Tag Archives: law

James vs. Paul: A contradiction?

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Over the last few weeks I’ve been talking about faith in my sermons on Sunday mornings. We have seen that it is impossible to please God without faith (Hebrews 11:6). We have defined faith as follows:

Believing in something so much that you ACT on that belief without hesitation.

Faith isn’t merely saying you believe in something but living like you believe in that something.

As we talk about faith there are many who want us to talk about James 2. Many people have an opinion one way or the other about this passage. Many in the churches of Christ love this passage and use it to talk about the things we do as Christians. Some people dismiss this chapter because they believe in the “faith alone” passages of Romans and Galatians. Which is it? Are we saved by faith alone or do works come into play?

Paul says this:
Romans 4:1-5
​”What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter? If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about–but not before God. What does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation.
However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.”

He also says this:
Galatians 2:15-16
“We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.”

So it seems that we are saved by faith alone. This is true, but you must understand the type of works that Paul is talking about in these passages. He is not talking about the works done as a result of faith. He is talking about the works people do in order to fulfill the law – as in the Old Testament Levitical Law System.

People believed that if they followed the rules of the Old Testament to the letter they would be found righteous. The problem with this is if you break one of the laws even once you have been found unrighteous, and there is no undoing that stained record. A person cannot justify themselves by following law.

But James says this:
James 2:14-17
“What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”

So which is it? Do you need works for Salvation? James thinks so, but he is talking about a different kind of works entirely. He is not talking about following a religion legalistically. He is talking about a life that shows its faith by what it does.

The kind of deeds James is referring to have to do with faith. Faith without action is mere words. It’s not faith at all. If we are going to claim to have faith then there needs to be evidence of it by the lifestyle we show daily. Your lifestyle, the deeds you do daily, shows whether or not you have faith.

James and Paul are not in contradiction with each other. They both believe that faith shows itself in what we do (Galatians 5:6).

So, you are not saved by proving yourself worthy. You are saved by a faith in God that expresses itself daily in a lifestyle of love for God and others and trust in the Creator to sustain and fulfill you.

So are you saved by faith? Yes! But faith cannot be defined without action. May your life reflect that saving faith, and may others see that faith in you.

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Zombies for Jesus

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This is the time of year that I love to go shed hunting. If you’re not familiar with what that is, then I’ll explain. Every year elk and deer shed their antlers. No one really knows why, but they grow back even bigger the following year. The antlers they shed are beautiful pieces of creation, and hunting them means hiking – a lot.

I love to be in the wilderness hiking along looking for these unique finds. I’ll admit, I’m not very good at it, but I try anyway.

The other day I was hiking along. There was much on my mind, and I was going through the countryside at a normal pace. I wasn’t tripping over rocks or branches. I avoided all obstacles, but after a while I realized I couldn’t recall any of the terrain I had just covered. I knew enough to retrace my steps, but I couldn’t remember what I had “looked at”. I was using my eyes, but I wasn’t seeing. There could have been 100 antlers in that area, but I couldn’t have seen them even if I had been staring at them because my mind was elsewhere. I was so distracted by my thoughts that I couldn’t see what was right in front of me.

Last week I was gathered with Christians from the four corners region to sing praise to God. I enjoy singing, but as we sang I began to look at the words to the songs. There were songs about those who were condemned that we sang joyfully. Shouldn’t we be sad about that? Shouldn’t that motivate us to get out there and witness more? There were songs about mansions, robes, and crowns that we want and expect to receive when we get to heaven. Isn’t that selfish? I don’t want that. I want to be in the presence of God forever. Everything else is of no consequence if I just get to be in His presence. We were singing songs that have been sung for ages, but so many times I’ve said the words without paying attention to their meaning.

Many people attend Sunday morning services. They even read their bibles, but they are missing the main messages for the tradition of going through the motions. It’s easy to keep doing what we’ve been doing. It’s easy to sing the songs that we’ve always sung. It’s even easy to find the lists of dos and don’ts in scripture because they are more obvious to a people who think in more concrete terms.

What we do when this becomes our habit is dangerous. We sing songs, but the songs are lip service. We like the tunes. We know the way to say the words, but we don’t know or even sense the heart of the songs. We know the Ten Commandments and many of the other lists of sins and laws in the bible, but we miss the greater meanings behind the laws.

Some concepts hold greater weight in the bible than others. Grace is a message found throughout the story even though it is not always maintained directly. Unity is stressed even more than doctrinal correctness. Faith is the bedrock of all we practice. Love is the greatest concept given to Christians. Each of these concepts can be practiced practically, but so many practice the acts without realizing the heart behind the acts.

We love to get grace, but so many who profess Jesus as Lord don’t give grace as much as they like receiving it – me included. We love the concept of unity – as long as you agree with me in order to create unity. That’s not unity. That’s uniformity. They are not the same. We love the concept of love, but we are so selfish that we have a hard time living in that. In fact, it is easier for us to do the “rules” than to love unconditionally. This is why Paul wrote 1 Corinthians 13. They were going through the motions without love or unity or grace.

