Actual Question: "As protestants we talk a lot about saved by grace alone but James says ‘faith without works is dead'. Of course I know the word ‘alone’ is not in the text, so what gives? (PS - I hate the ‘balance explanation)"
Possible Answer: This is a question that I've often thought about myself and in my mind it's usually phrased like this, "What's the balance between faith and works?" or as was submitted in the question above, we insert the word, "alone". As we tackle this important topic it's important to note from the start that neither Paul in his discourse on faith nor James in his dealings with works ever use the words "balance", "alone" or "only" or any other similarly exclusive term to communicate that one of these vital ingredients is sufficient without the other. It was never about one over the other or about either being in any sort of competition with the other.
Secondly, Paul and James were writing to different audiences who were dealing with different sets of struggles that they were attempting to address with different solutions. To conclude, as some do, that their prescriptions were somehow contradictory to one another is misinformed and out of context. James is writing to the "twelve tribes, who were dispersed abroad" (see James 1:1 NASB). His audience was clearly in need of some practical day to day advice on how to live in a way that brought glory to God. From the outset of his letter he repeatedly addresses practical topics like: facing trials, dealing with temptation, the famous verse of James 1:19 (NASB), "This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger...". He challenged the people to not just be hearers of the Word but doers as well, he spoke out against the dangers and power of the uncontrolled tongue and about the dangers of favoritism and the importance of treating the poor with dignity. When you zoom out and consider all that James was addressing it becomes clear that his emphasis on the importance of works was never designed to speak against the importance of faith but rather to highlight the requirement of "spiritual fruit" in the life of a true believer. He makes no assertion that works were or should ever be an avenue to redemption, but rather an overflow of the believer's redemption.
Paul in his letter to the Romans is dealing with a separate set of issues. He's writing of course to the church in Rome who were in need of a fuller understanding of the righteousness of God and the offer afforded them through the sacrifice of Jesus. J Vernon MGee in his commentary powerfully phrases it like this, "Friend, may I say to that the thief on the cross had been declared unfit to live in the Roman empire and was being executed. But the Lord Jesus said that He was going to make him fit for Heaven and told him, "...Today shalt thy be with me in paradise." (Luke 23:43). God takes lost sinners - like I am, like you are - and He brings them into the family of God and makes them sons of God. And He does it because of Christ's death upon the cross - not because there is any merit in us. This is the great message of the Romans." Paul was clearly communicating the power of the Cross that was available to all who would believe and have "faith" in the sacrifice of Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins.
Lastly, it's important to understand the relationship between James' definition of "works" and Paul's definition of "faith". Paul's definition of "faith" was an effort to strike at the very heart of the Gospel, faith in Jesus' work on the cross is paramount in our being saved from our sins. A million "works" earn us nothing towards being made right in God's sight. The only wage we earn for all of our efforts is death (Romans 6:23 (NASB). We are only saved through faith in Jesus Christ. James' definition of "works" centers around believer's becoming the modern day hands and feet of Jesus. Why are we saved? To carry the message forward to those who have not yet received this free gift.
Let's think about "faith" and "works" not as competitors but rather as different functions and stages in the same journey. We are first and foremost called to faith in Christ's work on the cross. We are then called to walk out that saving faith through our works that lift up and magnify the name of Jesus so that others might also come to faith. It's symbiosis at its' finest. You've heard of this right? It's the, "interaction between two different organisms living in close physical association, typically to the advantage of both." As we first enter into a saving relationship with God through "faith" in Jesus our "works" flow naturally from that genuine heart change. As our "works" increase and we witness firsthand the faithfulness of God as He gives us boldness, success and even the tough lessons in failure our "faith" in God increases. Round and round we go in an ever increasing symbiotic upward spiral towards greater intimacy with God. We are saved by our faith in Jesus and we step into the fullness of God through our works. Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
Nahum like all of the others that we’ve looked at was a prophet, he was handing out the message of God to the people of Ninevah, the same people group that Jonah, likely the more well-known prophet was challenging. If you fast-forward about 150 years you come upon Nahum who is giving the very same message to the people of Ninevah because they had once again gotten off track.
Here's some quick background on Ninevah. Ninevah is the capital city of Assyria. Assyria had been on a rampage for hundreds of years conquering all sorts of lands and cities. Nahum 3:8 tells us that Assyria had conquered the city of No-amon (or Thebes) all the way down in Egypt. Assyria had a wide and rather unfriendly reach.
