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What is DOCTRINE?

Introduction I love working with kids, and I love teaching them hard concepts in ways they can understand. To that end, for years I have been working on a dictionary of theological terms for kids and teens. In sharing those definitions, there seemed no better place to...

If You Want It Done Right

In all likelihood, you know how the phrase ends: If you want it done right, DO IT YOURSELF! This is a bit of a mantra for me, and frankly, something that I struggle with daily both in leadership and in my Christian walk.  In theory, this is easy to accept. ...

What Does God Hate?

This is the little and humble post that started it all. I happened to be reading through my Bible, and this passage impacted me so much that I posted a little blurb about it on Facebook. That was July 28, 2008, and I've been writing and sharing ever since. (Maybe...

Six Ways to Persevere Through the Sluggish Times in Ministry

Have you ever had one of those days?  You know the kind – where you really aren’t “in to” what you’re doing and you feel like you rather be doing just about anything else.  What do you do when those times correspond to your time in ministry. I wrote this...

A New Definition of Family

If we are going to effectively work with and understand kids today, we have to understand what a family is. Family, after all, is a defining characteristic for all us - some for the better and some for the worse. It seems like an...

Photos: 2021-02-20 Basketball (at Harvest Prep)

    Today was kind of a bittersweet day as Lyndsey finished up her high school basketball career. While losing 48-36 in the is not the way she would have wanted to finish, she led her team in scoring again this afternoon with 13 points and well over 10 rebounds...

Photos: 2021-02-12 Basketball (at Heath)

  After two games getting cancelled earlier this week for "Covid concerns," the Lady Vikings finished up their regular season on Friday, February 12, 2021, at the Heath Bulldogs. The Vikings came up short with Heath prevailing 50-24. Lyndsey Stocks 16 of the teams 24...

Good Works (Fruit or Root of Salvation)

There is much discussion in the world of children’s ministry these days over the issue of values based curriculum.  I believe that discussion is an important one to have, and in the end it comes down to how values are taught rather than if they are taught which will determine whether or not a curriculum has the right focus.  The whole argument though, is much older than just the current discussion.  The argument stems from a misunderstanding of good works that dates back to the time of the New Testament writers (and frankly, well back into Old Testament times).

Ephesians 2:8-9 clearly explains how we are saved:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV)

We are saved by grace alone, and there is nothing that we do, no good work that we can perform, which merits that grace.  It is given to us solely as the discretion of Our God and out of His loving kindness.

However, James (the brother of Jesus) is quick to remind us:

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? (James 2:14-20 ESV)

Come again?  We are saved by faith alone and not by works, right?  Absolutely!  But, faith without works is dead?  You betcha!  How can that be?  This must be one of those internal contradictions in the Bible that you hear so much about, right?  No way.  The Bible is inerrant and has no contradictions. 

The fact of the matter is, absent a right understanding of good works in the context of salvations, we can become hopelessly confused about exactly how we should live our lives, and why.  So, let’s take a few minutes to explore this issue.

The Bible is clear that we are saved by faith alone.  In that regard it is unique among world religions all of which have some form of works system in order to gain right standing before their god.  In all other religions you must act a certain way, or do certain things, or commit more good acts than bas acts in order to earn the favor of their deity.  Christianity stands alone as a belief system which bases salvation on faith alone without any semblance of works.

So, what was James talking about?  What does he mean when he says that faith without works is dead?  Simply this – after placing our faith in Christ (by grace), an appreciation of all that God has done for us will lead us to desire to live our lives in a way which is pleasing to God.  It is worth noting that, once again, it is by God’s grace that we are given the power to do this. 

I recently came across a quote from John MacArthur which sets this out better than anything else I have seen.  He write in “A 15-Year Retrospective on the Lordship Controversy:”

But, as the Reformers said, while faith alone justifies, the faith that justifies is never alone. Genuine faith inevitably produces good works. The works are the fruit, not the root, of faith.

Distinguishing between whether our works are roots (something we believe will earn us favor with God) or fruit (something done in obedience based on all that God has done for us) is critical to having a fruitful walk with God.  Over the next few installments of this series, we will look at a variety of Christian practices or disciplines and try to discern whether we are doing those good works as fruit or root.

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