|True Christianity by faith resulting in works|
What does faith in Christ and His atonement work mean to us as Christians? To many faith is a personal matter and although they believed in Christ, it is not reflected in their actions to continue on the ministry of Christ. Faith is kept to themselves.
The epistle of James is a book about the struggle of living out our faith in an authentic manner in the midst of a cross road in Christianity when it was hitherto based on the many hundreds of Jewish laws and good works, versus the proclamation of faith alone in Jesus Christ and what it means to live out this faith.
There was persecution for the early Christians who were adamant that Christianity was the truth and it mattered enough for them to sacrifice their lives rather than going back to the Jewish faith. Were they to still rely of the Jewish laws or go into the unknown of faith in Christ without the clear boundaries for their actions and works.
It is in this context that the epistle of James was set with strife between the different theological beliefs, the pride of self righteousness and also with the rich and the powerful taking over the church in Jerusalem having the loudest voice and condeming others of not following the Jewish laws. The power of the tongue of strife and arguments were causing harm.
In a world where there are many faiths, and spiritual deities, the truth in Christianity is often challenged. We don't make Christianity true as Christians, because the revelation and salvation of Christ is eternal irrespective of us.
However, Christians in the last two thousands have often not act out what we believed until it can even be said by some that it does not matter whether Christianity is true rather we make Christianity true in our works.
Good works itself - to visit the orphans and widows doesn't by itself imply that it is motivated by a pure and undefiled religion. For a humanistic based faith often ends in a deep void of spirituality.
Jesus was not born of this earth, rather His Spirit came from heaven, the incarnate of God. It is God who came down first not that our pureness leads us to heaven. It is Christ who first loved us whilst we were yet sinners. He came down to heaven in order to redeem us to bring us home. He was not from this earth yet became one of us, one of humanity.
James 1:27 Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.
James was particularly adamant that we should be doers and not hearers of the word only, and that true religion is manifested not in being proud and boastful that we have the truth rather that we can be a blessing of God's peace through Christ.
The target of the James' criticism were Jewish law minded Christians who had insisted on following the law and not be defiled by the world (ie not to be engaged with the gentiles). They held on strongly to orthodoxy, and James rebuked them that purity in the Christian faith is not by their insistence of strictly following the Jewish law inwardly.
If they were so pure and undefiled inwardly by the religious law, James sarcastically rebuked them for the lack of their outward acts of faith to help the poor and the rejected.
The argument was not whether "Christianity was true?" but whether abiding by the strict religious laws and insisting them strongly would lead to any good works. On the other end, there were those who stopped at the declaration of faith, yet not demonstrating the outworking of this faith in the good works of continuing on the ministry of Christ or by standing up for the faith.
Perhaps, apostle James was himself conflicted, for his Christianity was within the Jewish faith context. They believed that Jesus was the Messiah but they were still very much Jewish abiding by the Jewish laws.
In the Epistle of James, he begin to see that those who had insisted loudly on abiding by the Jewish faith were causing more harm rather than proclaiming the love and grace of God. They had pride in the law, and in their wealth and power.
The epistle of James starts of in James 1:2-8, where James was adamant that the Jewish Christians keep to the faith amid the trials and not sway from the centrality of Christ. And they were indeed under persecution from the Romans who had by now considered Christianity another religion (that was to be banned) rather than a permitted Jewish sect.
The Jewish Christians were also leaving Jerusalem to the diaspora to the Gentile lands or beyond the walls of Jerusalem to the "outside world" in the persecution. In the conflict from outside and from within, many have left the church.
In James 3, James rebuked those who were outspoken and who had insisted on the Jewish faith were causing harm and fire to the work of the church, and also against those who took their faith in Christ rather casually.
There was grave internal division and fighting and different camps judging one another as being wrong and currupt (James 4:1). There was also pride in the power struggles for control and authority to retain the status quo rather than to proclaim that the grace of God extended to the Gentiles.
James called upon the opposing groups to be humble (James 4:6), and not to agressively attack the different theological opinions within the church (James 4:11). Added to this was the complacency of what it means to be a Christian. If Christianity was indeed the The way, and The truth to God in Jesus Christ, shouldn't we be going out there to proclaim the Gospel message!
We all have different ministries and different theological understanding to motivate our good works. How do we relate to each other, giving space, dignity respect, to different aspects of Christian ministry and beliefs without insisting that everyone do as we do.
