This post is one of those I Believe manifestos. Why am I a believer? Why Christianity? Why the Bible? Why a black and white, heaven and hell stance in a grey and wishy washy world?
I’ll be the first to admit – I’m not a good person. You’d agree if you were inside my head for even five minutes. But I’d wager to say that we’d all have to admit that about ourselves sooner or later – if we were honest. Morality isn’t enough. I grew up in a strong Christian household. But it didn’t keep from running and it didn’t transform my heart. Did the prayer I said at age six cover over the belligerence and bitterness that drove me from church attendance at age twenty-four? I can’t entirely say. And what’s different now?
I keep getting stuck on the first verses of this week’s passage. “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.” (James 1:19-21)
Pretty sure I’m the exact opposite – quick to judge without listening, quick to speak my mind, quick to become angry at everything. How much of my day I do spend in in a state of mild fury at the perceived impetuousness and insolence of others, or in response to the story I tell myself about someone’s reaction, or their refusal to concede in all ways to my plans and expectations?
And then I get angry at myself for not being better, doing better, listening more, speaking less, being less of a jerk, less selfish, and more considerate and gentle. Yet, that self-anger and flagellation does nothing to glorify Christ either.
Faith: a mystery. Genuine faith. Emotion, action, purpose, intent, trust, inaction, fact, intuition, all rolled into one. It’s doing everything and nothing at the same time. It’s resolutely hanging on and unequivocally letting go, all at once. It’s giving up and gaining victory in the same moment. It convicts us and saves us, simultaneously.
Faith alone in Christ alone. He saves. I cling to that. And unspeakable gratitude for that simple act of the deity’s self-denial to death and beyond wells up within me and overflows my heart, my mouth. I know the depths from which he rescued me. I know what I don’t deserve.
We’re all the same, you and me. Your sin does not outweigh my own. Those things you hate in you match those I hate in me, ounce for ounce.
And they matter naught before the cross. That’s the Word planted deep within, the word that saves.
Faith and works. Separate, yet indistinct.
And this candid faith in what Christ has done for me and in me and continues to do is what transforms me, pours me out from the inside, exposes my flaws, shouting; Look what he has done! It’s the reason that week after week I hold out my hands, putting my innermost thoughts on the world-wide web, in hopes that both my failings and my gifts point to Christ.
This honest faith in God’s just wrath towards sin does not let me rest in my feeble attempts at righteousness. It spurs me on. It tips me out. It cries, Do away with those things you will regret in light of Christ’s goodness! It compels me to act, to study, to learn, to grasp, to make my own, to strain, to labor, to reach. It frees me to show generosity and compassion and mercy where I simply cannot in my own strength.
Faith, shown by works. Because, Jesus.
Check out The End of Hypocrisy message series at http://discovergrace.com/messages/