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And He Himself gave some to be....evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ...
- Ephesians 4:11-12

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Location: The Hill Country of Texas

Pastor - Providence Reformed Baptist Church
Director - TIME in the Word Ministries

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Faith and Behavior

TIME in the Word - Daily Devotional
Together for Inspiration, Motivation, and Encouragement

Verse of the Day - James 2:26
For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

Daily Scripture Reading - James 2:14-26

Puritan Catechism

Question #13
Did our first parents continue in the state wherein they were created?

Our first parents being left to the freedom of their own will, fell from the state wherein they were created, by sinning against God, (Eccl. 7:29) by eating the forbidden fruit (Gen. 3:6-8).

Devotional Thoughts
Everybody believes something, whether it is true or false, and we act on what we believe. In other words, faith affects behavior! As we learned yesterday how the Scriptures define faith, today we will take a look at how faith works it way out in our daily living.

Another way to say that is that those in the Scripture who are said to have had faith did things as a result. Faith produces action. Faith works.

Now let's be clear. Faith is not a work in and of itself. We are not saved by works (Ephesians 2:8-9). Faith, as we established previously, is trust, it is belief. Specifically in our discussions faith is trust in the person of Jesus Christ.

So while faith is not a work, faith works! If it is alive and active and real then faith will result in good works. Why is this? Because simply put, faith leads to behavior! If we believe something it shows in how we live.

James is clear. Faith that does not work is dead. Dead faith is USELESS. It cannot save. It is dead, lifeless, meaningless, and void! Faith that results in works, that is living and active faith.

Let's make a practical application here - if we claim to believe something but that belief does not result in action or behavior then we really do not believe what we claim to believe! The best example I ever heard of this, which I have used often, came from my mentor, my Paul in the faith! Dr. Larry Gilliam stated it this way:

If you are in the woods and believe that you hear a bear coming to get you, you will run just as fast as if a bear is really there coming to get you!

Belief results in action, in works, in behavior. If we really believe something to be true, we act accordingly. That has a lot of punch to it when you start to examine your belief system. As I stated at the start, "Everybody believes something, whether it is true or false, and we act on what we believe."

The danger is twofold. First there is a danger in believing a lie. If we have a false belief in our belief system, and we know that we act on what we believe, then how will we act if the belief is wrong? In the Bible, Saul became jealous and thought that David was out to kill him and he acted accordingly - with suspicion that lead to the point that he tried to kill David by throwing a spear at him while he sat at the dinner table! Saul's false belief led to murderous actions. (1 Samuel 18:9-12).

Secondly there is a danger that we will think that we believe something, but in reality we do not believe it and therefore do not act on it. This happens when we mentally assent to something accepting in our minds that it is true, but we really do not embrace this belief with true faith, and as a result, we do not act on what we claim we believe. This would be exemplified in the life of a person who believed that a bear was coming to eat them and just sat there! It makes no sense to think that your life is in danger and not try to fight or flee. And yet when it comes to doctrine, people claim to believe sound doctrine and may not even understand that doctrine at all, and so they think they believe the truth but it does not affect the way they live.

And the real, eternal danger here is that we either believe a lie (false doctrine) or we think we are trusting Christ when we really are not!! If we believe a lie, we are doomed, for only the TRUTH makes us free. And if we think we believe the truth but do not actually believe it, then we are self deceived and are in danger of hearing those most awful words in Scripture, "Depart from Me, I never knew you!"

Remember last week when we examined the Parable of the Soils? Those 2 soils that embraced the Word quickly but then DIED without bearing fruit - the shallow soil where the seed had no root and the thorny soil where the cares of this world choked the plant - they represent people who emotionally or mentally embrace the preaching of the gospel but do not actually have faith. They do not really believe what they have heard. The proof? They never bear fruit, and they whither and die with no root, being choked out by the love of this world. If they had had true faith, they would have born fruit (good works)! Their faith would have worked.