If the book of Jonah is about God’s compassion for the people of Ninevah then the book of Nahum is about God’s vengeance towards the people of Ninevah. They had been given multiple chances to get it right but were still choosing to turn their back on God.
What’s more interesting about this whole Assyrian thing is that they weren’t just conquering these areas and collecting taxes or stealing their stuff, they were taking it a step further and were actively working to convert these areas towards their way of idol worship. The people of Ninevah were directly responsible for pulling people away from God's way of doing things. God could not allow this to continue.
I see two very important lessons for us in the account of Nahum. The first is one that we won’t fully understand in this lifetime but we need to at least begin to think about. God is loving and forgiving and God is just and vengeful. It’s the same God in Jonah who says to the people of Ninevah, "Repent, come back, turn around, stop doing that, I’m giving you another chance." That’s the same God who in the book of Nahum says to the people of Ninevah, "I won’t leave you unpunished, I will cut you off, you will be consumed, I will make an end of you, I will pour out my wrath on you."
How do we reconcile these two things? I think at least in part we reconcile these ideas by realizing that they aren’t opposite of one another. I think we’ve bought into this idea that if you love something then that automatically means you’ll never do the tough thing, the hard thing to protect it or save it. We say things like, “Well if God is love then why would he allow people to make bad choices and go to hell?” Well it’s precisely because of God’s loving nature that he allows us to make our own choice. Yes he could force us to do the right thing but that wouldn’t be very loving would it?
It’s because of God’s love for us and in this case the people of Ninevah that he allowed them to make their own choice and unfortunately, they chose to turn their backs on God. And in the end it was because of His love for the people of Judah who were being overrun by the people of Ninevah that He chose to deal justly with the people of Ninevah and to wipe them out.
I came across a commentary on www.overviewbible.com that phrased it like this, “God is safety to those who fear Him, but danger to those who disregard Him.”
Secondly, you’d have to live under a rock to not know that there is some really crazy, sinful stuff happening in our world today. It seems like those who are following Jesus are becoming fewer and fewer and it can be pretty discouraging when you start to feel like you’re in the minority.
That's likely what the people of Judah were feeling as they had spent all of these generations under oppression from the people of Ninevah. It was becoming more and more difficult for them to stay true to what they knew God was calling them to because everyone around them had thrown in the towel on this "God thing". Nahum message comes at a tough time for the people of Judah, many were perhaps wondering how much longer they could stand under such harsh circumstances without caving in to the idol worship.
No doubt each of us have felt overwhelmed by the darkness, both within ourselves and in our world. Perhaps you've found your will to do what’s right weakening as you've become discouraged with what you see in your life and in the world around you?
What Nahum reminds us of is that God’s active hand is working even in the darkest of times to bring justice and hope to the world. God hasn’t forgotten about you. God hasn’t given up on bringing restoration and justice to the world. Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
Let's talk about Jonah...
It wasn’t that long ago that I spent several days reading and re-reading the book of Jonah. Now, before you applaud my amazing commitment to Bible study, you should know it's only 4 chapters long. You could read it in its entirety in like 5 minutes.
So just to review Jonah is a prophet and a prophet was and is someone who receives a message from God and then delivers that message to the people and as you already know, prophets generally fall into one of two categories. Category one, "Great job everybody" and category two, "You guys are going to get wiped out if you don’t shape up." Jonah falls into category #2 in that God had instructed Jonah, as one of His prophets, to go directly to the Assyrian capital city of Ninevah to deliver a message of coming destruction if the people didn't repent and turn back to God.
On Bible Gateway Jonah 1:1-2 (NASB) says, “The word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me.”
Now before you disconnect, take a minute to recognize how similiar you and I are to Jonah. He does what some of us might do when tasked with a significant challenge, he does what comes naturally to many throughout history, he runs. He runs as far in the opposite direction as possible. He heads to the port of Joppa, boards a ship and makes off for the city of Tarshish.
Jonah 1:3 (NASB) says, “But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. So he went down to Joppa, found a ship which was going to Tarshish, paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.”
Some of you are familiar with the rest of this account but for those who aren’t, God comes back on to the scene and in a way that only God can He ever so gently attempts to grab Jonah’s attention.
Jonah 1:4 (NASB) says, “The Lord hurled a great wind on the sea and there was a great storm on the sea so that the ship was about to break up.”
Let's push pause here for a second? How many of you know that there are times in our lives when we go through storms? Nuff said, we all get it right? I bring this up because I think too often we blame God for the storms we experience in life. We say things like…
"What we forget is that sometimes the storms we experience in life are brought on us…by us."
Why did Jonah find himself in the midst of a storm? He found himself in the midst of a storm because of his disobedience to God. Sometimes we can create our own storm by our poor decisions or our poor judgement. We get impatient and we don’t want to wait on God, or we disagree with God’s calling or His answer so we take things into our own hands and then when the storms come we're looking around in disbelief that God would allow this to happen. So before we go any further I want to just pause here for a minute and ask you to evaluate the source of your storms. Following Jesus isn’t easy to begin with but we make it so much more difficult when we choose to ignore His leading.
Jonah’s account goes on in verses 5-8...Jonah 1:5-8 (NIV) says, “Then the sailors became afraid and every man cried to his god, and they threw the cargo which was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them. But Jonah had gone below into the hold of the ship, lain down and fallen sound asleep. So the captain approached him and said, “How is it that you are sleeping? Get up, call on your god. Perhaps your god will be concerned about us so that we will not perish.” Each man said to his mate, “Come, let us cast lots so we may learn on whose account this calamity has struck us.” So they cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. Then they said to him, “Tell us, now! On whose account has this calamity struck us? What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?”
Up to and until this point Jonah was just this faceless stowaway on the boat, the guy who quietly slipped in, slid his way to the bottom deck and found a quiet corner to hide in, suddenly he’s thrust into the spotlight. Now these sailors want answers. These are guys whose livelihood and at this point their very survival is based on the success of this voyage and here they are standing in front of Jonah demanding some answers.
Listen to Jonah’s response in verse 9 of chapter 1. Jonah 1:9 (NASB) says, He answered, “He said to them, “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord God of heaven who made the sea and the dry land.”
We read that verse at first and we’re like, “Yeah, Jonah was a Hebrew…” What’s the big deal?" But notice what he says in the second half of that verse, he says, “…I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” Let’s think about that verse again in the context of what was actually happening in Jonah’s life at that moment. Jonah makes the statement, “I worship the Lord, the God of heaven…” as he’s on a boat headed away from God’s plan for his life.
As I read that verse over and over again, I was struck by the ridiculousness of what was being stated. Jonah was "saying" that he worshipped the Lord, the God of Heaven yet he was on a ship headed away from where God was clearly calling him. How do you justify that? As I read that verse again and again I kept thinking, “Could Jonah really identify himself as someone who worshipped God and yet still completely ignore His leading?”
That’s the question I would ask us as well. “Can we really identify ourselves as those who worship God while at the same time be running away from what He’s calling us to?” Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
It's easy to get our priorities out of whack. Take a lesson from the prophet Haggai on where our focus should be. Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
I was reading John 13 this afternoon and was reminded of a few things. First how radical the act of Jesus washing His disciple's feet really was. He was the teacher, He was the rabbi, He was the one they were looking to as the leader, especially as they made their way into the final days of His earthly life. Perhaps at no other point in their journey with Jesus were they more in need of a demonstration of strong leadership and yet Jesus stands up with major confidence and blows their minds. He stands up and does something that none of them expected. He knelt down and began to wash their feet.
Check out John 13:3-5 (NASB) on Bible Gateway where it says, "Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God, got up from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself. Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded."
This was crazy, outrageous, and certainly unexpected. I'm reminded that following in the footsteps of Jesus doesn't always make sense to those around us. Sometimes Jesus calls us to the crazy, the outrageous and the unexpected.
Secondly, I was struck by His level of confidence in participating in such a humble act. If you read closely in verses 3-5 you can quickly locate the source of his confidence.
As a result of those facts He had no reason to fear reprisal, condemnation or worry about how He would be perceived by those around Him. Because He was confident in His position He could respond with obedience to the crazy, outrageous and unexpected leading of His heavenly Father. What a model for you and I as well. I ask myself these questions and invite you to join with me in some heart-felt reflection.
Do I respond affirmatively to the seemingly crazy, outrageous and unexpected leadings of my heavenly Father? Do I move with confidence or fear? Am I sure of where I came from and where I am going? Do I believe in my heart that God had given all things to me and that I can find wholeness and completion in Him alone?
Tough but needed questions. Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
My car has a slight power steering fluid leak...perhaps the argument could be made that it's greater than a slight leak since I have to add fluid everyday but I've heard it both ways. There's never a question as to when I'm running low because my car offers me the telltale signs that it needs more power steering fluid: the long and incessant whine as the steering wheel reacts to even the slightest nudge and then the tightening of the wheel itself as the fluid level drops even more making it nearly impossible to navigate the car in the desired direction. Too little power steering fluid over an extended period of time can result in much bigger problems. I grabbed this from the website https://carfromjapan.com and it perfectly describes this idea.
"If you drive your car without this liquid, you can definitely steer it but a lot of force will be needed. In other words, the car’s wheels can still be turned, thanks to direct mechanical linkage still exits, but the feel of steering will be much heavier. You might have to put a great torque to the power steering wheel and can sense extra resistance in your hands. Moreover, lacking of this fluid also causes irretrievable harm to the steering pump. You can notice a strange voice coming out the pump. As a result, repairing the pump would be pricey."
The other night as was headed home from my son's soccer game I stopped to grab a quick bite to eat and noticed that my car was offering its usually signals of needing more fluid. I pulled through the drive-thru, grabbed my food and then pulled off to the corner of the parking lot to give myself the needed refill. As I pulled my quart of power steering fluid from the trunk and popped my hood I was suddenly reminded of a lesson that I can easily forget: I desperately need to ensure that I am refilling myself with what's needed to live effectively and efficiently.
As I refilled my power steering fluid in that parking lot I thought about my time in God's Word. Am I spending the needed time with God to ensure that I am certain of which way to go? I thought about how much time I spend in prayer talking to God and more importantly really listening to God. Am I spending adequate time in prayer to ensure that I know when I need to make a course correction? Not unlike my whiny and difficult to steer car when it's low on power steering fluid, I too can become whiny and difficult to steer when I become low on these important ingredients.
Perhaps today we could pause and evaluate how we're doing in these areas? It's not difficult to figure out the answer to this question, just ask the people around you if you're whiny and difficult to steer? If the answer is "yes" then pull over to the side of the road and check your levels. Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
One of my favorite passages in the Bible is recorded in Matthew, Mark and John's accounts of Jesus' time on earth. It contains one of the most unbelievable events recorded in all of Scripture. In Matthew 14 following the miracle of Jesus feeding over 5,000 people with a few loaves and fishes, Jesus puts His closest disciples into a small boat while He stays behind to dismiss the masses. As the disciples set out onto the Sea of Galilee Jesus slips away into the foothills to pray.
Check out Matthew 14:22-27 (NASB) on Bible Gateway, "Immediately He made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowds away. After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone. But the boat was already a long distance from the land, battered by the waves; for the wind was contrary. And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea. When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”
What felt like distance between the storm the disciples were in and the relative safety of the shore where Jesus was praying was in reality nothing to the Son of God. Yes the disciples felt alone. No Jesus wasn't visible to their naked eye. Yes their situation seemed grim and hopeless but THEY WERE NOT ALONE. At the very moment they began to believe that all hope was lost, something caught their eye. Something that defied explanation. Something that should not have been happening.
Suddenly they realized THEY WERE NOT ALONE.
Admittedly they had it all wrong and thought Jesus was a ghost but either way, they now realized, THEY WERE NOT ALONE.
No surprise here but sometimes life is "contrary". If you've lived any life at all then you've experienced some tough wind and waves. If you've got a job, you've been there. If you've got a spouse, you've been there. If you've got kids, you've for sure been there. Sometimes life is tough. We struggle against the "wind and waves" of life and can sometimes feel like we're not making much progress. We scratch our heads wondering why Jesus sent us out into this violent sea all alone. Here's the thing: YOU ARE NEVER ALONE. Even when you're struggling mightily with the oars of your life's boat and the wind is blowing harder than it's ever blown before and the waves are pounding against and breeching over the bow of your boat, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
If that's where you find yourself today, take a minute to close your eyes and listen to Jesus shout those words over the roar of the wind and the waves, "TAKE COURAGE, IT IS I; DO NOT BE AFRAID."
Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
Take a minute to check out the final two practical reminders from the book of Proverbs.
