Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Daily - 4/22/09

John 3:31-36 - Thursday gospel

31 The one who comes from above is above all. The one who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of earthly things. But the one who comes from heaven (is above all).

32 He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony.

33 Whoever does accept his testimony certifies that God is trustworthy.

34 For the one whom God sent speaks the words of God. He does not ration his gift of the Spirit.

35 The Father loves the Son and has given everything over to him.

36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains upon him.

We're now to the conclusion of John 3 and the great dialogue with Nicodemus.

Have you ever wondered about EXACTLY what Christ is referring to in verses 32 and 33? What exactly is the testimony? That we should believe? As I've been saying this week, it's worth it to think hard about what it truly means to "believe". That we should love another as ourselves? That by our fruits we shall be known? That Christ came to save what was lost? That He won't lose any of his sheep?

How about v36 - whoever disobeys God will feel the wrath of God. "Wrath of God" sounds pretty bad, doesn't it? Isn't that part of the testimony?

I submit that it is all true. We need to pay attention to all of what Christ said in its entirety, not just specific verses that we're most comfortable with. For me, I've spent several years pondering the hard question of the role of faith and works toward salvation. I've been at both extremes of this see-saw.

So what to do? Ultimately I put it in God's hands. I asked him to tell me the truth, because I really had to know this before I went any further. And here's the answer I get.

First - there is absolutely no doubt that we are saved by grace, through faith. But this puts us right back to this question -- what do "faith" and "believe" really mean? If faith and works are separate concepts, why is the only time that the words "faith alone" appear in the bible in James 2:24, where "faith alone" is rejected as a means by which we are justified?

Look one more time at v36. Christ doesn't draw a distinction between the two. He says that whoever believes is saved, and whoever disobeys will feel the wrath of God. That means he considers "believe" and "disobey" to be opposites. In my opinion, that means that they are inextricably connected, and attempts to separate them ultimately fail.

Does this mean that I think that I can do enough "good things" to go to heaven? Not at all. It means that by my fruits I will be known. That also means that by my absence of fruits, I will be known.

Here's a thing to consider -- what is your motivation for doing "good" (assuming for a moment we all agree what that means)? Is it to look good? Is it to feel good? Is it to get to heaven? Is this what Christ is talking about?

Or ... is it because, quite simply, Christ is your King, and that's what your King told you to do?

As I grow in the faith, THAT'S the answer I get to. The "best" works are the ones where I completely submit myself to God, open myself up to what He wants, then I go do it.