Friday, April 13, 2018

God is Love. We are God's Love in Action!

We have been proceeding through the topic of love.  In recent weeks we have looked at love and action and how we love God directly and how we love God by loving others.  Trusting in the Lord was surely one of the most direct ways in which we can love God.

I challenged you that trust leads to obedience.  Trying to obey God without trusting him is frustrating.  Trust is essential in loving God.  So too, faith comes into the picture when we talk about love and action.

Somewhere down the road, we will take on faith as its own topic.  Before then, we will make stops at peace and rest, but we need a dose of faith when we talk love and action.  So we come to a letter written by James to Hebrew believers scattered all over the known world.

These are people who knew the law, once lived by the law, and now surely are wondering how they are to live considering the fact that Jesus took care of their salvation in a single sacrifice.  The short answer to how are we to live is we are to live in love.  But what does that mean?

James says if you see a brother or sister in severe need, he says without clothes or daily food, and you just walk on by saying, good luck with that; you missed the boat on loving your neighbor.  You are disconnected from your discipleship.

Our response to God’s great love that we saw poured out on the cross is discipleship. It should be rooted in love, governed by trust, and demonstrated by faith and obedience.

Salvation is all from God, but how we respond is our discipleship.  We can say that we have faith and live in love, but our actions say more than our words.  This is not to say that we should all be mute.  On the contrary, we should acknowledge God in everything that we do.  We should share the good news at every opportunity, but our words and our deeds must be in harmony.

You can’t say that you love God and have faith in God and ignore hardship among others who cross your path, especially fellow believers.  Love and faith will produce action if they are genuine. 

James is not talking about the lazy and foolish—the Proverbs have plenty of counsel for those cases.  He speaks of those with legitimate need.  If we encounter someone with real need, we help.  Love compels us to help.  Our faith compels us to help.  Our discipleship which couples love and faith leads us to obey the Spirit within us and we help.

Our love, faith, and deeds are in harmony. We may not be able to dissect what was love and what was faith, but our response was our discipleship.  We helped because we obeyed the Spirit that lives within us.  Faith and deeds, love and action were in harmony.

James inserts what he expects will be a conversation among his readers.  One says that I have faith.  Another says I have works.  He tells us that just saying your have faith doesn’t amount to much.  It’s much more tangible to validate that faith by what you do.

For the hard cases that say, I have faith that there is one true God, that might seem impressive if you compare yourself to a bunch of atheist that are espousing a cosmic accident; but it’s nothing to put on your resume.  Even the demons believe that.   That sort of faith held by the demons does not lead them to obedience to God.  They know enough to realize that their day is coming, and they are shaking in their boots about that, but they don’t have faith.  Their knowledge does not lead to love and obedience.

So, if your stance is that I have faith because I believe there is one true God, you haven’t separated yourself from a very ungodly crowd.  James goes so far as to say that faith that is not accompanied by action is a dead faith.

How would you feel if every morning you were greeted with,” Hey, you’re looking good, but your faith is dead?”

Nobody wants to hear that their faith is dead.  But, but, but, I believe in God. But you have no actions to show for it.

This ersatz conversation is not for the purpose of determining who has faith.  It is not a litmus test that screens out the wannabes.  It’s not a heaven or hell discriminator.

It puts in juxtaposition two incongruous conditions—faith and lack of deeds.  For if there is faith there will be deeds.

As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

Think of it this way.  We talked about loving God by trusting him with all of our heart, even over our own understanding.  Our trust in the Lord becomes visible in the deeds of our faith.  Our works are the visible image of our invisible trust and faith.

Our works are the image of our invisible faith.  Love in action is the visible image of our faith.  I can’t see your faith but I can see the works that proceed from your faith.

James is telling us that the person who receives Jesus as Savior but not as Lord is a preposterous creature.  Receipt of the greatest gift ever should result in the response of love and discipleship, but some don’t want the discipleship.

Some do not want to receive Jesus as Lord.  Thanks God for the get out of hell ticket, but I’m not much at having a Lord in my life.  This following Jesus business is just a little much for me at the moment. 

James is telling us that this response is outrageous, perverse, and abnormal for the new creation that we have become. New creation is Paul’s term.  Let’s say for the disciple that we have been born again to be. 

Our faith is made complete in what we do.  Our love for God is visible in our love for others.  This is our natural state as a born-again believer.  This is who we are made to be when we belong to the Lord.

What do you call a person who belongs to the Christ?  He or she is a Christian. 

How do you know a person belongs to the Christ?  They will know us by our love.

Can we belong to the Christ and not see our love and faith manifested in deeds?  Such a condition is unnatural.  It’s like swimming upstream; yet, it seems so many are trying to do just that.

Our response to the love that we know in Christ Jesus is discipleship.  Discipleship manifests itself in love, faith, and trust.  These become visible in obedience and in deeds.

God’s love in action is the visible manifestation of our faith.  Action completes our faith.  Action by itself is not pleasing to God. Faith without deeds is dead, so faith and action must be companions. 

Here are three unnatural conditions for those who claim to be Christians.  These conditions should not exist in the believer.

·      Faith without deeds.
·      A Savior who is not also Lord.
·      Salvation without discipleship.

Now here are three conditions that we might not think go together but God says that they do.

·      Peace granted to us without understanding.
·      Trusting God over our own understanding.
·      Forgiveness that comes without merit (grace).

There are things in the carnal world that don’t seem to go together but they do.  There are conditions that for the Christian should not coexist.

·      Faith without deeds.
·      A Savior who is not also Lord.
·      Salvation without discipleship.

We have been talking about love and action.  This discussion has taken us to trust, obedience, faith, and deeds.  It all comes under this umbrella of discipleship.  So the question to us is, do we want to be his disciples?

Jesus tells us to take his yoke and learn from him.  He says that his burden is easy.  The load is light.  He does not say that we won’t have trouble in the world.  We know the answer to that.  We will, but we can learn from our Lord.  His commands are not a burden to us.

He tells us that people will know we belong to him by our love.  Don’t we want to not only be his disciple but look different from those who are not?

His invitation is to follow him.  Are we up to this?

The answer for one who has received unmerited forgiveness from God—grace—salvation through grace—must be yes.  The answer must be yes.

Words like Christian tourist, Christian spectator, and Christian consultant, Christian commentator are oxymorons.  These are words that don’t go together.  Where there are disciples there is action.

Grace compels us to action. 

Many of you know this.  I see so much love in action every week.  What I hope that you understand is that action is now your natural response as a follower of Christ.  Action is your natural condition.  You are God’s love in action.

We understand that God is Love.  Now understand that we are God’s love in action.

The carnal man asks, “Should I help?”

The disciple asks, “How should I help?”  Wisdom and discernment follow—God grants wisdom generously—but action is automatic.  It is natural for us as a Christian.  We will do something to help with the real needs of people.
Our faith is made complete in our action.


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