Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I Believe that Believe is a Verb

Based on James 2:14-19
14What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 15Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16If 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? 17In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. 18But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds." Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. 19You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

Do you believe that believe is a verb?

It’s more than just an intellectual question—and not just because of James’ comment about demons believing that there is one God, although that reminder stops me cold almost every time I read it! It’s an important question because it’s the kind of question that rattles around in our souls, refusing to find an answer that allows us to put it to rest once and for all.

Do you believe that believe is a verb?

It’s a really big deal, because it really is all about us—you, me, every person who claims to believe in Jesus Christ. Our individual and personal response to this question matters, because we are the body of Christ, we are His visible representation in the world, His face, His arms, His hands, His feet.

As Paul writes to groups of first century believers, he calls them to live in light of what they believe, to move beyond intellectual assent to living lives characterized by the reality of what God has done for them in Christ.

In Paul’s letter to the believers at Ephesus, he is direct and to the point—

I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.—Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, chapter 4, verse 1

Then he spends the rest of his letter explaining in detail what that looks like in their individual lives and in their relationships with other people.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul equates how we live our lives with worship, and tells us how important it is to allow God’s truth to reshape our perspective on life—

Therefore, I urge you, brothers [and sisters], in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.—Paul’s letter to the Romans, chapter 13, verse 1

As Paul writes to the Galatian believers, he points to the role of God’s Spirit in shaping us—

You, my brothers [and sisters], were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature, rather serve one another in love….The acts of the sinful nature are obvious…But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law….So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature….Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.—Paul’s letter to the Galatians, chapter 5, verses 13, 16, 19, 22, 23, 25

In writing to the believers in Philippi, Paul calls them back to the realization of all that Christ has done for them and points to Christ’s example as the basis for living lives that place others above our own self-interest—

If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose….Your attitude should be the same as Christ Jesus…—Paul’s letter to the Philippians, chapter 2, verses 1, 2, 5

In his letter to the Colossians, Paul urges believers to live in light of their identity in Christ—

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.—Paul’s letter to the Colossians, chapter 3, verse 12

Peter points believers to God’s power, encouraging and challenging believers with these words—

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness….For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is near-sighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.—Peter’s second letter to believers, chapter 1, verses 3, 5-9

So what about you?

Which of these passages from the first century do you need to hear today? It really is all about you. What you believe. Do you believe believe is a verb? Are you believing?

Believing flows from the inside out.

Live life based on what you say you believe—

1. Take actions that are consistent with what you believe
2. Take actions even when you aren’t sure of the end result
3. Take actions even when you don’t feel like it

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