to our society to start thinking more and more globally, and our news organizations will hopefully wake up and begin providing us with global coverage.

Of course, there are good things coming from this blending of cultures as well.  New styles, new food, new friends, new conversations to have.  And I think that this connects to Vin’s other main theme in these movies; faith and family.

The latest F&F installment, Fast and Furious 6 kinds slaps you upside the head with it, but apparently many reviewers are missing the point.  Faith and family.  Each installment in the main series always has a moment or two of Dom’s running rule; when you sit down to eat, whoever eats first (or tries to) has to say grace.  Some do it with more learning and style, and some try their best.  Dom’s cross also becomes a continuing plot device.

This lesson wasn’t something that was full-force in the first movie; Dom cared more for his own feeling of freedom than for his team, but that quickly changed as one-by-one his family was either hurt, or killed.  Over the course of the series we’ve seen Dom’s family grow, and with it, his loyalty.

Family.  This is where the “sacred” comes in.  This string of movies does a very good job of showing how those people that are not directly related to us can become our family.  In fact, each person that is a born again believer in Jesus is our family.  How often do we really truly see that in our church communities?  It’s rare.  If we truly wake up to what Jesus is telling us, we should help and protect our fellow believers, because they ARE our family.  They are not “like” family they are true family.

I believe this series does a superb job showing us this, in a secular sense of course… annnddd, you really do have to sit through a bunch of racing scenes to get there, but I do believe Vin Diesel is purposefully communicating that idea of family across all borders; language, culture, background, etc… And, yes, Vin isn’t technically a writer, but I hear him and Paul Walker have input into the series, especially when it comes to things the fans demand.

What else do I love about the series?  I love the cars.  I love the humor.  I love the way it self-deprecates.  I love the characters, and their interplay.  There is also ideas such as self-control and forgiveness taught throughout.  The series has become a huge blockbuster and the special effects are there to prove it, but at the heart of it, this series is still about family.  Sure, there are now over-the-top explosions, and cheesy physics defying crashes, but the film never takes itself to seriously on that score.

These movies are definitely not for everyone, but I can’t wait til the 7th installment!

Oh, and if you are interested, here’s the watch order if you’d like to see the whole series chronologically and, Han’s first appearance was not in the F&F series, but in a movie called “Better Luck Tomorrow” it would come before Los Bandoleros):

  • The Fast and the Furious
  • Turbo-Charged Prelude {short}
  • 2 Fast 2 Furious
  • Los Bandoleros {short}
  • Fast & Furious
  • Fast Five
  • Fast & Furious 6
  • The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift

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“Sacrificial” giving of money; not biblical for the church…

Over and over I’ve heard preachers try to teach about “sacrificial” giving.  Unfortunately that is not a biblical principle, since the word sacrifice is very specific in scripture, and is abused in this context.  Now, before some readers get their knickers all in a twist, let me clarify; free will giving is biblical, and we’ll talk about that, but this idea of sacrificial giving is another offhanded term that does not appear in scripture.

“You’ve got to give until it hurts,” that is the refrain that you can hear from many pulpits both in person and on the radio.  No, you don’t.  The idea of a sacrifice is glossed over when the term is used in connection with monetary giving.  A sacrifice in the bible is very very specific; it is about killing and offering up an organism to God. Sacrifice was to do many things, one of which was to remind us that for sin comes death.

To underscore this, notice what Paul said, “present yourselves a living sacrifice to God.”  He had to include and underscore the word “living” there; no longer do we offer sacrifice to God in the old way of death, but rather we are living organisms and we offer ourselves.  This is only possible because Jesus became a sacrifice for us, and now, that older system is done away with.

Giving money is not technically sacrificial.  You aren’t ritually killing anything.  We muddy the waters of the gospel by referring to a free will gift offering as sacrificial giving.  We are indeed to give money as directed by the Holy Spirit, and we are to do so cheerfully.  The term “sacrificial giving” is apparently another dysphemism adopted by teachers and preachers to try to lay a charge upon believers that just is not there.

The once and for all sacrifice is done, I don’t have to sacrifice “things” or “animals” anymore, but rather I’m to realize that all I have and all I am is God’s to do with as He please.  Then, it is a matter of being smart with my money, compassionate with my money, and generous with my money (and time, possessions, land, etc…) because they are His, not mine.  He promises to guide us, and we are expected to yield because we trust Him.  That’s faith.