It’s time to repent. It’s time to begin again. Let us not be zombies for Jesus – just going through the motions. May we be generous with our grace. May we be diverse in our unity. And may we love unconditionally. The world isn’t attracted to what we do ritualistically unless it comes from a well of who we are, and who we are needs to reflect Christ.


The Political Party of Jesus

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When Jesus called his apostles, he called a hodgepodge of people to come together to follow him. Have you ever thought about the variety of these men?

Jesus didn’t choose them haphazardly. He stayed up all night praying before he chose twelve out of the multitudes that were following him. These were the men he would mentor more closely – the men who would turn the world upside down.

Look at the makeup of this band of brothers. Several were fishermen. In fact, the three who were closest to Jesus – Peter James and John – were fishermen and not brilliant scholars. Judas was a traitor to Jesus. Thomas was the one remembered by his doubt.

The two in this grouping that fascinate me most considering the close company they kept for three years were Matthew and Simon.

Matthew was a tax collector. According to the Jews this would label him a traitor to their nation. He was working for the Roman government which was oppressive to the Jewish people. Most Jews hated tax collectors and grouped them with prostitutes and other “sinners”.

Simon was noted as being a zealot. A zealot was one who was a nationalist that wanted to overthrow the roman government. He wanted to restore Israel back to the nation he felt it needed to be without the oppression of another ruling nation. Barabbas was a zealot and was part of an uprising that led to death. Simon was in the same party as Barabbas.

So what was Jesus’ point in all this? I think Jesus was trying to show the people that the kingdom of God wasn’t about political parties. In fact, Jesus’ message was political but not in the ways we think of it.

When we think of politics, we think of Republican and Democrat and maybe Libertarian or Independent. We see the polarization of our nation around these party lines. We think of how our country should be run and who should run it. Matthew and Simon had opposing views of how the Jews should be governed. They were as polar opposite as you could get. Yet Jesus called them to work together for a kingdom that was not of this world.

The kingdom of Jesus is the reign of God in our lives. It is our choice to be governed by God only. The kingdom of God is not Democrat or Republican. It is not about all the things that divide our country. The kingdom is about love of God and love of one another. These are the two laws of the kingdom. When you meet the king you will be asked to account for how you fulfilled the two laws, not what your political party was.

So, if Jesus wasn’t about political parties, then can our churches be the same? We are called to treat others as Jesus did. He didn’t shun someone for being a particular political party. He didn’t ask them which government they stood for before He called them to follow Him. We are called to love others the same way. This is the kingdom of God. You are welcome here even if you are republican, democrat, libertarian, or independent. You are still called to follow Him.


It is for Freedom Christ has set us Free

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We live in the greatest free country on the planet…well, almost. We do live in the greatest country on the planet, but it’s not necessarily free, and more people are taking notice every day.

One of the hottest discussion points around the country these days is the new verdict about what is referred to as “Obamacare”. The Supreme Court ruled that is was perfectly fine for them to impose this regulation on the general public. I don’t want to get into my preferences about this policy, but I do want to note that if this goes through it will be another example of the government taking away one of our freedoms.

We already have regulations wherever we turn. We have regulations on how we drive. We have regulations on how we raise our children. We have regulations on how we provide food for our family. We have regulations on how and what we teach our children.

We aren’t allowed to make any money without paying some of it to the government. Some of your money goes to helping poor people whether you like it or not. And now, if nothing changes, you will be forced to have health insurance whether you can afford it or not.

Some of these things frustrate me, and some of these things are great in order for us to have an orderly way of living. Granted, if certain rules weren’t in place there would be mass chaos. We need laws to maintain order in the country. However, this is not necessarily a “free” country.

Churches often have the same kinds of laws. Some churches dictate how you dress. Some churches dictate where you sit. You are instructed when to sit and when to stand. You are told what to believe about certain things, and in many churches you are ostracized if you believe differently than the masses. All of this makes me think of a verse in Galatians 5.

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

Are you free? You may say so, but then again you may be bound by traditions and regulations. Apparently we are called to be free.

What does this mean, then? Do we throw out everything for the sake of freedom? Not just yet.

This freedom comes in a certain way of perceiving the world around us. When you come to Christ, and you devote your life to him, then you are called to have the mind of Christ. The mind of Christ is in total love with God, and it follows the will of God wherever it goes.

Does that mean it is a slave to God? Not really. What are the laws of God? Love God and love your neighbor. That’s it – just two. Every other command we read in scripture is merely a commentary on how to do those two laws.

When you get to the point that you love God, then it is a result of that love that you begin loving your neighbor. When your mind comes into alignment with the mind of Christ, then what you want IS to obey those two laws. You are totally free, and you can quit whenever you want, but the more you love God and others the more you find that you really like this way of living. It is so much more fulfilling than a life of selfishness.

The laws (written and unwritten) within churches aren’t necessarily bad, but if they are given without being couched in the context of the two laws of God, then they are merely man made rules that do not serve the church well at all.

The best thing about being free in Christ is the concept of grace. We are free to do what we want. What we want is hopefully to fulfill the two laws of God in our lives. When we mess up we have grace. We may deserve to be punished for our transgression of the law of love, but because He loves us, He forgives us over and over again through the blood of Christ.

Most of the “laws” in churches are traditions. When we truly grasp the freedom in loving God and loving our neighbor, then we will be free to extend grace ourselves when others don’t match up to or behave in the way of our expectations.

This week is Independence week. Let us throw off the shackles of slavery to sin. Let us be truly free in Christ to live in the mind of Christ. Let us love unendingly, and let us extend the grace of God to others daily. This, truly, is much more fulfilling than the alternative.

If there is anything I can do for you, feel free to contact me at jddobbs@verizon.net or at the office at 245-1611. You can also join the conversation about this as well as my other articles at http://www.mrdobbs.org. God bless you as you live I the freedom found in Christ.

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Giving Credit Where Credit is Due

To date, I have written many things about love and God and how the two ideas intertwine. Two weeks ago, I wrote about “How to Love a Deity.” In that article, I discussed that the first way to love a deity is to accept the love that He showers on you. In other word, it is to let God love you and let Him take care of your sin by giving your life to Him. I hope that you have made the choice to make Jesus your Lord. If you haven’t, then give me a buzz, and I’d love to talk with you more about it.

To love a deity, you cannot simply stop once you have decided to let Him love you. There has to be more to it than that. Will He love you less if you don’t do what I am about to write? No! But the apostle, Paul, was pretty clear in Romans 6 that we are not supposed to do just anything since we’ve been saved. We are to put away our old, sinful selves.

When I was a teenager, I remember a job that my mother had. She was the secretary for a public relations director for a school system. She was really good at her job, and because she was good, the school did well at fund raising and gained credibility in the eyes of the community. The P.R. guy she worked for was a good man, but when the rubber met the road, my mom was doing 95% of the work in the office. He was usually off doing something else while my mom got the work done in the office and talked on the phone to celebrities to arrange for fundraisers and contacted influential officials to get her job done. This all went well for a while, but once she noticed that she was doing all the work, and no one was giving her any of the credit, she got pretty disgruntled. She still did her job to the best of her ability, and her boss still took all the credit without giving her any, but inside this really ate away at her.

Have you ever felt that way? Maybe you were due some credit that never came. Maybe you felt like no one ever gave you a second thought, or people didn’t think you were good enough.

Have you ever wondered if that’s how God feels?

We live our lives day by day and breathe and eat and walk and work and talk and do all the other normal everyday things that humans do, yet most days we don’t take the time to give credit where credit is due. God created everything. According to Acts 17, He gives you “life and breath and everything else.” So do you give credit where credit is due?

If someone were to ask me the purpose for humans on this earth, I would answer them, “To glorify our Creator in everything we do.” That’s how we love our Deity.

To give glory to God can happen in many ways. We can simply notice all the little magnificent things that God does like the sunrise this morning or the bird that is singing a hymn to its creator outside your window as you eat your lunch. These are things that we take for granted every day, but God created them for us nonetheless. In fact, God loves you so much that He created all this for you! In the process, He wants us to give Him credit for His creation. Maybe that’s why the idea of evolution is so repulsive to many Christians – because it takes the credit due God for this magnificent earth and all its inhabitants and gives it to chance.

Another way to give glory to God is to worship Him. We seem to have many ideas of worship. When I am standing in a clear-water stream in the hills of Arkansas or California, I an basking in the delight of my Creator, and I am worshiping Him even though I may make no sound other than the occasional squeal of joy when I hook a nice fish. Some people seem to think that worship only happens when we gather with other Christians on Sunday morning at the local church building. This kind of worship is formal and is usually done through singing. Hebrews 10:25 says, “ Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.(NIV)” The Hebrew writer is saying that we need to assemble with the other Christians, but worship is not limited to just this.

If we are to love God, I think we need a broader view of worship to Him.

Paul says, in Romans 12:1, “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.(NLT)”

According to Paul, the way to worship God – to show Him our love for Him is a continual offering of our lives to Him. This is not just a once-a-week thing. This is a 24/7 thing. This is us continually offering our hearts and lives to God to give Him credit as our Creator by obeying the two laws: Love God and Love your neighbor. Worship is one of the ways we love our Deity.

I hope you have a church family with which to worship on Sundays. If you don’t, I’d like to personally invite you to the Nichols St. church of Christ here in Bay City. But even when you aren’t in the church building, love God with everything you have and everything you are – this is the only reasonable way to give credit where credit is due – to love a Deity.


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