It’s an age old dilemma. You put your trust in Christ to save you. You asked God to forgive your sins and were baptized in Jesus’ name. You are a member of the church and look forward to spending eternity in God’s presence. But, you still struggle with sin. You think thoughts you shouldn’t think, say words you shouldn’t say, and do things you shouldn’t do (things that ‘real’ Christians just don’t do!). And, if you’re honest, your life isn’t focused on Jesus nearly as much as it should be. So, you wonder if you are ‘really saved?’ You don’t ‘feel’ saved, even though the Bible indicates that ‘true believers’ should be confident in their faith! I John 5:13 reads, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” You think, ‘How can I be certain of my faith and eternal destiny? How can I KNOW that I have eternal life?’ Are you a Christian? Really?!
In part one of this discussion we noted Jesus’ warning, “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21) So, if I understand the words of Jesus correctly, there will be people who show up in judgment before the Lord, thinking they are saved….only to find out they are not. Obviously, I don’t want any church members (or myself/family!) with whom I serve to end up in that tragic circumstance, so I am trying to talk/walk/write/think our way through to the desired end….that we all really are committed followers of Jesus and we KNOW it!
Romans 10:9 tells us that we are saved if we confess that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised him from the dead. So the outward confession confirms the inner faith. But is it possible to make a confession without truly believing it? We are, also, commanded to repent of our sins (ask for forgiveness) and be baptized in the name of Jesus. (Acts 2:38) But, again, is it possible to not truly repent and to go down into the waters of baptism a ‘dry sinner’ and come up a ‘wet one?’ If we’re honest, we’ve all known some church members of whom that seemed to be true. They said the right words and did the right things. They were active in church for a time, but then they dropped off the ‘church planet’ and were not seen again. According to Jesus, just saying he is ‘Lord’ is not sufficient. We must, also, ‘do the will of his Father in heaven!’
This is where the whole ‘faith’ and ‘works’ issue (James 2) gets a little tricky. We know that we can’t ‘save’ ourselves! Jesus did for us what we could never do for ourselves! He lived the life of perfect obedience to the will of God. (II Corinthians 5:21) He died the death that we deserved (Romans 6:23) nailing our sin, guilt, pain, and punishment to the cross. When we trust in Jesus to save us he gives us his perfect righteousness with God and takes away our sin and punishment! “We are saved by grace through faith, not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8, 9) But still, the question nags at our hearts, ‘Is faith that doesn’t motivate us to do with will of God, able to save us?’ (James 2:14) If we confess our faith in Jesus but there is little (or no) evidence in our lives that is true….is it?
Let’s try another example of faith that does what God wants…..God’s will is that his children not complain and argue. Philippians 2:14, “Do everything without complaining or arguing.” That’s such a simple thing! Don’t complain, give thanks (I Thessalonians 5:18). Don’t argue, be agreeable….or, at least, disagree without being disagreeable! And yet, there are church members who complain habitually about everything from personal aches and pains, to minor irritations and delays, to….dare I write it….church music (or to be fair, ministers who complain about church members who complain about church music)! And some churches/church leaders have been known for arguing endlessly about non-essential matters (matters that won’t affect who goes to heaven and who doesn’t). If my faith isn’t strong enough to keep me from complaining and arguing (habitually), is it strong enough to be ‘true, saving faith?’ That is a question far too important to leave unanswered! What do you think? (to be continued in our summer message series on the book of James!)