 

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The Fruit of the Spirit, pt. 7; Faith…

One of my favorite subjects to write on is faith.  Faith also happens to be an aspect to the fruit of the Spirit.  As in other occurrences of the word faith in scripture, it is “pistis” in the Greek.  The just (the righteous, who are in Christ) live by faith, according to Paul.  We are not left alone struggling to live by faith, but rather we are aided by the Spirit.

Pistis is trusting with great confidence.  When we are talking about living by faith, we are talking about living our lives relying and trusting God.  Trust has a target, and different people place their trust in different things; for some it is money, for some it is another human being, for some it is military might, etc… For a believer, the only proper target of faith is God.

Another implication of this aspect of the fruit of the Spirit is fidelity.  Staying true to the Truth in other words. This aspect also flows from the Spirit, because it is an aspect of God as well. We are told that Jesus, God the Son, also had faith, and exercised this in His faith toward the Father, and His fidelity to the plan of salvation.  Not only do we have a model of faith in Christ, but also the driving force and power of the Spirit enabling us to have the same kind of faith.

In our day and age, faith is a valuable commodity.  There is so much happening in the world and even in the US, economically speaking.  People are being beset with illness, disease, natural disasters, economic woes, etc… but the Truth holds firm.  We are to have faith in the operation of God and all that implies; not worrying unduly, resting in Him and trusting that He will keep His promises toward us.

Colossians 2:12 Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.

Our evidence for the “rightness” of our faith is Jesus’ resurrection.  As Paul has said, if Christ be not raised, our faith is in vain.  God draws attention to the resurrection of His Son to show us His fidelity, and in turn, that inspires ours.  With the evidence before us of the empty tomb, and the Spirit working on us from the inside, we can indeed be sure that faith will see us through.

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Quit mourning your faith…

I’ve found that where there is a group of Christians who are gathered together to discuss things such as salvation, sanctification, etc… with outsiders to the faith, that there is a tendency to grow very very serious indeed, not just over the subject matter (which is indeed serious), but also in manner, and word, and countenance.  I think that can very easily give outsiders the wrong impression of what it is like to be a Christian.  After all, Christ came so that we may have life, and have it more abundantly.

When there is a group of believers that have become used to singing the old tried and true hymns, but have…grown old with them, oftentimes the singing becomes more of a dirge.  There remains no overflowing of joy or even realization of what the words are actually saying, or their implications of the GOOD NEWS of the gospel.

Why do Christians tend this way, when it is a very very joyous thing to be a Christian?  God is not some cosmic killjoy, nor do we earn extra brownie points the more we walk around with a frown on our faces.  To many outsiders this is a poor witness.  I don’t mean to imply we should be walking around with big silly grins on our faces (if that calls to mind a certain highly popular motivational speaker in the Christian world *cough*Osteen*cough* it is unintentional), however, one of the fruits of the Spirit is Joy.

One problem is that there is a certain fringe segment of the Christian population who has perverted that aspect of the Spirit into some dog and pony show with people laughing and rolling around on the ground/in between the pews.  The joy that scripture speaks of is a calm assured hope and happiness, not some flashy, extremely weird, occurrence.

So, that being said…lighten up people.  If you are a believer, your sins have been forgiven you, you have a whole eternity of joy and peace and fellowship in front of you, Jesus has freed us from the law, we are now enjoying a personal relationship with God Himself.  Smile a little.  There is a time and place for solemnity and also mourning, but there is ALSO a time and place for joy, laughter, hugs, praising with happy, excited voices, jokes, and just flat out enjoying the life that God gives us, not in a worldly way, but in a way full of grace and peace.

Often atheists especially have a dim view of what it must be like being a Christian, well, let me tell you about my life.  I’m surrounded by friends and family who I know will be with me through eternity, I laugh, watch TV, watch movies, lift the occasional glass of alcohol of my choice, eat what I want, listen to what I want, dance, sing, live my life with the assurance that I’m loved by the Creator of the world, not only that, I have a personal relationship with Him that is very fulfilling and life-giving, esp. when I get to work for Him in some capacity here on Earth.  I go hiking, admiring the work of His hands, I make jokes, and use Facebook, I play XBOX, and write science fiction, and on and on and on.

This world is indeed corrupt and flawed, there are rough times and times to mourn and cry…my family and friends, and God Himself are there for that too.  However, God is truly good, and the news of the gospel is truly good…let’s not be so slow to show the relief and joy and happiness that God brings.

