Tag Archives: Jesus Christ

Faith that saves embraces and acts

29 May

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. James 2:18-22

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In Sunday school growing up, I heard many conversations between student and teacher that went a little bit like this:

T: “Who can tell me what it means to be saved?”
S: “Believing in God.”
T: “Yes, but believing in God is not enough. Even the devil believes there is a God. We have to repent of our sins, accept Jesus into our hearts and strive to become more like him. That’s what separates us.”

In other words, we can’t just believe IN God to be saved….we have to actually believe him. That means we take him at his word. We believe that what Christ did on the Cross is real and true. And we repent of our sins and work hard to be doers of the word (James 1:22) and become more Christlike, which is our calling (Romans 8:28-29a).

This is confirmed in the commentary on James 2:19 provided by Crossway’s ESV Study Bible:

The affirmation of monotheism stems from the core Jewish creed called Shema. But James stresses its inadequacy, since even the demons believe this, and they shudder. Mere mental assent to the Christian faith does not save anyone. The faith that saves, as both Paul and James affirm, embraces the truth of the gospel and acts accordingly.

So, what is the result of faith that actually believes God? Faithful obedience. But it requires action. How do I know that? Well, let me make a list from Hebrews 11…

  • By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain…
  • By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark…
  • By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age…
  • By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac…
  • By faith Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau…

By faith, they all obeyed. They acted. They trusted. Their faith was ever-so-clearly completed by their works (James 1:22).

Is that not inspiring? I’m feeling challenged to evaluate areas of my life where I’m simply believing in God and not truly believing him. I hope you are, too! Let me leave you with one of my favorite parts of James that helps us remember to do more than just believe IN:

But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. James 1:22-25

Jen


Cleansed from all sin, walking in the light

21 May

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. 1 John 1:5-10

Not one of us is innocent. We all are sinners. And, we must confess our sins to God. Repent. Then, we are cleansed and we find freedom. 

Jen

Unstained from the world (a James 1-from-memory victory)

17 May

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. {James 1:26-27}

Jen

James 1:12-25 (from memory)

15 May

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God.” For God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin. And sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of Lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

Know this, my brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

Jen

Whatever is TRUE

12 May

Have you ever had a bad dream? One that wakes you up in the middle of the night and disrupts your peace? Maybe it was a nightmare, or maybe it was something from your past that creeped into your dream world and awoke you abruptly after it finished.

When I have dreams such as these, I find it difficult to start the day off on the right foot. Often I find myself trying to figure out why I had the dream. Did it result from a thought or worry I had the previous day? Was it because of something I overheard that my subconscious picked up? Long story short, I begin to evaluate the dream and my mind can wander off into a somewhat depressing place.

And I can’t stand it. Thankfully, I have learned that when a bad dream leaves me feeling down, I must remember that it shouldn’t control or direct my thought life for the rest of the day. It should have no power over me.

Why is that?

It’s because Philippians 4:8 tells us to think about things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent and worthy of praise. A bad dream does not fall under any of those categories. In fact, it’s the opposite of “true.” Dreams are not real. I encourage you not to spend your entire day dwelling on something that is not a part of reality. Instead, remember what is real: God is good, Jesus died for my sins, He rescued me, He is with me and He loves me. Those are all things that are true. And honorable, pure, lovely, commendable, etc…

I just have to leave you with a cool little story. Last week, I woke up in the morning from a rough dream. Shortly after I awoke, I read the following tweet by Christian recording artist Dara MacLean:

“Had a dream about the past & realized its because the enemy is scared of my future. Today u have everything u need through him 2 succeed.”

Girl knows what she is talkin’ about. And God knew I needed that! I instantly began to see my dream as an opportunity to trust God instead of a reason to doubt myself and my situation in life. I’m not going to let the enemy become a stumbling block to my growth and maturity in Christ. Are you?

Jen

A victor, not a victim

10 May

Today I was talking with a dear friend about how, no matter what we’re going through, we are not to view ourselves as victims. She said to me something along the lines of, “We are not victims. We are victors because of Christ. It is about him, not about our suffering.”

Yes!

And, after our conversation, I began to wonder and almost worry: Have I conveyed that completely in each blog I post about difficult times and the things I’m going through?

Just incase…let me be clear:

I am not a victim. I am a VICTOR. And only through Christ and what he did for me on the Cross.