In order to understand faith then, we must strive to believe what God tells us, to rightly inform our belief system. We must be sure that what we claim to believe affects the way we live. In the Scriptures this is the idea that a good tree bears good fruit! If we have faith in Jesus Christ, we will bear good fruit. If we do not bear good fruit, then we need to examine what we really believe! We may just be believing in ourselves and thinking that that is the same as faith in Christ.

Let us look at one example today of false beliefs and dead faith. Joel Osteen teaches this kind of faith or "force" that is deceptive and misplaced. It is faith in yourself and in your ability to manipulate God into doing whatever you need Him to do for you. At times he even preaches that we should have faith in our faith, making a god of our faith instead of seeing God as the object of our faith. It is self centered faith that when it comes to the matter of spiritual fruit is actually DEAD and useless. The works and the fruit present amidst the Word Faith cult are rotten, self centered, man praising, God abasing fruits. And real genuine faith in Christ does not produce these kinds of fruit!!

Saving faith, faith that is alive, faith that produces spiritual fruit, faith that is active, faith that is REAL, is faith in the Word of God and in God Himself. Saving faith has no room for self, for pride, for licentiousness, or for sin! Saving faith is a gift from God. It is trust in Christ. It is proof of what we cannot see and the reality behind that for which we hope.

Tomorrow we will examine a few verses from Hebrews 11 that show us how faith in the lives of several people resulted in specific works. We will see their faith working! But for now, ask yourself this question - what does the way you behave say about what you claim to believe?

Puritan Voices
This week we will take a look each day at a section of a sermon from the text of 1 John 3:23 titled The Warrant of Faith by Charles H. Spurgeon.

II. The WARRANT OF BELIEVING is the point upon which I shall spend my time and strength this morning. According to my text, the warrant for a man to believe is the commandment of God. This is the commandment, that ye "believe on his Son Jesus Christ."

Self-righteousness will always find a lodging somewhere or other. Drive it, my brethren, out of the ground of our confidence; let the sinner see that he cannot rest on his good works, then, as foxes will have holes, this self-righteousness will find a refuge for itself in the warrant of our faith in Christ. It reasons thus: "You are not saved by what you do but by what Christ did; but then, you have no right to trust in Christ unless there is something good in you which shall entitle you to trust in him." Now, this legal reasoning I oppose. I believe such teaching to contain in it the essence of Popish self-righteousness. The warrant for a sinner to believe in Christ is not in himself in any sense or in any manner, but in the fact that he is commanded there and then to believe on Jesus Christ. Some preachers in the Puritanic times, whose shoe latchets I am not worthy to unloose, erred much in this matter. I refer not merely to Alleyne and Baxter, who are far better preachers of the law than of the gospel, but I include men far sounder in the faith than they, such as Rogers of Dedham, Shepherd, the author of "The Sound Believer," and especially the American, Thomas Hooker, who has written a book upon qualifications for coming to Christ. These excellent men had a fear of preaching the gospel to any except those whom they styled "sensible sinners," and consequently kept hundreds of their hearers sitting in darkness when they might have rejoiced in the light. They preached repentance and hatred of sin as the warrant of a sinner's trusting to Christ. According to them, a sinner might reason thus—"I possess such-and-such a degree of sensibility on account of sin, therefore I have a right to trust in Christ." Now, I venture to affirm that such reasoning is seasoned with fatal error. Whoever preaches in this fashion may preach much of the gospel, but the whole gospel of the free grace of God in its fulness he has yet to learn. In our own day certain preachers assure us that a man must he regenerated before we may bid him believe in Jesus Christ; some degree of a work of grace in the heart being, in their judgment, the only warrant to believe. This also is false. It takes away a gospel for sinners and offers us a gospel for saints. It is anything hut a ministry of free grace.

