Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
September 16, 2012
Talking and singing about faith is not enough
Imagine Jesus meeting with his disciples once a week for one hour. There he taught them the principles of Kingdom living. He shared with them “the ways of the Lord.”
Sometimes they met by the seashore or on a lovely hillside. Occasionally they met in the home of one of his special friends. The disciples loved his teaching; they realized their teacher was on a mission from God. On their way home after each meeting the disciples would say to one another, “His teachings are so wonderful!”
Now try to imagine Jesus closing each teaching session by saying, “Go back home, my friends, and continue to live exactly like the pagans. Keep my teachings in your minds but do not practice them daily, lest someone think you are one of my followers. Whatever you do, avoid being different. I do not want you to offend your pagan neighbors. Then come back a week from now so that I can teach you some more about this exciting life in the Kingdom of God.”
I hope by now you are smiling and thinking, “No, no, he would never say that!”
If so, you are right. He would never say that. He wanted his teaching to change the way the disciples were living. Dare I say it? He wanted his disciples to live a “new” life!
Two thousand years later Christians still meet one or two hours a week to reflect on the teachings of Jesus. Some Christians are satisfied with one hour a month. A recent survey revealed that many Christians who say they are “regular” worshipers admitted they attend church only one Sunday a month. They listen to a pastor talk about the ways of the Lord and then live no differently from their pagan neighbors. They admire and praise the teachings of Jesus but do not practice them.
Wishing not to offend nonbelievers, they refrain from speaking about Jesus much less practicing his teachings in daily life. Fearful of appearing to be different or “religious” they try to blend into the culture as “regular” guys and gals.
But go read the gospels again and look closely at what Jesus expected of his disciples. Observe that, having taught his disciples, Jesus sent them into their towns and villages to practice the faith. He knew that by living out Kingdom principles in their daily lives, the disciples would challenge the status quo. He wanted them to be different. To be different is to be holy. And living a holy life in a pagan society will make you look different!
Jesus wanted to do more than change the way people were thinking. He wanted to change the way they were living! He knew that to accomplish this, he would have to change the way people thought about God, so he gave them a new concept of God as a loving Father.
He painted a new picture of God, a God who was more concerned about love than law. Paul understood Jesus’ concept of God and explained it this way in his Letter to the Romans: “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
It was James, however, our Lord’s brother, who drove home the point that faith is not enough. Understanding is not enough. Thinking is not enough. Talking and singing about the faith is not enough.
Faith, to be real, must result in action that is driven by love. Faith must lead to action that reflects the love of Christ. We must do more than “hear” the word; we must find loving ways to “do” the word.
James warns us against false religion. To please God, James said, our religion must express itself in caring for widows and orphans. We must strenuously avoid being contaminated by “the world” and strive to live by the higher standards of the Kingdom.
Action for James meant more than offering meat and potatoes to hungry people. It meant praying for the sick, believing that prayers of faith could save the sick. Our culture recommends new drugs; James would have us call upon God for healing!
Our society does not take sin seriously. James urges us to confess our sins “one to another, and pray for one another,” that we may be healed. Here is great truth: confession of sin can lead to glorious healing and victory in Jesus!
We who follow Jesus today must not be content to meet once a week and talk about the faith. We must be willing to practice the faith in our homes, in the market place, and in our churches, so that the world we know we take Jesus seriously! Talking and singing faith is not enough; it must be lived in such a way that a new life, a holy life, is clearly visible. + + +