Life’s gonna knock me down.
It’s not gonna keep me down.
I’m gonna trust You now, in every season.
I know You’re here.
I know You’re for me.
I know that joy comes in the morning.
God, I believe it now.
God, I believe You now.

{Britt Nicole – Who You Say You Are}

Jen

I hope you’re not tired of James yet, friends…

9 May

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. James 1:22-25

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A few months ago, I remember Beth Moore making a comment in one of the video sessions for James: Mercy Triumphs that really stuck with me. I’m not quoting her word-for-word (I should have written it down!), but she said something along the lines of, “Some women have told me they have taken several of my studies more than once, and are still encountering the same issues in their lives. I think many times this is because we have to not just hear the word. We have to act on it.”

I don’t think Beth could be any more accurate about that! As you read at the beginning of this blog, we can’t just hear the word and then walk away, forgetting it. As Romans 15:4 says, “Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the scriptures, we might have hope.”

Did you catch that first part? It was written for our instruction. Notice how it doesn’t say that it was written for our entertainment. To instruct implies that we are being directed, taught, trained and ordered to act. When we’re told to love our neighbor, to honor our mother and father, to forgive our brother seven times 70 times…those aren’t little suggestions or neat ideas. Those, in fact, are instructions.

But, of course, I think we can easily forget that. (I’m guilty!) There have been innumerable times in my life where I’ve read a portion of scripture and said, “WOW, that’s good! I needed that!” But then, as James says, I walk away and so easily forget it, as though I were looking into a mirror one moment and forgetting what I looked like as soon as I walked away.

If you’re struggling to do the word and not just hear it, I’d encourage you to pray about it. Then, get out some notecards and write down scriptures that apply to whatever you are facing in life. If you’re dealing with unforgiveness, write Matthew 18:21-22 down and preach it to yourself until you start living it! I have found that this, along with memorizing the scriptures I write out, is the best way to force myself to live the word. If something is imprinted on my brain via memorization, I think it’s much easier to remind myself in the moment what I’m supposed to do.

Give it a try today. It could be life-changing!

Jen

It’s ALL a PURE joy

8 May

Have I ever mentioned that I love the book of James? Well, I do.

In fact, a few of my favorite verses, which I’ve mentioned in several previous posts, are ones that are quoted often:

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds. For you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness, and let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4 (ESV)

Even though I typically read and study from the ESV, I LOVE the way NIV tells us in verse 2 to “consider it PURE joy.”

Wait. Trials are “pure joys”? Really? You’re probably thinking, “Isn’t that a bit extreme?”

To me, “count it ALL joy,” means counting every single one of your trials–ALL of them–as joys. And “considering it pure joy” means your trials are totally, completely, unequivocally a JOY to face. Each trial is a joy, and each joy isn’t just some silly little sprinkling of joy…it’s an unmistakable heaping of PURE joy.

Do I sound crazy yet? I’m not, I swear…

Sometimes when we face hardships, we fail to understand why. We think we don’t deserve it. We think we’re pretty good people and that we should have an easy life because we’re Christians and we love God. So why do trials come?

James makes it clear. God allows our faith to be tested so that it may become stronger. And, after we’ve remained steadfast under our trials (aka: when we never lose faith in God despite the hard stuff), we’ll receive the “crown of life.” We’ll make it to heaven, where there will be no more trials. (See my previous post for more on that.) Don’t you think that reward is worth the pain?!

Try considering it it ALL a PURE joy today, no matter what you’re facing. Mandisa does a great job of putting tough times into perspective in her song “Stronger”:

When the waves are taking you under, hold on just a little bit longer, He knows that this is gonna make you stronger.

Jen

Your love makes it worth it

5 May

Earlier this week, I found myself just having a really bad day.

You know, one of those days that starts off really great and good things happen, but then all of a sudden something happens that knocks the wind right out of you. One minute you feel strong and tall, and the next minute you’re on the floor, feeling hopeless.

I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced a tough day of the magnitude I just described, but I do want to share with you how I got through it. It made a world of difference to my perspective and my pain, and I hope it encourages someone out there.

Since I began memorizing the book of James a couple of weeks ago, I have begun to use it to fight negative thoughts. If you’re anything like me (LOL, actually, if you’re human), you’ve experienced some difficult things in your lifetime. Your life hasn’t been perfect. You’ve been hurt and you’ve even felt heartache. In times when I feel down because of things that have happened to me, I force myself to start quoting James, even if all I’ve got memorized is a few verses. And let me tell you, it has begun to transform me and bring me through some super tough days. It’s sort of like having encouraging scripture verses on index cards, but much more effective because you are literally preaching to yourself. And, in addition, you can encourage yourself anywhere, anytime (even while driving), without needing to locate your 3×5 cards!

