Thursday, 11 October 2007

When Faith Means More Than Words

I wanted to pass on a great thought from an exert of Dietrich Bonhoeffers book The Cost Of Discipleship. Now I did not agree with everything I read... but I thought it would be good to chew on this thought:

"The actual call of Jesus and the response of single-minded obedience have an irrevocable significance. By means of them Jesus calls people into an actual situation where faith is possible. For that reason his call is an actual call and he wishes it to be so understood, because he knows that only through actual obedience that a man can become liberated to believe."

Bonhoeffer is trying to express his belief that every scripture should be taken literally...
Now I don't want to get into that discussion in this blog post, I do like the thought that it is our action - our obedience to Christ - that allows us to have faith.
Faith is not simply a set of beliefs we talk about... our faith is made visible through our actions of obedience.

Saint James said it like this:

Jas 2:18-26 MSG
(18) I can already hear one of you agreeing by saying, "Sounds good. You take care of the faith department, I'll handle the works department." Not so fast. You can no more show me your works apart from your faith than I can show you my faith apart from my works. Faith and works, works and faith, fit together hand in glove.

(19) Do I hear you professing to believe in the one and only God, but then observe you complacently sitting back as if you had done something wonderful? That's just great. Demons do that, but what good does it do them?

(20) Use your heads! Do you suppose for a minute that you can cut faith and works in two and not end up with a corpse on your hands?

(21) Wasn't our ancestor Abraham "made right with God by works" when he placed his son Isaac on the sacrificial altar?

(22) Isn't it obvious that faith and works are yoked partners, that faith expresses itself in works? That the works are "works of faith"?

(23) The full meaning of "believe" in the Scripture sentence, "Abraham believed God and was set right with God," includes his action. It's that mesh of believing and acting that got Abraham named "God's friend."

(24) Is it not evident that a person is made right with God not by a barren faith but by faith fruitful in works?

(25) The same with Rahab, the Jericho harlot. Wasn't her action in hiding God's spies and helping them escape--that seamless unity of believing and doing--what counted with God?

(26) The very moment you separate body and spirit, you end up with a corpse. Separate faith and works and you get the same thing: a corpse.

I'd love to hear your feedback : )

1 comment:

Paul's Thoughts said...

Hiya Clive,

Your post on the cost of discipleship in relation to obedience (words-faith-works) is an area that I need to sink into more. It is obvious that the key principle in Christian living is hearing and doing the Word of God. In fact, every Christian knows this, its familiarity works against me. Yes, Yes, I know this, we know this, we all know about hearing and practicing (Mat 7:24, Luke 6:46, 8:21), to be taught and obey (John 14:23, Luke 11:28), abide in and bear fruit (John 15:5), to know God’s will and do God’s will(Mark 3:35), listen closely and follow (John 10:3,4,27) to be treasuring truth (Ps 119:72, Job 23:12) and living truth (Mat 4:4), to think about and act, be studying and applying. However, I feel this familiarly, simplicity and obviousness has produced a lazy mind that needs to be slapped in order to highlight that this is a most sobering and seriousness matter. It is almost like my mind goes dull while hearing talk on obedience and requires a very conscious effort to move beyond the knowing, the talking about the hearing and the listening. Why is this so?

You said “our faith is made visible through our actions of obedience.” What gets in the way of the hearer, a stunted hearer, a disobedient listener who is left looking at a pile of words? Preachers who endlessly present the Word of God yearn for people to act on what they have heard. It is invariably the cost of obedience that I need to contemplate when listening, otherwise I go into passive mode. This strangely cultivates the intention to obey.

“It is altogether doubtful whether any man can be saved who comes to Christ for His help but with no intention to obey Him…the notion that we are permitted is a modern day heresy.”
A.W. Tozer. The Root of The Righteous. OM Publishing, Carlisle. 1995, p83

It is not healthy to accept the unconditional benefits of Christianity without also accepting the cost of obeying, the responsibilities associated with being a Christian. The faith-works, works-faith dynamic is situated within this framework and becomes more pertinent to me in light of it.

“The gospel offer is not unconditional. It is clear that sinners cannot be forgiven if they persist in clinging to their sins. If they desire God to turn from their sins in remission, they must themselves turn from them in repentance. We are charged, therefore, to proclaim the condition as well as the promise of forgiveness. Remission is the gospel offer; repentance is the gospel demand”.
Leonard Ravenhill…..