The Church’s Missing Work Ethic, saved by faith proven by works

I am sick of reading stories about how we can get rich.  I am sick of hearing accounts of how much God is blessing us, without any mention of the shallow nature of the American Church as an institution.  I am not looking to blame anyone, but I think we have to get beyond our narcissistic, Facebook/Twitter theology and get back to the basics of the Bible.

             It seems that Christians in the early Church lived by a different standard than we live by today.  They were not so caught up in the trite statements and what can only be termed Christian voodoo.  There were no formulas for success.  There were not three things God wants us to learn as we sit and perform our Christian duty of Church attendance.

             There was more to this Church that a meeting.  There was more to this Church than what was in it for me.  It is a good thing there was more to the first Church than our modern model. 

             Think of how poorly the first Church would have done if they had been serving the God of the Universe for what was in it for them.  Hebrews 11 and the lives of the Apostles were both a testimony to what was in it for “me.”

             Here is what the writer of Hebrews lists as some of what God promises for His people:  “They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, torments;”   Hardly the stuff the American Church promises to King’s Kids. 

             Now, do not get me wrong, I think God does take care of His people.  The problem is not with God, it is with our expectations.  We are living through the longest peace time prosperity in world history.  Even with all our economic woes and the wars that are going on the peace and prosperity are amazing.

             We have allowed that to make us lazy and assume that our peace and prosperity are rewards from God for living in a godly nation.  Yet, we murder over a million children every year.

             I think one of the reasons we find ourselves in this place is that we have become too preoccupied with the faith part of our walk and not the works part of our walk.

             I know, I know, Luther says it is faith and faith alone that saves us.  I am not talking about that.  Sure it is through faith that we are saved.  We have to remember, however, that being saved is only the beginning.  We, unfortunately, have made it the end as well as the beginning.

             The Gospel was never meant as a get to heaven and then sit back approach to God.  God has never been an eat, drink, and be merry kind of God.  He created the world and yearns to have the world return to Him.

             Salvation is a great start to a relationship with God.  If we stop there we run the risk of being spiritually retarded, stunted in our spiritual growth.  There is no maturity in merely being beings that are destined for heaven.

             Jesus never rested on His coming kingdom; He went about healing all who were sick, setting the captives free, feeding the hungry, ministering to the poor.  He spent his entire earthly ministry doing the one thing we Protestants consider unnecessary, His ministry was a ministry of works.

             I think that is what is missing from the modern American Church, the works portion of our faith.  Before you write me off as a heretic, let’s look at what James has to say about this very thing.  If we read James literally, then we have to question what we have been taught that Luther believed.  (Sorry, for you purist out there, this is the NASB version.)

 14What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him?  15If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food,   16and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?  17Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.  18But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”  19You believe that God is one You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.  20But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?  21Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar?  22You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected;  23and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “AND ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS,” and he was called the friend of God.  24You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.  25In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?  26For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.

             It seems to me that we might be missing something.  If salvation is the end of everything, then how did James get into our canonized Bible?  Whose mistake was that?  So, what is the solution?  I believe it is simple; we read the Bible for ourselves and listening to the advice of others, determine what God is saying to us.  Our relationship with God is with a living being and there should be communication, at least in our hearts.

             We can no longer count of the government to do our good works for us.  The moral foundation of our country is gone.  We can no longer count on someone else to do our good works for us.  And, most importantly, we can no longer assume that faith and faith alone will bring us to maturity in Christ.  James is clear “so also faith without works is dead.

             I do not know about you, but I believe in serving that which is living, not that which is dead.  So, I am pledging to have works with my faith so that it lives.

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2 Responses to “The Church’s Missing Work Ethic, saved by faith proven by works”


  1. 1 Eric Dye 30 July 2009 at 4:57 pm

    Good stuff, man!!!

    Crazy thing … I preached on this piece of scripture this past Sunday! First time I’ve ever preached AND they didn’t have the audio set right so it sounds crappy, but you can still hear me.

    http://www.odcsuffolk.org/sermonaudio.htm

    Message titled: The Bride is Dying and Only You Can Save Her

    I’ll call you later … new things developing …

    • 2 joelthornton 30 July 2009 at 5:34 pm

      I will listen, love to hear from you, just call when it is good for you. New things always interest me!


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