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Sacramentalism vs. Faith

I’m going to go into a pretty deep subject here, and it is always good to define terms and look to scripture before discussion.  The main themes in this article are sacramentalism, faith, and grace.

What is sacramentalism? First, an attempt at a neutral, secular, definition: Dictionary.com gives these two definitions for “sacramentalism:” 1) a belief in or emphasis on the importance and efficacy of the sacraments for achieving salvation and conferring grace. 2) emphasis on the importance of sacramental objects and ritual actions. Sacramentalism, in church terms, is usually defined also by example.  Those denominations that practice and believe in sacramentalism have various sacraments that are used within their churches. Examples include baptism, communion, marriage, confession/penance, confirmation, ordination, last rites, foot washing, etc… etc… Sacramentalism, as defined in the earliest tradition is indeed a vehicle for grace; a “special” way of receiving the grace of God through action.

Faith. I won’t spend too much time here on faith, as I’ve defined it previously in another article here: What is Faith? The important points that pertain to this current conversation is that it is by grace we are saved through faith.  Faith is trusting with great confidence, not just a head belief, but an actual trusting with confidence.  Of course, when Christians talk about faith, we mean faith in God.

Grace. I’ve also defined and discussed grace in a previous article here: What is Grace? Grace is unmerited or unearned favor.  Again grace is God’s to bestow.  God’s grace is a marvelous thing, and we should desire it in our lives, in fact, God’s grace is necessary for salvation, and for forgiveness.  It should be no wonder that the topics of sacramentalism, grace, and faith are so important in Christendom, and rightfully so.

The main area of debate surrounds the idea of the sacraments as vehicles of God’s grace.  Do the “sacraments” literally convey God’s grace to us in a special, or mysterious way that is unattainable any other way?  Do the sacraments contribute to our salvation?  What does scripture reveal to us about these things? (I’m not debating whether these actions are good or bad; obviously the ones called for in scripture serve their purpose and are a good thing.)

Well, there are no references to “sacraments” or sacramentalism in scripture.  I mean that in the sense that those words never appear there.  Now, of course baptism is mentioned, and taking the bread and wine, foot washing, marriage, etc… However, go to a search engine and do a search on “grace.”  Grace is not seen in connection with these acts.  When these acts are described, grace isn’t connected to them.  Grace and faith, on the other hand are clearly connected by the writers of scripture and these are both rooted in and spring from Christ.  Bear with me:

John 1:16-17 And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace. 17 For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.

Acts 20:32 And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.

Romans 1:3 Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; 4 And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead: 5 By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience  to the faith among all nations, for his name: 6 Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ: 7 To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Romans 3:22 Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: 23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; 24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:

Romans 5:20 Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:

Romans 11:6 And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.

Ephesians 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

Ephesians 6:24 Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.  Amen.

Hebrews 4:16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

What’s my point?  There are certain denominations, such as the Roman catholic church, the United Methodist church, and others, that still, in the face of scriptures on grace, insist that grace is tied into the sacraments, instead of being unmerited favor from God.  Notice that, in the case of salvation, that we are saved by grace through faith, not a sacrament.  That instantly defeats any notion put forth that we must be baptized in water in order to be saved.  Also, note that the common benediction when you look up grace scripture, like in Ephesians 6:24 Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. There’s no jumping through hoops, no need of an intercessor or mediator between you and God; we’ve already got one: Jesus Christ.

In Christ, grace is ours and we already have direct access to the throne of grace.  When Christ died for us the veil in the temple was rent from top to bottom giving us direct access to God.  God gives us grace, and it is connected with faith in Christ.  All these churches peddling the idea that sacraments convey grace, or are used as a vehicle for grace, are muddying the waters with something not to be found in scripture.  What leaps to mind, as my brother pointed out, is the quote by Kirk in one of the Star Trek movies; “What does God need with a Starship?”  God does not need a vehicle to convey Grace; God Himself is that vehicle.  For those in Christ, a huge victory was won when we could go directly to the throne of grace with no need of any vehicle, and salvation is by grace through faith.

Notice too, that one of the early apostasies was that one of the vehicles of grace is sinning.  Romans 5:20 listed above speaks to that.  Should we sin in order to get more of God’s grace; of course not!  How many times do we also need to be told that grace doesn’t come through works?  Grace, remember, is unmerited favor.  Those that believe in the sacraments are actually advocating grace comes through action, instead of faith, which is completely contradicted by scripture.  Now, am I saying that we should not take communion or be baptized?  Not at all.  If you want to call these “symbols” of faith, I’m all for it.  The term “ordinances” is often used to show that particular churches do NOT see these actions as sacramental, but rather acts that show forth the faith that is already there.  In the case of communion, it is clear in scripture that we are doing the act in remembrance and are showing forth Christ by performing the act.

In the near future I hope to write more articles touching upon these things, and bringing some of this to light that believers sitting in different denominational pews may not realize their denominations are pushing and preaching.  These things also are connected with church “hierarchy” which, if defined by things like “ordination,” can split the body of Christ into those supposedly gifted in some way above and beyond the rest of us when it comes to administering the “sacraments.”  It also has implications for the oft repeated phrase; Christianity is not a religion, it is a relationship.  The idea of “sacraments” makes Christianity into religion once more, and constrains our relationship with God, which is a no-no. More to come…

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2 Adams, 2 Gardens, 2 Examples…

The Lord seems to love patterns, and order, and what I call “bookends.”  Bookends are ideas, teachings, people, places, etc… that are set up in such a way to show God’s plan, and to communicate important ideas to us.  Certain things just “seem to work out” in order to convey to us important truths and also, as always, to point us to God.  The bookends I’m interested in today are the two Adams; Adam and Jesus, the first Adam, and the Last Adam, and also the two gardens; the Garden of Eden, and the Garden of Gethsemane.

In the beginning we have Adam.  Adam was given charge over the earth, and placed in the Garden of Eden.  The Garden of Eden is where we witness the first act of putting our own wills, the human will, over the will of God, and we witness the outcome of committing that sin.  The first Adam, in the Garden, had a chance to follow God’s will, he had the chance to faithe in God and to trust that when God tells us His will on a matter, we’d better listen.

Adam was told not to eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge.  He did it anyway.  The world was affected by his lack of faith in God.

In the beginning we have The Word.  The Word became flesh and came and dwelt with us; Jesus is His name.  We have a variety of scripture recording Jesus’ faith, and His following of the will of His Father.  However, the clearest picture we have, the clearest model we have for the Faith of Jesus, is what occurred in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Jesus is talking with His Father, and asks that if there is any other way of completing His mission of saving us and restoring the universe to it’s proper state, that His Father would take away the cup of what was to come.  And then He gave us the clearest picture of what Adam should have said, but didn’t, “not My will, but Thine.”

Jesus came here to give all for us; to fix our mess that started in Eden.  In the Gethsemane we witness a decision to follow the will of The Father, no matter what, the world was also affected by that decision.  Perfect faith in God.

2 Adams, 2 Gardens, 2 choices.  We can choose to be as Adam in Eden and have a lack of faith in God.  Or, we can choose to be as Jesus in Gethsemane and put our faith in God.  The choice is ours, and the outcomes are serious depending on which role model we choose.  As for me, Gethsemane is not an easy place to be, faith isn’t easy…but it’s worth it.

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The just shall live by _____ ?

One of the fundamental aspects of the Gospel of Christ is that we are saved by faith.  I’ve written a previous article on faith, pistis in the Greek, which you can find here; What is Faith? The point of this new article is to underscore how believers are to live.

Romans 1:17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.

Habakkuk 2:4 Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith.

Doc Scott, my old pastor, used to point out that when scripture repeats itself; when God finds a concept so important that He says the same thing over again, it is time to pay attention.  The fact that the just shall live by faith is reiterated in scripture, it is repeated, it is important.  There is nothing else that fits in the blank the way that faith does.

It does not say the just are to live by works, by love, by grace, by money, by physical might, etc… Once we are saved, we are to live by faith, and faith is trusting.  As we live our lives and go along, we’ll make mistakes and stumble and fall…and climb.  No matter what, we should trust all along the way.  God is out for trust; us placing our trust in Him.  In this life we WILL have tribulation, and the proper response is to trust in God.  Exercising trust builds it like a muscle that we use, we don’t technically gain more muscle, but the muscle we have grows stronger.  I would also note that Paul would not have felt the need to exhort believers to a life of faith if our walk as believers was paved with thorn-free roses, puppies, and rainbows.

Many act like living by faith is easy…that it is a simple matter to trust God.  The heroes of faith would surely disagree.  Ever read through the Psalms?  David shows the ups and downs of walking in faith, and he is a man after God’s own heart.  Believers are never promised a life free of trials, those trials give us an opportunity to flex our faith and keep turning to God, to keep trusting Him, even if it is only with “fingernail faith.”  That faith, that trust that latches on and refuses to let go, even if it but a fingernail hold we keep on Christ’s robe…because of course, in the end, He is the One that has a hold on us.  Live your life day-by-day trusting in God; you won’t be disappointed.

