Lazy Grace

The reformation brought a heavy emphasis on salvation by grace alone, which is completely true.However, this huge emphasis on grace alone, has caused a catastrophic rejection of works. No, it is obvious that scripture does not teach works based salvation. However, scripture does teach that we should work. Grace is not a gift that promotes laziness, but rather grace is a gift that equips us for hard work. 
In Revelation John delivers this message to the church at Ephesus, “But i have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first” (Revelation 2:4). Most people focus so much on this point that they forget what he says next, “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not I will remove your lamp stand from its place, unless you repent” (Revelation 2:5). Love does not appear to be an emotional feeling that the church once had but then lost. Rather, love seems to be an outworking of affection. In 1 John 3:16-18 we read, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. but if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” We are commanded to love God and love others, and the way we fulfill these commandments is by action. 
The mental and emotional experiences in life are very closely connected with the physical action side of life. They influence and are influenced by each other. Here is a grossly simplified example. If I known in my mind that the presence of the little red light the stove indicates that it is hot, than I will not touch it. Therefore my thoughts influence my action or lack there of. Now here is the other side. If I touch the stove while the little red light is on and burn my hand, than my thoughts and feelings about the light will change completely. I will know that the light means the surface of the stove is hot, therefore my actions influenced the way I think about the light. If this remains true with our service to God, than my beliefs ought to influence my actions. We would all agree to that, but here is the kicker. If thoughts and feelings are connected so closely with action, than my works for the Lord will only increase my affections for, and thoughts about Him. 
Along the same lines, I have been pondering the relationship between actions and belief. James says faith without works is dead, and I think it is also safe to conclude that belief without action is not belief. Peter stepped out of the boat knowing that the water was already acting more like a solid than a liquid, because he saw Jesus walking on it. Real belief is acting as though it has already been done. 
In conclusion, salvation is by grace and by faith alone, but that kind of saving faith leads to zealous work for The Lord. Paul says it best in Romans 12:1-2. In summary Paul is pointing back to the mercies of God, and in view of those mercies he urges the church at Rome to offer their bodies as a sacrifice. Keep in mind this letter to the Romans is what fueled the reformation that so greatly emphasized grace and faith alone. The point is that God’s saving grace is so sweet that we are compelled to, in turn, devote all our actions and behaviors as a sacrifice to him. Works do not save people, but people who are saved work!


Local Missions

As a pastor in the buckle of the “Bible belt” I have encountered a road block in local missions. That hindrance would be the fact that everyone we encounter already “goes to church.” Well, that’s what they say, but with further inquiries it is easy to see that this is simply not the reality. Our missions strategy has, for quite sometime, consisted of inviting people to church. I must be honest and say that it has failed miserably. This is due to the false security the people in our community embrace so firmly. Somewhere along the way, people have come to think church is for children and the elderly and the time period in-between is set aside for other things. Even during this gap period the person feels like he or she is a part of a local church that he either attended as a child or that his family currently attends. The question then arises, what is the next option? The answer to that is as old as the church itself, Gospel proclamation. Here are some important aspects of Gospel proclamation and presentation.

1. Use Words!

While it is important to live out a life that proclaims the Gospel, actions are  not enough. It is popular to say that we should share the gospel with our deeds. This is true to a degree. However, if we stop at giving out food and water to the deprived, mowing lawns for the elderly, or having a block party for the neighborhood, than we are only contributing to the problem. These things are good and necessary, but only when they occur alongside a verbal gospel presentation.

2. It Works!

The thing about the proclamation of the Gospel is that it is quite effective. Romans tells us that the Gospel has the power unto salvation. If the message of the Gospel is so powerful, and it works so well, than let us go and proclaim it. The Gospel is the only solution, we cannot add anything to it or take anything away from it to make it work any better. In doing these things we will only take away from the Gospel, which needs no amending.

3. Don’t Wait!

Not everyone will receive the Gospel message in the same way. Much like Jesus describes in the parable of the sower. However, we have an issue of life and death on our hands. If God chooses to save through the proclamation of His good news, than who are we to put it off. We ought to present the Gospel with tact and in good timing, but we simply cannot wait until tomorrow to do it.