Thursday, May 30, 2013

Rahab: The Prostitute Who Believed

A prostitutes saving faith as an example for us all.
Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? ~James 2:20

Hopefully by now we are all beginning to see the importance and value of good works in the lives of Christians. The value and importance of good works are not in their ability to win salvation for us (because they can’t), and their worth is not found in their ability to keep us saved (because they don’t), but their significance is found in what they say about who we are. James notes that anyone can say they are a Christian and believe in God, but without the evidence of a changed life, the confession means very little. As he looks from Scripture for examples of those who believe and have a changed life to back up their confession, he gives us two.

Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; ~James 1:21,22

As Pastor noted these last two Sundays, Abraham is an obvious choice as one who’s life and works match up with a confession of faith in the One True God. Here is a man whose entire life was changed and affected not only him, but his family and all that he owned. Yes, Abraham was a good choice for James to use as one whose justifying faith in God produces evidence of salvation through good works. The other was a prostitute…

And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? ~James 2:25

Who would have thought James would use a harlot as an example of true saving faith? But, after examining her confession and comparing it to her life and the actions she took, we can see why James chose her. Consider what she says to the two spies that night in Jericho so long ago…

Before the men lay down, she came up to them on the roof and said to the men, “I know that the LORD has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction. And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the LORD your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath. ~Joshua 2:8-11

Rahab believes in and knows of God Almighty! Living as a prostitute among a people who worship false gods and live in utter spiritual darkness, Rahab hears of the One True God and believes. If God has changed her heart and she believes and trusts God in a saving way then, according to James, we should see that confession lived out in her words and deeds.

Behold, when we come into the land, you shall tie this scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and you shall gather into your house your father and mother, your brothers, and all your father’s household. ~Joshua 2:18

After saving the two spies from the men of Jericho, Rahab acknowledges God’s plan to remove the current inhabitants of the land and give it to the Israelites. She responds in the same way any sinner who recognizes their position before God… she asks for mercy! The two spies tell her to tie a scarlet cord in the window of her home and trust that this sign will protect her and her whole household from the destruction coming to Jericho. Rahab’s confession of faith was backed up by her protective treatment of God’s people and reliance upon Him for mercy. And as Pastor pointed out to us she remained in her home and trusted in the promise even while death, destruction, and judgment were falling all around her. Her faith was a:

  • Shocking Faith 
  • Simple Faith 
  • Singular Faith 
  • Saving Faith 
  • Sanctifying Faith 

What might someone say about your faith? Is it as clearly lived out and real as the faith of this prostitute from Jericho?

By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies. ~Hebrews 11:31

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Does God Consider You His Friend?

Abraham, a proven friend of God
and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. ~James 2:23

If ever there was an example of true saving faith, lived out in the life of someone, it was Abraham. As Pastor noted last Sunday, Abraham is the “Father of all who believe” and as James puts it, “a friend of God.” James has been talking about faith which is genuine, will be accompanied by good works and Abraham is one of two examples he gives. If Abraham is a model of saving faith for both Jew and Gentile, then how should we relate to him?

Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. ~Galatians 3:7-9

Abraham is the father of our faith and it is through the promise made to him by God Almighty that any of us are saved. Paul explains in the book of Romans that Abraham was justified by faith before he was circumcised so that we Gentiles would be considered righteous by faith as well (Romans 4:9-12). In Abraham we find that the promises of God come not to any one people group, but to those who draw near to God by faith. The thing to note for us here is that Abraham’s faith was proven (justified) before all by his works because it was real. So then, if our faith is real then it will be proven by works. Again, what Pastor said Sunday makes the point:

“How we live (not what we say) proves who we are.”

James is not alone in Scripture when he calls us to good works for the glory of God. I’m sure he got the whole idea from his brother…

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” ~Matthew 6:14-16

The purpose and goal for our good works is not that people would make much about us, but that much would be made about (glorified) God in Heaven! Our faith is made complete and perfected by these good works because they point to the One who saved us to do the good works in the first place! When our faith is proven or justified before the world by our good works, then it is evident God has regenerated our hearts and saved us… it proves we have been Born Again, it proves we are friends of God…

You are my friends if you do what I command you. John 15:14

Friday, May 17, 2013

Unsaved Believers

I don't think he is alive... there is no evidence.
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? ~James 2:14

Pastor’s message entitled “Unsaved Believers” from last Sunday, presents a tragic and frightening reality. The idea that someone can believe Jesus is the Christ and yet remain unregenerate and unsaved speaks to the power and deceptiveness of our corrupted hearts. I know Christians who believe this cannot be. They refuse to accept the notion of someone who proclaims belief but not in a saving way. Jesus would even go a step further and declare there are those who say they believe and even do Christian things and are yet outside the family of God. I give you the scariest passage in the Bible…

