God is so merciful and His grace is unending. We all know the things we should do, but in practice few of us consistently succeed. We go through seasons of growth, but then there are those times when it seems all we can do is mess up. We could spend the majority of our days living in guilt, discouraged that we have missed the mark again. God rejects that idea. He sent His Son to free us from guilt and to remove all of our sins. Walking in the footsteps of Jesus gives us never ending opportunities to start again.
We live in a culture that is obsessed by what we “need” and by things we “deserve”. On top of this, we add the additional items which we simply want to have or achieve. At the end of the day, we are consumed by an avalanche of selfish desires that have no positive effect on the world around us and wind up serving only ourselves. This is not the model of Biblical Christianity. It is instead a far cry from the behavior of the early followers of Jesus that we find recorded in Acts 2:44-47. In that passage we see that Christians divided whatever they had and shared with anyone who was in need. There was no thought of “getting ahead in life” or hoarding resources for themselves. They weren’t concerned with personal wealth-building, but rather with building up someone else. Selfishness was not on their radar because the focal point of their lives was Jesus Christ.
Fast-forward two thousand years or so to our modern society. The things we “need” have taken on an entirely different meaning; where once our needs were food and shelter, they have now become extravagance and overabundance. If we don’t have a couple of week’s worth of food in our house, we “need” to go shopping. If we don’t live in a nice neighborhood, we “need” to move. If our televisions cannot display the latest HD quality picture, we “need” a new TV. I submit that the vast majority of our “needs” are more accurately simply a wish list of our “wants”. What we need is the love and grace of Jesus. That is a true need with the added benefit of being a glorious want and desire. We love Him because He first loved us and gave His life for us, so we want to live our life for Him. It’s beautiful the way God has caused us to want most that which we need most. He has put a deep longing within each of us to come to Him. He is all we need.
Another area we get wrong concerns the things we believe we “deserve”. We tell ourselves that we deserve to be happy, deserve to be secure and deserve nice things because we work hard to get them. This too flies in the face of Biblical teaching. What the Bible tells us we deserve is eternal damnation and separation from God in Hell. That is what we deserve. Anything we get that is more than this is simply because of the grace of God and we should fall on our faces and plead for His mercy. It is common to hear people say that they only want what they deserve; they can have it by simply continuing to live their lives for themselves and rejecting Christ. This is a sure-fire method to guarantee yourself to get what you deserve. Live for yourself and be eternally separated from God. Keep the money you earn to yourself and ignore the poor, and you will be stripped of everything you possess. It’s easy to get what you deserve; simply continue to live your life for yourself and leave God out of the equation. I will personally guarantee you, based on the word of God, that you will indeed receive the full measure of everything you deserve.
We need to rethink our wants, needs and our concept of what we believe we deserve. Our “wants” should be those things that will bring us closer to Jesus. Our “needs” should be just enough to survive in this world. What we deserve is clear, so we must repent, accept the grace of God as our covering, and praise Him from saving us from the life we truly merit. Don’t live your life on the terms dictated to you by our Western culture. Live your life in gratitude and service to Jesus, reflecting His love and grace to everyone you meet.
Faith without works is no faith at all. Works without faith are ultimately worthless. Faith demonstrated by works, work driven by faith, is the most beautiful display in all of humanity. Therein lays the delicate balance.
Over the past century, there has been much said about the controversial balance between works and faith. Some denominations pursue a salvation through works theology; others preach a grace only doctrine, while still others endlessly seek the balance between the two. Everyone has scriptures to supposedly validate their particular point of view. As with many issues in the church today, it becomes increasingly difficult to block out the noise and determine what the true answer actually is. And as with many issues facing the church today, we are overcomplicating the issue.
In Ephesians 2:8-9, we are told that our salvation is a result of the grace of God. In Ephesians 2:10 we are commanded to demonstrate our salvation by doing the works Christ commands us to do. In James 2:14-17, we see that if we are not demonstrating our faith by doing the things that Jesus did, and by doing the things that Jesus told us to do, then our faith is not valid! You can not be a true disciple of Christ, a true follower, and not do the things He told us to do. As we have covered many times in the past, the things Jesus told us to do were to care for the orphans, the homeless, the widows, the single mothers and those in poverty. We’re to give food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, visit those in prison, clothe the ones in need and look after the sick. And lest we forget, we are told to tell everyone about Jesus.
Are you demonstrating your faith by engaging in the activities above? If not, what exactly is the faith you claim to have? James says it’s dead; Jesus sends people away from His presence if they do not engage in the work He gave them to do. It’s not enough to simply know the name of Christ; demons know the name of Christ (James 2:19), proving simply knowing Jesus, simply believing in who He is, is not enough. If you believe that simply knowing Him and believing in His message will guarantee you a place in Heaven, you are very sadly mistaken. Scripture does not support this idea; in fact it warns against it. By the same measure, doing the things Christ told us to do without truly believing He is who said He was will also leave you on the outside looking in.
The only way to Heaven is by accepting the grace of God through His son Jesus and then to go out and live the life Christ intended for us. We must have this balance if we expect to see Him again. He has given us much, and He asks for the same. Follow Him and you will have eternal life. Following someone is not a passive activity. To follow is to pursue. To pursue requires a choice to do so, and focus. So where are you? Do you have faith in God but are doing nothing to demonstrate that fact? Are you doing everything that Christ told His followers to do, but doing it because you think He was simply a fine teacher and man of peace? Or have you found the delicate balance between faith and works? Do you love Him and follow that up with service to Him because of your love for Him? Prayerfully determine to which camp you belong. Don’t wait until it’s too late to be about your mission. The grace of God has redeemed you to do incredible things for the kingdom. Bask in God’s grace as you cheerfully and humbly do the work He has for you. Discover the delicate balance and live.