February 20, 2012

Faith includes obedience

Almost every day God’s Word challenges me to believe something about God. Not only that, by whatever He says, He is also calling for a change in attitude, words or actions.
By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. (Hebrews 11:8)
Faith does not stand by itself. Abraham believed, and because he believed, he “obeyed and went.” As James wrote,
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their 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 my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our father 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 considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone. (James 2:14–24)
Jesus also declared the importance of acting on what I believe. He spoke to those who declared they had faith, but were not obedient. However, He added another element — relationship. Works of faith are not works that stand by themselves but are based on a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matthew 7:21–23)
The framework for obedience is about trusting the God that I know, the One who has revealed Himself to me and invited me into a saving relationship. He is my Heavenly Father and I am His child by adoption, but also His because of new birth, what the Bible calls regeneration. I have been reborn into His family and His kingdom. Good works cannot happen apart from any of these things, at least not the good works that God wants.

No one can do these good works or earn that saving relationship with God by doing good apart from Christ. That relationship must first be there, and it begins because God does something, not me.
For 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. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:8–10)
Abraham responded to the call of God with obedience. God started this man’s life of faith, Abraham didn’t. Yet his acts of obedience proved that God had called him. His faith was no mere verbal declaration but a changed life and a change of life’s direction.

If my life remained the same as before Christ called me, then my lack of response would prove that I didn’t really believe in Him. Not only that, I cannot decide the new course I am to take, even if my decisions looked good on the surface. Following Jesus Christ is about doing what He says, not doing what I think would make me a “good” Christian. Doing what He says happens because I believe His words and commands are true and that He is true and right and good. This is not about being religious, but about a relationship of loving trust.

Jesus, these are basic truths and it is good to be reminded of their reality. Today, You will give me something to do. Doing it is not duty or rote or for show. Obedience happens because You have granted me a clear view of who You are plus the gift of faith to believe what You say. You may ask me to go out or stay in. You may ask me to help someone or to offer something precious to You. You may also ask me to rest and spend this day with family and friends. Whatever this day brings, my desire is to respond to it according to Your Word — and even that desire is from You.

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