The early Christians were under grave persecutions by the Romans and Jewish religious leaders yet internally they were disunited and had strong arguments, disagreements, and verbal disputes.
The church of the 1st century were facing a major theological conflict, whether to continue abiding by the Jewish religious moral laws versus faith through the grace of God in Christ producing the resultant good works and moral living. As James 2:18 so eloquently put it - in James 2:18 "But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.”"
There was also the strong influence of the rich and their focus on prosperity (James 2:2-6). The poor was left out and the rich and powerful were having mini kingdoms within the church.
James 2:13 For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
James challenged those who had insisted on judgement to show love, to show mercy, and to show grace, and instead of zealously condeming others, to do good works and help the poor instead.
Yet, James was adamant that Faith produces an outworking of righteousness and good works. True Christianity matters. James wasn't too comfortable of those who took faith casually without the need to show good works of their faith. For right believing leads to right living.
In the famous verse in James 2:20 "But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?", giving the example of Abraham as an example of faith resulting in good works.
However, Abraham was not made righteous by the works of the law, or even helping the widow and the outcasts. He was made righteous when he believed by faith in the promises of God that enabled him to act out this faith by attempting to sacrifice his only son. His faith led him to action, to the works of faith.
Does our faith in Christ leads us to the good works of demonstrating the love, grace, mercy of Jesus Christ instead of insisting that we were right, or judging and condeming others in a loud manner. Does in our faith results in the good works of trusting in God and stepping out by faith in the work that God has ordained for us?
If our faith is a carnal and a humanistic faith, it will lead to us insisting on achieving righteousness by good works. But we will end up loud and demanding, condeming others of not meeting our standards of morality, and having pride in our own righteousness in following the law.
If our Christian faith is indeed true and based on Christ redeeming works for the atonement of our sins, it will be demonstrated in our desire to do good works in spreading the Gospel message of salvation, and showing God's love, grace and mercy because Jesus lives in us.
Our Christian faith will be shown not in the accumulation of wealth for ourselves but in giving to others. We will not be proud of our works or insisting that others follow our good works but giving space and freedom to others to live out their Christian faith in honesty and integrity as the Holy Spirit leads them.
How does the truth of God's redeeming grace in Jesus Christ, leads us to good works of faith? Are we asked to follow Abraham to sacrifice our all to venture into the unknown where God will lead us by just trusting in God alone accounting for our righteousness.
Abraham was righteous looking forward and acting out good works in faith looking to the coming of Jesus Christ the Messiah. We look backwards, to the Cross of Calvary, for our rigtheousness in Christ as the basis of our faith to trust in God to do the good works of continuing on the ministry of Christ.
We don't do good works to gain righteousness, but it is by our faith that we are righteous in Christ, and this assurance of salvation in Christ where was are standing firmly on the solid rock allows us to step out to do the good works that God has called us to do.
For some our calling is to the streets of Geylang in Singapore. For others, it is to proclaim the good news of the atonement of Christ and the Year of Jubilee and acceptance of the GLBT community that God has placed us in.
What is your calling today! live it out by faith that the truth of Christ and His redeeming grace may be shown to the world. Be humble and be gentle, always having grace that Christ may be revealed in us through our good works in living out our faith with gentleness, kindness, love and humility abounding in the Hope of Glory.
Abraham displayed the good works of faith when he took the step to trust and obey God. For the Gay Christians, this would be often challenging because so much of life has been finding and living out our true authentic self as gays.
We struggle just to survive physically, emotionally and spiritually. Yet, God is calling us to trust and obey by faith that in our good works may reach our purpose in life, the peace, rest and joy that comes with it. God is faithful and it is in His faithfulness that matters and not our faithlessness. For some our good works may just be sharing our testimony of coming out and trusting in the faithfulness of God to support us.
Could we trust God again when there is so much condemnation by people of faith against us, and we often are alone in hiding with not much to fall back on spiritually and financially.
We are called to good works as Christians and for some it may be just staying true to the Christian faith and coming out of the closets yet still holding on to the love of Christ and bearing no ill will against others for putting us in the closet, and living out the plans that God has for us for good works for the Kingdom of God.
Good works is displayed when we respond in kindness and grace when grave harm is done against us. It requires trusting and obedience in the faithfulness of God in the storms of life that for many gay christians is a daily affair. It is when we can put on faith to trust and obey God that we can begin to do the good works that God has planned for us as we minister Christ to the Gay community by the grace of God.
Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus