I have just returned from a long weekend at in Orlando leading a conference for Homemade Gourmet. Subsequently, my postings have been lacking the last couple of days, as my friend Cindy has so sweetly pointed out to me today. So I asked her if she had some thoughts to share to fill in again as a guest author, and she graciously shared this post below. Thanks Cindy!
Cindy Meador Pirtle
“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. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:8-10
Choice is the human ability to decide between two options. If this faculty is well trained, a person is able to discriminate or choose well between options of good and evil, right and wrong, advantage and disadvantage. What constitutes “good choosing?” We make two types of choices everyday - about what sort of person we are and about what to do in a situation or crisis - and we strive to choose what is right over what is easy. In each decision, we have the option of loyalty to a high and difficult standard versus personal advantage. The wise person chooses loyalty to the good. As Christians, we understand that we in no way merit the grace God has freely given us. So, if our works have no bearing on the unmerited grace of God, must our daily choices be difficult?
James 2:14 What good is it, my brothers, if a man says he has faith, but has no works? Can faith save him? Remember that the Jews were taught that salvation came as a result of obedience to the law, THEN they were told faith was crucial. James is trying to explain in terms they can understand. Funny how we still need that explanation today! James considered the problem of faith and works simply because some people were utilizing a profession of faith as a refuge from ethical responsibility. His concern was to maintain that Christian faith involves enduring moral responsibility. What a concept for modern civilization – moral responsibility!
James 2:17 Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead in itself. Dead faith erroneously assumes that the acceptance of monotheism can make a person right with God. Such orthodoxy, apart from works of obedient submission to the heavenly Father’s will, is utterly worthless.
This is no small matter. You read every day or hear from friends about how circumstances outside someone’s control determine a person’s actions or character. They never take responsibility. Whereas our popular culture often excuses people based on their circumstances, Scripture raises the question of responsibility for our actions and point out that our choices have more significance – eternal life.
James 1:12 Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial (endures temptation), because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. Let’s not get too excited with visions of jewel encrusted tiaras! The Crown of Life is God’s reward of eternal life, not a literal crown. Ladies, put aside your visions of the Miss America tiara!
James 1:13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone;
That’s right! Give up the blame game here! God doesn’t make the bad things happen in our lives, but he does give us free will to choose paths that may lead to bad things, yet even then can use that to strengthen our faith. James encourages us to confess our sin and our own guilt and not to implicate God as if He compelled us to sin.
We have a prophesied end in which our choices every day, choices for or against our becoming more loving people and more like God, are the deal makers or breakers. We are born as the images of God, created for an eternal life in his presence. We have a choice, however, because of the free will we enjoy from him; we can become images in the likeness of God by choosing love over death and sharing in the resurrection of Love himself - or we can choose the easy road of advantage and personal comfort. How do we always know the wise choice?
James 1:22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
DO WHAT IT SAYS. How many times have you told your children, “Just do what I tell you to do!” Your mind and desire are not enough, your will must change the way you act and live. Doing something with your whole heart means your mind, desire and will. You may believe that planes are safe and desire to fly, but true faith is in the act of getting on the plane. I love our pastor’s prayer after the reading of scripture. “Bless the reading of this word not only to our minds that we might have changed ideas, but also to our hearts that we might lead changed lives.” That is what God is calling us to do, LEAD CHANGED LIVES, BE DOERS OF THE WORD. The doer here is someone who from the heart embraces God’s word and testifies by his life that he really believes. Luke 6:28, “Blessed are they who hear God’s word and keep it.”
Our circumstances may make our choices relatively hard or obvious, but God’s word points us to the ones we must make in order to realize our prophesied destinies as a royal priesthood and heirs of Christ.