Friday, December 30, 2005

What Is An Evangelical? Part 5: Christian Service.

Finally, we have arrived at the final point in this series! Let's recap: an "evangelical" is a person (preacher), church, or denomination that has the Gospel of Jesus Christ, especially the primacy of Christ's work, as the central article of faith; that believes the spreading of the Gospel and the salvation of souls is the number one duty of the Christian; that believes all moral/spiritual truth is found in the Bible; and that Christians are called to live lives of service before God and fellow man. The last point is that Christians are called to live lives of service before God and fellow man. I want to focus on primarily on James 2:14-25.
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, "You have faith and I have works." Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe--and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness"-- and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.
There is a single driving principle here in this passage. Faith is active. Let me write that again. Faith is active. Faith is not real faith unless it is responsive. James uses a chilling illustration: even the demons believe there is one God. The demon that possessed the man in the Gospels even believed Jesus was the Son of God. But there is a glaring difference--the demons did not act on that belief in the way faith demands. I would argue that faith in God--true faith in God--requires glorifying Him. For us, that begins with our acceptance of Jesus as our Savior and continues in serving others. This is James' "works" as he discusses here. An example by way of illustration is his statement "If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace, be warmed and filled,' without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?" If we are truly people of faith, we will act on that faith. Not only is this the principle, but it is a command from Jesus himself. In Matthew 5:16, Jesus commands, "In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." This follows his illustration of the light hidden under a bushel. And again in John 13:34-35 - "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." And once more in Luke 22:25-27 - "Jesus said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves." So we see Jesus has clearly commanded us to serve others as the ultimate expression of our faith in Him. It is further seen in 1 Peter 4:8-11 that we are to serve using whatever abilities we have, because that is the expression of our love for each other as believers and for the lost sinners in need of a Savior. By doing so, God is glorified through us. I could go on and on by listing examples of service but I think a good short way to explain service is putting others' needs before one's own. To sum up, Christian service is the acting out of our faith in Christ by putting the needs of others before our own, and filling those needs as a sign of our love for them. Next time, I will wrap up the series with a brief conclusion. Enjoy!

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