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ ” ~Matthew 7:21-23

Most of us have seen dead animals alongside the road and most would agree those flattened clumps of fur sitting there day after day in all kids of weather exhibit no signs of life. They do not move, or run; they do not eat or breath, they are there and do not do anything. Why then would we fail to see someone who says they have saving faith without the works produced by that kind of faith as spiritually dead? If the Holy Spirit of God is dwelling inside someone and their heart has been regenerated, there will be evidence of new life! Not perfection as Pastor noted, but a new direction. Pastor pointed out three characteristics of someone with this kind of useless faith; the unsaved believer has: 

  • A hollow profession 
  • Empty compassion 
  • Shallow conviction 

 If God has regenerated a human heart and called them to salvation, He creates in them a desire to forsake sin and serve Christ and follow Him. There is a desire and longing for righteousness and obedience to the Word of God. Question... If a man who has sold his own people out to a conquering army, oppresses them by imposing and collecting heavy taxes for that army while skimming off the top to support his godless lifestyle meets Jesus and is saved, does his saving faith produce works? Is there any outward evidence of an inward change?

And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” ~Luke 19:8-10

So what is the take away for us from this message? How should we weave this thread of truth into the fabric of our lives this week? It can begin with something as simple as just examining our involvement and interaction with the rest of the church, and by that I mean the folks here at Lakeside Fellowship. If there is a lack of good works in our lives, is the only answer to just start doing more? Actually the answer is turn to Jesus first, looking to Him and the work He alone accomplished and meditate on what that means for your own life. Notice what Paul explains to Titus...

Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. ~Titus 3:1-3

Paul calls on Titus to remind the people of the good works which should be evident in their lives as Born Again believers. But, now note what the grounds and basis for doing those good works is, note what leads to and causes those good works to be done...

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. Titus 3:4-8

Paul tells Titus to insist on the truths of the Gospel (verses 4-7) so that Christians would devote themselves to doing good works (verse 8). Knowing and understanding the Gospel leads to and causes good works. Which is why Paul told the Roman Christians he wanted to preach the Gospel to believers (Romans 1:15). I am looking forward to Pastor’s sermon this coming Sunday and he rounds out these thoughts about good works and their relation to my own faith, after all that is what God created and saved us for...

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. ~Ephesians 2:8-10

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Sin of Playing Favorites

In light of the Cross, how should we be treating each other?
My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. ~James 2:1

I've been doing a lot of thinking about Pastor’s message from this last Sunday and after considering the example James gives about showing favoritism to the rich man over the poor man, I can see how easy it is for me to commit this particular sin. I’m not talking about actively giving better treatment to someone who is rich over someone who is poor, but seeking out and fellowshipping only with those who are most like me or with those whom I have the most in common. It is all too easy to establish relationships with only those whom we find some easy connection to. Scripture points out, as Christians, we are not at liberty to ignore or exclude anyone in the Body of Christ.

have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? ~James 2:4

I know I have been guilty of ignoring certain people because I either don’t really know them or because I have not been able to easily “connect” with them, so according to James I have become a judge with evil thoughts. He later points out this type of behavior is sin.

But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.  ~James 2:9

James doesn't pull any punches and says if anyone makes any sort of a distinction between Christians and treats them differently because of that distinction it is sin. The idea of that doesn't sit easy with me and by God’s forgiveness and strength I will do differently. Pastor gave us some meat to chew on when he asked us to consider what our partiality violates, there were five points he brought up; our partiality violates:
  1. The character of God 
  2. The Law of God 
  3. The Son of God 
  4. The grace of God 
  5. The warning of God 
As Christians we should be immensely concerned if anyone points out how we may have violated any one of these things by our behavior. As I did some more reading and studying about the sort of relationship I should be having with other Christians, I noticed how the Bible talks a great deal about how I relate to other Christians goes well beyond just getting along. It says something about who God is and should display the relationship between the Father and the Son. Jesus, in His prayer for the disciples and for those who would believe later (us), points out we are to be unified and related in such a way as He is with the Father...

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” ~John 17:20,21

In fact, the love we have for one another is an indicator of our relationship to Christ and declares to the world we are His disciples...

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” ~John 13:34,35

It is God’s intent that there be a significant and life altering relationship between those who make up the Body of Christ! When we are saved we become a new person and each new person saved is to make up a new humanity displaying the love and relationship between the persons of the Holy Trinity. This new humanity, of which we at Lakeside are a part of, is the beginning of the fulfillment of God’s ultimate purpose and plan for all creation. Some people would say this is huge.

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. ~Ephesians 1:7-10

United in Christ... so how we treat one another, or how we mistreat and ignore one another says something about who we are as Christians or who we are not. The unity and relationship we are displaying in the here and now should be a clear representation of the unity and relationship we will have later... like this...

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” ~Revelation 7:9,10