Others say that the warrant for a sinner to believe in Christ is his election. Now, as his election cannot possibly be known by any man until he has believed, this is virtually preaching that nobody has any known warrant for believing at all. If I cannot possibly know my election before I believe—and yet the minister tells me that I may only believe upon the ground of my election—how am I ever to believe at all? Election brings me faith, and faith is the evidence of my election; but to say that my faith is to depend upon my knowledge of my election, which I cannot get without faith. is to talk egregious nonsense.

I lay down this morning with great boldness—because I know and am well persuaded that what I speak is the mind of the Spirit—this doctrine that the sole and only warrant for a sinner to believe in Jesus is found in the gospel itself and in the command which accompanies that gospel, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." I shall deal with that matter first of all, negatively, and then, positively.

1. First, NEGATIVELY; and here my first observation is that any other way of preaching the gospel-warrant is absurd. If I am to preach faith in Christ to a man who is regenerated, then the man, being regenerated, is saved already, and it is an unnecessary and ridiculous thing for me to preach Christ to him, and bid him to believe in order to be saved when he is saved already, being regenerate. But you will tell me that I ought to preach it only to those who repent of their sins. Very well; but since true repentance of sin is the work of the Spirit, any man who has repentance is most certainly saved, because evangelical repentance never can exist in an unrenewed soul. Where there is repentance there is faith already, for they never can be separated. So, then, I am only to preach faith to those who have it. Absurd, indeed! Is not this waiting till the man is cured and then bringing him the medicine? This is preaching Christ to the righteous and not to sinners. "Nay," saith one, "but we mean that a man must have some good desires towards Christ before he has any warrant to believe in Jesus." Friend, do you not know what all good desires have some degree of holiness in them? But if a sinner hath any degree of true holiness in him it must be the work of the Spirit, for true holiness never exists in the carnal mind, therefore, that man is already renewed, and therefore saved. Are we to go running up and down the world, proclaiming life to the living, casting bread to those who are fed already, and holding up Christ on the pole of the gospel to those who are already healed? My brethren, where is our inducement to labour where our efforts are so little needed? If I am to preach Christ to those who have no goodness, who have nothing in them that qualifies them for mercy, then I feel I have a gospel so divine that I would proclaim it with my last breath, crying aloud, that "Jesus came into the world to save sinners"—sinners as sinners, not as penitent sinners or as awakened sinners, but sinners as sinners, sinners "of whom I am chief."

Secondly, to tell the sinner that he is to believe on Christ because of some warrant in himself, is legal, I dare to say it—legal. Though this method is generally adopted by the higher school of Calvinists, they are herein unsound, uncalvinistic, and legal; it is strange that they who are so bold defenders of free grace should make common cause with Baxterians and Pelagians. I lay it down to he legal for this reason: if I believe in Jesus Christ because I feel a genuine repentance of sin, and therefore have a warrant for my faith, do you not perceive that the first and true ground of my confidence is the fact that I have repented of sin? If I believe in Jesus because I have convictions and a spirit of prayer, then evidently the first and the most important fact is not Christ, but my possession of repentance, conviction, and prayer, so that really my hope hinges upon my having repented; and if this be not legal I do not know what is. Put it lower. My opponents will say, "The sinner must have an awakened conscience before he is warranted to believe on Christ." Well, then, if I trust Christ to save me because I have an awakened conscience, I say again, the most important part of the whole transaction is the alarm of my conscience, and my real trust hangs there. If I lean on Christ because I feel this and that, then I am leaning on my feelings and not on Christ alone, and this is legal indeed. Nay, even if desires after Christ are to be my warrant for believing, if I am to believe in Jesus not because he bids me, but because I feel some desires after him, you will again with half an eye perceive that the most important source of my comfort must be my own desires. So that we shall be always looking within. "Do I really desire? If I do, then Christ can save me; if I do not, then he cannot." And so my desire overrides Christ and his grace. Away with such' legality from the earth!

Bible Reading For Further Study

Recommended Songs for Worship


Blogger Kim from Hiraeth said...

Excellent thoughts, again!

Thanks for these, Pastor Way.

7:17 AM  

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