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Doctor Who; Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone

Okay, spoilers everywhere, so if you haven’t seen it don’ t read any of this.  I talked a bit before about Time of Angels…it did indeed contain bits that were very interesting to me pertaining to matters of faith/religion.  I have to say that Flesh & Stone took it up a notch…and I was pleasantly surprised.

Some of the themes brought up were faith and fear…how they are related and the limits of both.  The discussions back and forth betwixt The Doctor and Angel Bob were very interesting.  Bob did have some good points about the fact that the Doctor keeps making promises that he might not be able to keep; he gets people to put their trust in him, then does indeed let some of them down.  Sometimes being afraid is the most intelligent position,as Bob kind of alludes to…and of course, one can’t truly be brave without fear.

The military nature of the church wasn’t explored much further than in the first part.  In Time of Angels it is said that the church has “moved on,” whatever that might mean (kind of an odd comment seeing as how the church did have a military nature in the past (rightly or wrongly)).  The Bishop, Father Octavian (BTW, the real St. Octavian was martyred by the Vandals) was one of the most interesting characters Who has had on it in a long time.  A solid military man of moral character with strong faith in God, and a willingness to help the side of good even unto death.  No bones were made about his belief, it was pretty straightforward in the phrases he used.

I have to admit I was caught off guard by the way Moffat handled Octavian and The Doctor’s relationship.  When Octavian was caught by an Angel, he faced death with extreme courage, saying that The Doctor was seeing him at his best, “For that I thank God, and bless the path that takes you to safety.”  Eleven had actual tears in his eyes, with no witty comebacks.

It’s always interesting to speculate how many things I can spot in plots that line up with scripture are there intentionally or just by coincidence.  Two examples; the first is Octavian reply about giving up his life, he said he was content…when we look at what Paul tells us in scripture: Philippians 4:10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. 12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

The second was the idea that the angels needed Eleven to sacrifice himself to save them…and he didn’t do it.  Again, perhaps a messiah-like allusion that actually matches the biblical idea pretty closely.  Christ, the true Messiah, did not die to redeem the fallen angels; His sacrifice was not for them, nor efficacious for them, but rather His sacrifice was for humanity.

A difference that I noted between the Doctor and Christ; a big deal was made out of the fact that the Doctor doesn’t always tell the truth, yet he expects to be trusted despite that.  God’s nature is such that He does indeed always tell the truth, and that is one of the reasons why we know He can be trusted.  It is an interesting juxtaposition.

I really enjoyed these episodes…as far as plot, Blink was better, but as far as characters, I preferred these (that is, if I leave Dr. Song out of the equation, I despise her character, not the actor, but the character).  Who else out there doesn’t believe that Song is the Doctor’s future wife?  Maybe that’s just me hoping…

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Christian witness…

There is a lot of talk in Christian circles about being a good Christian witness.  This is based upon the idea that the world (made up of non-believers) is watching us, and we should outwardly show, in some way, shape, or form, what being a Christian is about.  Now, it is clear that scripture teaches us something similar, and that we are to be a people set apart in some ways; I would argue in spiritual ways and understanding.  Many times this idea gets twisted into a form of legalism, which is never good.

Apart from that, I was just recently ruminating on the fact that it isn’t just important that we present ourselves to the world in certain ways, but I honestly believe it is just as important, or perhaps more important, that we present ourselves to our fellow Christians as…well, fellow Christians.  When we present a life of faith and trust in God to our brothers and sisters in Christ, it strengthens our own walk, and it also heartens others.

I’ve been in different circumstances lately where a fellow Christian modeled this to me, and that in turn allows me to respond in kind.  Christians are indeed supposed to be a community, a fellowship of believers.  That does not always imply going to a church…but in a way it does, since every meeting of Christians, two or more, is indeed “church.”  I guess the point of this post is to say this; lets really let the Holy Spirit guide us in our dealings with fellow Christians, let’s yield to Him (for it is from Him that any truly good act comes, not ourselves) in our responses to each other, and not just in our responses to the world.  And yielding to the Spirit ensures that our response isn’t the fake “oh, look at me, aren’t I a good Christian” type of act.

