Lesson 10 -- fourth quarter 2008
November 9, 2008
© Copyright 2008
Of which am I more afraid: watering down truth or watering down love?
Does my presence in a group make spiritual compromise more or less likely?
If I had the choice, which would I rather be: wrong or corrected?
So what is my disposition toward sin and shortcoming in my life?
"In me, today, oh Savior mine,
Not my life, but Thine."
Will I pray that each day?
Christianity has its paradoxes. You cannot experience victory unless you surrender. You cannot know fulfilment unless you are emptied of self. You cannot live unless you die.
We cannot follow Jesus without giving up self. Following Jesus requires that I quit following myself. But we must not confuse mere self-denial with following Jesus. Self-denial can easily become a substitute for following Jesus. We are called to deny self and follow Jesus. That involves living the Not I But Christ principle expressed in Galatians 2:20.
Until I die to myself and Christ lives His life through me, I cannot have peace with others. The cross bridges the chasm between God and me, and between my brother and me. And it doesn't just span that division, it actually joins those which previously were separate from and at odds with each other.
Confrontation strikes most of us as a very difficult and harsh concept. We would rather take a variety of other approaches to problems and disagreements. Sometimes we would rather just swallow our fears, cautions and differing points of view; we just don't say a thing about the matter. Other times we settle for talking to others, but definitely not to the person in question. Once in a while we might soothe the anti-gossip mechanism in our conscience by talking to the ministry; after all, that's why they were ordained! Maybe we settle for writing an honest (maybe even scathing) but anonymous letter. Some might even address the matter indirectly in a topic or Bible study. Who knows, we might even get brave and talk to the person about the matter, but not very directly, giving preference to hinting, joking or beating around the bush. But outright confrontation? Well...................
Our lesson text records an Apostle-to-Apostle confrontation -- in public! Paul withstood Peter. That means Paul resisted and opposed Peter. "To the face." In other words, face-to-face, in person. Was this a personal something? Did Paul have it in for Peter? Was this a power grab on Paul's part? Was Paul acting irresponsibly and arrogantly? NO!
Why, then, did Paul confront Peter? The issue was the hypocritical, inconsistent, men-fearing practice of a certain doctrine. Peter had become caught up in it, and had carried with him Barnabas and other local Jews. Paul tells us that Peter "was to be blamed." The Greek word here translated blamed is used two other times in the New Testament. Both of those times it is translated condemn (1 John 3:20,21). This public attitude on Peter's part was publicly poisoning the rest of the church and its leadership; therefore, he needed public confrontation and correction.
I believe God calls on His people to openly confront, exhort and admonish one another in love, meekness and all due consideration. We must face the issues and problems before us without stooping to gossip, evasiveness or personal assault.
Galatians 2:16 says it three times: works justify no one. So we got the message loud and clear. But where do we go from here? If works don't bring us salvation, or at least contribute significantly to it, then why bother with them?
Twice Galatians 2:16 stresses that salvation comes by faith. That's wonderful! But if we receive redemption only and solely through faith, why should we bother with good works?
"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 5:16). When others see the good works that result from the redemptive work of Christ in our lives, they give glory to God. This verse also indicates that good works are one way in which we can cause our light to shine in this dark world.
"Walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God" (Colossians 1:10). Those who live in a way that fits with the Christian profession they make will be very productive when it comes to producing good fruit. Good works are the sweet, delightful, healthful fruit of saving faith.
"Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works" (Titus 2:14). Jesus died so that He might redeem and purify us. That makes us peculiar; that is, especially unique. He also has in mind that we have a burning zeal for doing good things. Thus the good works that spring from His redemption further brand us as unusual people in this world.
"Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone" (James 2:17). Shall we say that good works give life to faith, or shall we more correctly say that good works reveal that our faith is living? I imagine the latter its more theologically correct, but either way, we see the mutually-dependent relationship between faith and works. This verse packs a powerful doctrinal punch despite its brevity. Works without faith are empty; faith without works is empty. Anyone who tries to divorce the two puts their life in peril!
"Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works" (James 2:18). Do you still remember what the question is? This verse gives a very logical, reasonable answer: Works allow us to demonstrate our faith. The implications of this verse boggle the mind: Without works no one can prove his faith!
"Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation" (1 Peter 2:12). This verse brings out two benefits of good works. First off, our good works contradict the character assassination indulged in by enemies of the cross. Secondly, visible good works cause even the heathen to glorify God.
"But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased" (Hebrews 13:16). The Jews of the Old Testament could offer animal sacrifices to God for His pleasure. God doesn't give us that option. However, we can please Him with the sacrifices of good works and generosity.
"Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin" (James 4:17). The Christian has a choice: good works or sin.
There we have it. Faith does not do away with works. In fact, they which have in believed in God must "be careful to maintain good works" (Titus 3:8).
Faith and works. What a puzzle for so many Christians! They seem to believe that these concepts are mutually exclusive, that they just cannot coexist. Let me ask you a question that may appear totally removed from the issue at hand: Which came first -- the chicken or the egg? The chicken, right? Sure, God made her! OK, another question: Which would you rather have -- the chicken or the egg? Hmm. I would take the chicken because I could then get an egg from her; an egg on its own will never produce a chicken. Now here's the connection to our topic: the chicken is faith, the egg is works. Jesus is the Author (Maker) of our faith. Our faith then produces our works. Works alone will never produce faith. I know, the analogy does break down eventually because you can't use the chicken and the egg very well to show the interdependence of faith and works (James 2:17-26).
Just remember: FAITH WORKS (Galatians 5:6; James 2:17; Acts 26:20; Ephesians 2:10) and WORKING FAITH shows our identity (1 Timothy 2:10; 2 Timothy 3:17; Titus 2:14; 3:8; Revelation 2:26).
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