Summary: Faith is a verb; it is action. The gospel proclaims that we are saved by grace and not by works. Still, we are saved for good works and service
The message of God’s grace is unique to the Christian gospel. Other religions have saviors that were born of virgins, incarnate gods, and rose from the dead, but only Christianity boldly proclaims that God did all of this as a free gift because of his love for us.
This is a radical, important message for us to hear. We never tire of hearing it, and we always need to be reminded of it.
Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians celebrates God’s gift of grace. “You have been saved by grace,” he says, “Through faith, and this is not a work but a gift so that no one can boast.” Grace is a gift. We have done nothing to earn it, and there is nothing within us to deserve it. The source of grace is God and the reason for grace is God’s love.
It’s all a gift—not only grace but also faith. The ability to receive God’s gift of grace is given to us by the Holy Spirit. Martin Luther wrote, “I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in the Lord Jesus or come to him, but the Holy Spirit calls me by the gospel, gathers and enlightens me.”
Grace and faith are contrary to our natural lives. In every other area of life we earn what we receive and are judged by our works. School, job, relationship, even families at times require good works in order to be appreciated, love, and rewarded. We try to be good people—the best people we can be, but we always come up short. There is always more that we can do, or more that is expected of us. The gospel is so radically different! God loves us and gives us the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation simply because of that love. And we don’t need to do anything in order to keep God loving us.
JAMES AND GOOD WORKS
Since grace is free with no strings attached, some people respond by doing absolutely nothing. They center their religious lives on their relationship with God and do little else. I’ve spoken about them before and called them pew sponges—people who do nothing but soak up God’s grace. These are the type of people that James is so critical of in his epistle. These are the people who walk around seeing all of the problems around them and responding, “God, I wish you well, keep warm and well fed.”
James stresses that God’s grace prompts a response. Faith is more than a belief in some doctrine. Faith is a life of action. James declares, “So me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith.” James presses the point and says that a faith without works is dead.
Knowing that good works is a part of faith, we can than become intentional in our good works.
• We can determine that we will keep alert for opportunities to serve others and share our faith.
• We can be intentional in planning our days and determine ways that we will live graciously in the situations that we will find ourselves.
As faithful servants living graciously we chose to change our lifestyle.
• We live for others instead of for ourselves. We become other orientated instead of selfish and self-centered
• We give of our time, talents and treasures in a way that impacts our lifestyle. We give until it feels good. We give up some things that we want in order that others might encounter the gospel and respond in faith to it.
Larry Walters is the subject of one of my favorite stories. He was a 33 year old truck driver whole dreamed his entire life about flying. He decided that he’d hook up some weather balloons to a lawn chair and float over his neighborhood. Instead he shot up to 14,000 feet through the flight corridor of LAX airport. Eventually, when he finally shot enough balloons with the BB gun that he had with him to land, we was asked why he did it. His reply is classic. “Well, you just can’t sit there can you?”
No, we can’t just sit there. God calls us to action.