Not Separating That Which Goes Together: God & Religion, Faith & Works, Justification & Sanctification

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17  So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. 18  Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.” 19  You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. 20  How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless? James 2:17-20 (NLT)

27  What God the Father considers to be pure and genuine religion is this: to take care of orphans and widows in their suffering and to keep oneself from being corrupted by the world. James 1:27 (TEV) 

11         I am copying this example of cowardice from a letter so that you will not imitate it: “I am certainly very grateful to you for keeping me in mind, because I need many prayers. But I would also be grateful if, when you ask Our Lord to make me an ‘apostle’, you would not insist on asking him to make me surrender my freedom.” (1)

This morning as I was looking on Facebook while waiting for the shower, I saw another “meme” that thought you could separate God and religion.  It had the usual accolades, the usual slams.  Comments about religion not being loving, that religion causes wars, that it is hypocritical, and so on.  Not one of those comments defined “religion”, not one of them quoted scripture.  But they universally condemned religion.

I guess they find caring for widows and orphans, and not bringing yourself down by involving yourself in sin, something that is very negative.  Though I expect that it is more the latter issue, than the former.  That and the people who are a bit insistent that others follow God’s commands, without teaching first of His grace.

Religion is putting into practice the love of God in our lives.  It is understanding His love is what gives us the Two Great Commandments, the Decalogue (aka the Ten Commandments), the Beatitudes. the directions given in the Epistles.  Living those out, isn’t possible without the presence of God, with His love and mercy, with understanding that He desires what is best for us.

Dividing God from what He considers to be pure and genuine religion, is the same as dividing faith and works.  Even though it is trusting in God (faith) that saves us, James (and Hebrews, and Paul and Jesus ) is clear. A person who trusts in God will live a different life from those who do not.  A religious life.  As will those whose first thoughts are to praise Him for His work in their lives, a work that becomes theirs.  Yet there are people out there who says we don’t have to follow God’s plans for our lives.  That they are outdated, that they are too restrictive, that they don’t make sense.

And they call for a relationship with Him, where what we do should be right in our eyes, not His.  It’s still a religion folks, it is just that the deity we are in a relationship with, has been replaced.  It is now us that rule, and God who does our bidding.

There is one last “break-up” that goes with the first two.  I use theological terms for it, Justification and Sanctification.  But I could easily use other theological terms, conversion/forgiveness and abiding in Christ/transformation/repentance.  In each case we divorce salvation, God delivering us from our brokenness (sin) and healing/restoring us to what should come naturally.  We make excuses, we blame others, we basically determine that we can’t live any better, that we can’t struggle with sin, and so we don’t.

And we toss God’s way of life out the window.

During lent, we take a breath, and see the need for God to put back together the lives we shattered, our own, and those we’ve had a hand in breaking. Not that we shouldn’t do this year round, but taking 7 weeks here, helps a lot.  We see that religion – God’s plan, does have a purpose in our lives, it is a way of life we can abide in with Him. That we can know and show mercy, love, forgiveness, that we can redeem that which was tossed aside, that we are called and chosen to do this very thing.

That we can get off our own pedestal, that we can stop playing God, and that we can know His peace.

AMEN

 

 

(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 282-285). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

About justifiedandsinner

I am a pastor of a Concordia Lutheran Church in Cerritos, California, where we rejoice in God's saving us from our sin, and the unrighteousness of the world. It is all about His work, the gift of salvation given to all who trust in Jesus Christ, and what He has done that is revealed in Scripture. God deserves all the glory, honor and praise, for He has rescued and redeemed His people.

Posted on March 18, 2014, in Devotions, The Furrow, Theology in Practice and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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