Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Judged by Works -- Saved by Faith

Does that statement come across as completely against what you’ve always believed?  Well, not the saved by faith part, but the judged by works part…I mean, we’ve heard all of our lives that it’s not about works.  It’s all about faith, right?  So when I read this headline in the quarterly, I was definitely temporarily stunned.  But only temporarily.

The author of the lesson draws the perfect circle in explanation:
    “That we are judged by works doesn’t mean that we are saved by them; we are saved, instead, only through the righteousness of Jesus, which is credited to us by faith, a faith that is always manifested by works.”
Wow! Isn’t that an amazing explanation?  It’s the circle of life eternal!

These days, judgment is not a politically correct idea.  Nobody’s supposed to be judged at anytime for anything.  (I’m not talking about people judging people, here.)  I’ll bet you’ve talked to someone who believes the “once saved, always saved” doctrine.  That’s kind of a judgment free theory.  No matter how you try to explain that the natural product of salvation is works, that person claims that you are living “under the law” and being legalistic.  In his explanation, no matter what a person does once he’s saved, he cannot be lost…there is not unpardonable sin—once a person is saved.

James would beg to differ.  Read James 2:14-26:
What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds."  Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.  You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.  You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness," and he was called God's friend. You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.  In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.
That’s a really long text, I know, but each time I read through it to make it shorter, I couldn’t find anything that was less important and could be left out.  Look also at Matthew 12:36,
 “But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.”  
Does that sound like the things we do don’t count?  God is going to keep track of every word we say, and if He can keep track of every hair on every person’s head, I’m pretty sure He won’t miss anything.

Oh my, when I think about all the things I’ve thought and said and done, that I shouldn’t have…well, it’s overwhelming!  So how can I ever declare myself saved if I’m being judged by my words and deeds?   That’s where faith comes in.  PRAISE GOD!!!  When we accept Jesus’ sacrifice for us, by faith, God sees His words and deeds, not yours or mine.

Our actions don’t save us, but our salvation shows through our actions.  What if someone that you cared about told you everyday that he (or she) loved you, but then went around town telling people that you were a control freak who never let him do anything he wanted to do.  Would you believe it when that person told you he loved you?  Or, what about this, the person told everyone he met how much he loved you, but when you needed his help, he couldn’t be bothered to stop with his everyday business to help you.  Again, would you believe it when he said he loved you?  I think that’s a lot like accepting the invitation to the wedding feast, but not accepting the conditions (putting on the wedding garment).  Are we accepting God’s invitation and then refusing to wear Christ’s righteousness?  The Bible tells us that our righteousness is like filthy rags, but still we cling to those rags like they were material made of golden thread.  If we insist on presenting our own righteousness to God, we are doomed.  The only thing we have to DO to be saved, is let Jesus dress us in His own beautiful clothes.

Then, we will want to show everyone how much we love the One who died to save us through our words, actions and thoughts.

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