What is the goal of life, the thing most worth striving for? I strive to know that when I sit in front of the throne of God, He will look at me and say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
This doesn’t mean that I have a works mentality. Truthfully, I don’t believe my works will get me to heaven. I believe in my faith will get me to heaven, because I think I’m justified by my faith.
But I believe that the works I perform are the result of the life I try to live every day. You can boil my whole theology down to one concept: discipleship. I try to live a life of Jesus.
We don’t have to resolve the works/faith “issue,” because when we live the lifestyle of Jesus, there is no issue. That’s what you see in James. He said, “Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” (James 2:18)
Some people say that James and Paul were having a disagreement, but they weren’t. They were talking about two different things. When Paul said that you aren’t saved by works, he meant that works alone will not get you into heaven. Paul said, “Look, you’re not going to be able to just do good things and get to heaven.” In my belief, that’s true. There are a lot of good people that do a lot of good things, and they don’t even believe God exists. They’re atheists. I don’t think that’s going to get them to heaven. They’re doing a lot of good things, which is great! But in the end, they didn’t give up their souls.
James is talking about a whole different idea. James is talking about the believers, the ones that have given up their souls to God. When James said, “I will show you my faith by my works,” he was talking about the lifestyle that you live when you’re a believer.
Once you confess that Jesus died for your sins, you are saved. But then what? Nothing? Do you say, “Oh, now I can just sit around and do whatever. My salvation is all about grace and I can just live my life however I want to live it.”
Here’s what James and the other disciples said to that: No! Living life however they wanted to live it is not what got them persecuted. It was their lifestyle – the lifestyle of Jesus – the life lived by the believer that got them in trouble. It was a lifestyle that got them crucified upside down. It was a lifestyle that got them thrown into prison. It was a lifestyle that got them stoned to death. The apostles were living a lifestyle that shook people up, man. They were going into pagan Greece and pagan Rome. They walked into the temples of a ton of different Gods. They walked into places where people were having orgies. They walked into these places and said, “No! No! This is not the lifestyle you are supposed to be living! It’s unfulfilling.”
The disciples showed us how to live. They challenged people’s worldviews. That was their lifestyle. And that’s what James is saying. You show me a believer that has a lifestyle of Jesus. That’s Christianity. But you show me a lifestyle that is without works, a lifestyle where you don’t do anything? You sit around? You accept Christ and then you just sit there and you don’t live the lifestyle of Jesus? You say you have faith, but who can see it? That’s not Christianity.
Of course, some people can really pervert the lifestyle. When we talk about discipleship, we’re not talking about just any works done in the name of Jesus. More on that next time. See you Friday.