So, on this “bad day,” I had already memorized exactly 12 verses of Chapter 1. I began to quote them aloud, and when I got to the very last verse, verse 12, my tears began to fall even more quickly. But they had gone from being bad tears to being good ones. You’ll see why.

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. James 1:12

Here’s how I see it: No matter what I face in this lifetime, I must remember that my earthly life is temporary. While it is sometimes filled with pain and heartache, I must remember that if I keep my faith in God and believe that he died to save me from eternal damnation, I’ll get to heaven one day. And when I’m there, as Revelation 21:4 says, there will be no more tears. No more pain.

That’s a future worth dealing with the temporary pain, don’t you think? There’s a worship song by Kim Walker (“I Surrender”) that says, “Your love makes it worth it, your love makes it worth it all.”

Amen to that.

On days when you feel that you can’t go on anymore, remember that HIS love and the “crown of life” make all of our earthly pains worth pressing through. He’ll give you the strength to do it if you ask him and if you surrender. I promise.

Jen

Concerning bitterness

1 May

Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled. Hebrews 12:14-15

When we’ve been wronged, when we’re the innocent ones, when life all around us seems to be attacking us, it’s easy to feel like a victim. And, it’s really easy to become bitter and unforgiving toward those who have hurt us.

Truth be told, it’s hard to forgive sometimes. It’s especially hard to forgive someone who hasn’t even apologized to us. Even more so, it’s hard to not speak of them in bitterness and anger.

But we MUST fight.

Matthew 18:21-22 tells us that we must forgive others over and over and over again. And, it doesn’t just mean we have to forgive them each time they wrong us, although that is important. But sometimes it means we have to forgive them over and over and over for one sin against us that keeps surfacing in our minds, causing us pain each time we recall it because, well, maybe they didn’t say sorry. Or maybe they did, but we’re still hurting.

I truly believe that if we stay in a bitter and unforgiving place, God can’t work in our lives. He may not change our hearts if we become consumed with self-pity and don’t ask him for help. I have found, in these times, that when we feel bitter, we should ask God for compassion and then pray for the ones who hurt us. Through this, we will learn that compassion! After all, we are all sinners. Not one of us is perfect. And the Word says we have to forgive. So forgive, and love, and pray. It’s hard. But it’s freeing.

In the Hebrews verse I shared at the start of this post, we’re told to “strive for peace with everyone.” If you’ve ever been wronged by someone, you might be thinking something like, “Well, I tried. But they wronged me. It’s not MY fault.”

But it is still our place to “strive for peace”! The bible wasn’t written so that we could point the finger and say, “YOU shouldn’t have done THAT.” Nope, it’s for all of us to learn from. So, to strive for peace when we’ve been wronged might look like this: Not speaking in bitterness. Not only because bitterness drives us to that awful place of self-pity, but also because it may cause others around us to “become defiled” when we speak it.

The ESV Study Bible provides a great commentary on these verses in Hebrews. Check it out:

As they pursue peace and holiness, Christians should watch out for each other in order that no one falls short of the gift of eternal salvation. The author warns against “bitterness” by alluding to Deuteronomy 29:18, which describes one who turns away from God and pursues other gods. A bitter and resentful person is like a contagious poison, spreading his resentment to others.

That last sentence is my favorite. Man, I never want to become a bitter and “contagious poison,” do YOU?! This reminds me of James 3:8, where we are told the tongue is a “restless evil, full of deadly poison.” Um, yikes… This is even more of a reason to stay away from speaking bitterness!

If you can relate to this post today, remember these nine words: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, Self-Control (Galatians 5:22-23). Bitterness is a complete antonym to any of the fruits of the spirit, don’t you think? In such a time when we’re tempted to speak bitterly (or sing bitterly, if you remember my post about Adele’s music), we must exercise that last one (self-control) in order to not cause others around us to fall.

If you’re facing difficulty in your life right now because of the way that someone hurt you, I pray that you would find healing in Jesus, and that you would learn to forgive your brother–seven times 70 times–and that you would not become bitter or spread bitterness.

Instead, choose to live in love, joy, peace, patience, etc. Sounds a lot less miserable too, doesn’t it?

Jen