What does the Gospel mean to you? I’ve been thinking about this all week in preparation for a meeting this Sunday. To me, it boils down to Religion vs Relationship. It’s the difference between ceremony and connection, liturgy and linkage, ritual and relationship. For Religion is mostly man-made, piling on the things we can’t do…while a Relationship with Jesus Christ is about freedom. It’s about freedom from sin and death and freedom from the Law we can never keep. But the biggest difference between Religion and Relationship is this…Religion can’t save you. Only Jesus Christ who lived a perfectly sinless life has the ability to bring you into His glorious Kingdom and eternal life…it’s only through Jesus that you can make your way back to God.
James, the oldest half-brother of Jesus, was telling us here we should demonstrate our inward faith by outward actions. So it’s basically the difference between having living faith or lifeless faith. Between just giving lip-service to the needs we see around us or actually jumping in to help others. A few verses later James adds to this, “You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.” (James 2:24) So in the life of a Believer, faith and deeds must go hand in hand…there is not one without the other…and so in this lies the big difference between living and lifeless faith.
God has promised a crown of life to those who endure trials. But when we find ourselves in the middle of a life altering trial, it’s too easy to walk in unbelief. But unfortunately, the maturing of our faith comes most times in the valleys not the mountain-tops. For it’s in the dark, scary valleys that we come to the end of ourselves and finally look to God.
Christianity isn’t a one and done experience. For in this verse we see Jesus didn’t address just the crowd but His disciples also…men that had been following Him for years…men that had witnessed first hand miracles, teaching, and preaching on a daily basis. Men that should have had this concept down pat…but obviously didn’t. Our journey as a Believer is ongoing and lifelong. It’s a daily conscious decision of our Will to give up our self and in obedience conform to the example we have before us…Jesus Christ. It’s a long and winding road of faith and life we need to daily direct our feet to follow.
As the song title goes, “Whose Report will you Believe Today?” The bad one the Doctor has just delivered to you…leaving you sad and filled with pain and calamity. Or the report of the Lord’s which is filled with certainty and promise? For when our strength comes from Him and not ourselves, we can rest securely, without fear…leaning heavily upon God’s grace and mercy.
Sometimes it’s just a matter of holding on for the day. Holding on to our courage and the hope of which we boast, (Hebrews 3:6) and remaining steady in our sense of confidence that God is truly in control of the chaos around us. And as long as we can affirm to ourselves His goodness and love…we can hold on for another day.
We may not understand the circumstances…but You do Lord. We may be overwhelmed by what we see…but we have faith that You remain in control…for we are the work of Your loving hands. We thank You that You are a righteous and holy God…full of kindness and faithfulness towards Your people. And so we will be still and put all our trust in You today.