Many are going through rough times right now, and I do believe that if we took the time to ponder the fact that we are now a part of an extended family with the same Father, and the same Brother, we may be a lot more inclined to respond the way scripture tells us too.  Weep when our siblings weep, rejoice when they rejoice, pray for them, listen to them.  Sometimes it isn’t the fun thing to do, or the easy thing, but with the guidance of the Spirit, it can bolster faith all around.  I also urge people to notice the “weep when they weep” command; we believers know that not everything is always sunshine and light, the rain does fall on the just and the unjust alike.  Laying guilt trips on people going through rough times isn’t the answer in the least, neither is bashing a believer who slips and sins.  It’s all about grace and  faith, folks, and helping to uphold that faith in us, and in our fellow believers, and sharing God’s grace with each other, not just the world.

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Feedback; Faith vs. Works

I recently had a reader ask about faith vs. works, and this is a very common question.  Often, the perceived conflict can come in another “vs.” form; Paul vs. James.  There is indeed a reason why many people have this question, it can indeed be confusing.

We have Paul on one hand who makes it absolutely clear that faith is a main component of salvation (Grace being the other), and works are not.  We cannot work our way to Heaven, nor can we work our way into God’s good graces.  It doesn’t function that way.  God’s grace is just that; it is unmerited favour; it is unearned favour.  Unearned is a clear word to use, as God gives His grace as a gift.  So if all of this is so clear, what’s the issue?

James 2:20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?

That is the verse that throws a lot of people off.  There is a short answer to this question and a long answer.  Let’s do the long answer first.  The long answer starts with a few important facts.  First, James was the head of the church in Jerusalem, and was writing to Christians who were indeed Jewish.  James also came to faith after Christ resurrected.  If you read his story in scripture, James did not believe Jesus was the Son of God whilst He lived, but only after He was resurrected.  This means James would have been learning about the new covenant probably through the other apostles.  Scripture definitely reads as though James was more “clingy” to the old covenant system.

Paul, on the other hand, was specifically designated to be the apostle to the Gentiles.  His teaching, his letters were also labeled as scripture by the other apostles; this is a great honour and shows his teachings were held to the same level as the old testament.  He was taught his message by Jesus Himself after the resurrection.  We know Paul’s position on these issues to be airtight.  What does that mean for us as we read the scriptures in James that can seem a bit contradictory.  This means we need to interpret James through Paul, and not Paul through James.  This does not mean that James is completely wrong, it just means James needs to be put into context.

Paul taught about the New Covenant, and made himself abundantly clear about the role of faith, especially in books like Galatians, and Romans.  One of the things that James was apparently trying to get at was that if you are saved, if you have the transforming power of the Holy Spirit inside you, it will come out of you in such a way that others can tell.  We have a list of the fruit of the Spirit, so it is apparent that James isn’t wrong on this idea, but we must be very very careful in how we approach the idea lest we leave any room at all for legalism.

In James’ examples he’s careful to always include faith; why?  Because he knows, even if it seems he’s hedging a bit, that faith is where right action starts, and that is if faith where the righteousness comes in.  Any work that is really good is not of us, but of God; it is the Holy Spirit inside of us that pulls us toward righteousness.  In the examples that James gives, like Abraham, and Rahab, they started with faith; and it was their faith that God responded to, and that He considered righteousness.  James’ point is that they did not stop at that faith point, but continued on in action.  That has nothing to do with salvation.  Notice that James, rightly or wrongly, is discussing how we appear before other humans.  I can have true faith all day long, and God will know it regardless of physical action; but other humans can’t see “faith,” they can only see works.

One is saved by Christ, by grace and faith.  Our proper response to God’s grace is a faith response; to come to trust Christ utterly and completely for our salvation.  That brings me to the short answer to this question of faith vs. works.  James says to look at works, ok.  So, what does Jesus Himself tell us?

John 6:29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.

The word there for “believe” is Pisteuo in the Greek; that ye faithe on Him whom He hath sent.  Christ leaves no room for a legalistic interpretation of James; the work of God is to faithe on Christ.  Period.

Now, if one has the Holy Spirit, and lives long enough, will the Holy Spirit work on him/her?  Absolutely.  It doesn’t always happen over night, but it does happen over time…sometimes a long time.  That process of sanctification should not be confused with salvation.  Once we place our faith in Christ by God’s grace, that is what saves us.  Walking and living our lives in faith with the help of the Holy Spirit is a part of the process too, but it is a different issue than salvation.

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