April 9, 2013

faith and works and real life

For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.  James 2:26

How is that for an opener?  

This is a concept I have been chewing on over the past many weeks.  Faith and works.  There's no easy or clear way to get into all that my brain has been churning, but I know two truths here.

I am saved because of my faith, by grace.  Jesus on the cross.  God reads His resume instead of mine when the day comes.  And I am clean.  White as snow.  This is truth.  I know get to be a part of the new earth, spending all eternity with God.  Not because of any work or deed that I did.

But, God still cares about what I do here on earth.  Jesus words have made this clear.  The great commission commands that we share this good news of redemption through Jesus to all the earth!  It is clear throughout watching Jesus lifestyle that he identifies with the least.  The poor, the orphan, the widow, the single mom, the mentally ill, the elderly, the disadvantaged.  He desires justice for these people.  He desires that we love our neighbor as ourself and that the church clothe, feed, and give drink to the least.  

I believe both of these things.  With all my heart I believe it.  

But here is where I am struggling with that second part.  What does this mean for me in real life?

For one, I think it means being counter-cultural.  Knowing that the things that our world seeks in attempt to satisfy never really do.  It means that I can hardly make a decision without considering the kingdom impact.  It means that when we sell our house this summer (hopefully) we can't simply make a decision to move to the best house in the best neighborhood with the best school district, absent-mindedly.  

I've found my mind spinning in circles trying to figure out where we should live.  And I know that is part of my problem, that simply I am trying to figure it out, and while I am in prayer over it, I've been unwilling to be patient.  I want knowledge and control.  Isn't that what caused the fall of man in the first place?  But ultimately, I am finding that because of faith... because I know Jesus is real and heaven is near, the simplest decisions such as where I live and who my neighbors are have kingdom impact.  

It's easy for me to feel the urgent need to move to the inner city and live missionally there, because that gets attention and seems radical.  But at the same time I know that ministry happens in the affluent neighborhoods as well.  The wealthy can be just as lost as the poor.  And ultimately, I must be willing to accept whatever God has for me, even if it looks different than I might have guessed.  Even if it doesn't get quite the same attention or turn the heads (because that isn't the point either).  I have to be willing to be called to the great task, but also know that faithfulness in the small ones is just as valuable.  

Faith without works is dead.  Because if we know and believe Jesus is who he says he is, we will devour the Word of God and depend on the guidance of the Spirit in the steps that we take.  Works is the overflow of faith.  It is not salvation, but the fruit of it.  It is the love that our neighbor receives when we love the Lord our God with all of our heart.  

Works can look like living in the inner city and spending my days with the homeless and abandoned and abused.  Works can look like being bold in a conversation with a co-worker to find out if he knows Jesus.  Works can look like bringing a meal to that family that just adopted three children.  Works can look like adopting or fostering.  Works can look like spending the next 18+ years pouring into and discipling your children.  Works can look like foregoing that new 52" TV and sending a check to that agency fighting human trafficking instead.  Works can look like moving to Africa or Jamaica or Morocco or China or Los Angeles or East Grand Rapids and sharing life and speaking truth.  

Seeking Jesus radically means we're open to whatever he has.  Anything.  It's me opening my hands and my life and saying Your kingdom come and Your will be done.  And being obedient to that call.  It is being faithful with what is before us while seeking His will in the steps that we take.  

We are commanded two things above all else.  Love the Lord and love your neighbor.  We will know how to do this by getting to know Jesus.  I can't figure this out on my own, as much as I try.  I can't control my kingdom impact, only through the Spirit.  My responsibility is two-fold.  Know the written word of God.  Devour it and eat it up and memorize it and speak it and eat it again.  Know the character of God.  See the story of God's kingdom and how we are in need of a perfect Savior who can not fail.  Feel the weight of what Jesus and his sacrifice meant.  This is God's word.  And press into the Spirit for guidance for applying that to life in the western culture of 2013.  

I'm praying through this more in this season than I ever have before.  It's a reason I've been quiet here, because my mind has been so overwhelmed, I am unsure how to even begin discussing what is so heavy on my heart.  But I can't tell you how much more clear I feel after spitting that out in writing.

I once used this blog as a space for me to process my thoughts, and share a little bit of life.  Somewhere along the way, I started becoming afraid to do that.  I started getting more followers and feeling more pressure to have something good for you.  I started feeling the need to water down my passion a bit.  

I just can't do that anymore.  Take it or leave it, I'm going to use this space to work out my faith, my life, and how that fits together.  The good, the bad, the ugly, the utterly confusing.  This is a place where I'm inviting open dialogue and sharing life on this journey.  

So while we are at it, what are your thoughts on this?  Read Matthew 25 and share your thoughts on this as well.  I can't get this passage out of my mind, but after some researching and prayer, I think I have a bit of peace and perspective regarding this passage (especially 31-46).  

And can I just say, I'm so so so thankful for those of you who are on this journey with me.

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