Salvation, Saved, Born Again, Christian, Sinner saved by grace, these are all definitions we use when it comes to defining exactly what happens or what happened to someone when Jesus radically affects their life. I think any Christian would agree that it is by grace we are saved through faith and it is not of ourselves it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast (Ephesians 2:8-9). The problem I see however is that we’ve done such a good job of telling people that truth, that we have missed the other side of the coin. Works, fruit, lifestyle, and evidence of that grace that we claim.
I must be honest it does amaze me how much I’ve heard so many times that to be a Christian all someone has to do is confess with their mouth that Jesus is Lord. Or verses like the one quoted above, that we are saved through faith. This is true, it is accurate. It is 100% on. But there is another part that we must see, that we must address. And that is works (or fruits, or lifestyle). I know the word “works” sounds like heresy to most Christians so I’ll use the word “action” in replace of it.
All throughout the Bible we are constantly seeing that without action, our faith is absolutely dead. And no, I’m not just referring to James. I’m referring to almost the entire new testament. Here’s a few verses that come to mind
The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 1 John 2:4
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23
And then there’s entire books like 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, etc etc. that are books to the church literally teaching them how to live as Christians. We also have the entire sermon on the mount from Jesus which teaches us to do crazy things like “love our enemies”, give people our shirt and coat, and to let people borrow from us as they wish. The whole New Testament is mainly concerned about works hinging off of the death and resurrection. To just acknowledge in your heart that Jesus died for you and then to not follow any of the teachings of Jesus or the Bible is simply not enough. It is not taught in Scripture anywhere that to be a Christian you just need to “believe”. In fact James even acknowledges that even the demons know who Jesus is and we see it consistently in the four gospels. Demons knew exactly who Jesus was and what he was doing.
Christianity can not be broken down in to a nice catchphrase about asking for forgiveness, it can not be boiled down to a cute slogan. Christianity is deep, complex, and mysterious. At its core is a simple truth “Christ died for our sins so we can be reconciled to God, to Shalom, to how God made things” but the result of that truth is infinite. To detach Jesus from the rest of Gods plan is not fullness, it is emptiness. Jesus died for the sins of the world, absolutely, but there is more to the story. There is a BEFORE and there is an AFTER. Our culture is FULL of people who think that because they prayed a prayer, or because the believe in Jesus that they are going to heaven, or that they are a Christian. This is not taught anywhere in scripture. Christianity must be fleshed out, it must be lived out. Understanding that people are all on different walks, and that fruits look different for people is understood, BUT just “believing” is completely dead unless there is action to back it up.
You might say “woah woah, Romans 10:9 “that if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
First it is essential to know context. Paul is writing to the Jewish people, works were already ingrained in to them. Paul is telling the Jewish audience that works have nothing to do with salvation, only Jesus can save. As we see later in other books that he wrote to church, action is essentially proof that we actually believe what we are claiming
If you truly believe that you are restored in your relationship with God, that God would send himself down here among us, let us spit on him, and crucify him, all so we can be reconciled to God, and so we can learn to live the way God designed us to live, how could you NOT live that out? I know many Christians by the way, who are doing this, who are living out there faith, and it is great, it is wonderful, but many many MANY church goers who would claim to be Christians simply sit in the pews one a week and doing nothing more and nothing less with their faith. This is not how Jesus intended his gospel to be lived out. Christianity is not a consumerism item on the shelf of self-help, it is an active breathing faith that demands all of us. If Christianity for us is our “religion” or our “faith” then we’ve missed it. It has to be our life, it has to encompass everything we do. If we claiming to have the truth, if we are claiming to know God, then that can not fit in to a nice and neat section of our lives. The gospel instead, completely wrecks us and leaves us with nothing of our own. We are now slaves to Christ, slaves to the gospel, and the gospel demands all of us. Salvation is free, discipleship cost us everything, and we can not have one without the other.
What’s my bottom line? It’s this – Christians in America (including myself) need to step it up, and instead of telling people about the love of God, we need to SHOW them the love of God. This means putting our desires down for the sakes of others. This means inviting the homeless in to our houses instead of just donating money to a charity or buying someone a meal, this means seeing all people the way Jesus does. It will look different for every person, but it starts with talking to God about how we are called to be the literal hands and feet of Jesus.