7. Be Open Minded
Proverbs 18:2 (NASB) says, “A fool does not delight in understanding, but only in revealing his own mind.” Stephen Covey popularized a saying that originated with St. Francis of Assisi who said, “Seek first to understand and then be understood.”
If you have ever had a conversation with another human being then you know that living this principle out can be difficult. Our first inclination when someone is speaking is to do what? Begin formulating our response right? Why do we do this? We do it because we want to ensure that our opinion and our voice is heard. We want to make sure that we’re not skipped over. We want to make sure that our needs and our plans are considered.
I think we can all agree that this isn’t a healthy model for communication. Where we can get into even more trouble is when we apply this communication style to our relationship with God. As we pray, we strive to ensure that God understands what we’re dealing with. We say that we want to hear from God but we never stop talking long enough to actually hear what He has to say to us. As the Proverbs state it, “we only delight in revealing our own mind.”
"What would it look like for you and I to seek first to understand God and then to be understood? What if we practiced listening? What if our prayer times weren’t filled with our list of needs and desires but instead were filled with silence, not on God’s end but on our end?"
8. Take Action
Proverbs 20:5 (NASB) says, “A plan in the heart of a man is like deep water, but a man of understanding draws it out." I love this verse because it speaks of both discernment and action. The writer compares the many plans of a man’s heart to that of deep water. In much the same way that water lies far beyond the surface of the ground in a well, there is also within many a vast wealth of knowledge and understanding.
"In the same way that the water at the bottom of the well must be creatively and with great effort be brought to the surface so to must the godly wisdom and knowledge of those around be brought to the surface."
Solomon repeats on multiple occasions through the Proverbs that godly counsel from many advisors is critical to our success. Proverbs 11:14 (NASB) says, “Where there is no guidance the people fall, but in abundance of counselors there is victory.”
Proverbs 12:15 (NASB) says, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel.”
Proverbs 15:22 (NASB) says, “Without consultation, plans are frustrated, but with many counselors they succeed.”
Proverbs 20:5 challenges us as believers to learn how to discern and identify where godly wisdom is in those around us and then takes it a step further by saying, learn how to draw that out of those around you.
We have to become more comfortable with having spiritual conversations. What I mean by that is two-fold. 1.) We have to become okay with admitting to those around us that we’re struggling and 2.) You as the listener, you as the counselor have to learn to not just hear, but engage and admit our own struggles and learn how to share the journey that God has had you on for the benefit of those who are also struggling.
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, our relationships with Jesus are personal but they should not be private. Take action, learn to use the journey that God has you on for the benefit of those around you. Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
Check out a few more practical reminders from the book of Proverbs.
5. Be Honest
Proverbs 11:1 (NASB) says, “A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is His delight.”
According to one survey 90% of children have grasped the concept of lying by aged 4. According to another survey, of those who replied affirmative to lying, 86% of those lies are told to parents, 75% to friends, 73% to siblings, 69% to spouses. Crazy right?
We’ve convinced ourselves that a “little white lie” never hurt anyone. Here’s the problem with a culture of dishonesty. We cheat ourselves out of the process of becoming fully developed Christ followers. What we’re looking for when we lie is a shortcut. We’re looking for a way to basically have the same outcome with less effort and we do this because we’ve bought into the bigger lie that, “that’s just the way the world works”.
Christian read these next words slowly, "As a Christ follower you don’t operate in the same economy as the rest of the world. You are called to something higher."
“Well Andy, you don’t understand, things were getting tough at work and I had to fudge a little here and there to make the numbers match.”
Or maybe you've rationalized it this way, “My kid was getting a little out of control so I had to promise them some things I had no intention of actually doing, but they were just so aggravating, I told them what they wanted to hear.”
You see we’ve convinced ourselves that lying is a healthy method for dealing with stress and getting out of a pinch. But listen to what Romans 5:3-4 (NASB) says, “And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope…”
Dishonesty is a short-cut that will only serve to cheat us from developing into the men and women God has called us to be.
6. Surround Yourself With Wise People
Proverbs 14:7 (NASB) says, “Leave the presence of a fool, or you will not discern words of knowledge.”
This is the heart of the words I heard from my mother on countless occasions as a teenager, “Andy, you are who you hang out with.” It’s a lesson that we as parents likely share with our kids on a regular basis. Our goal of course is to protect our kids and teenagers from falling in with the wrong crowd, we want to shield them from a lifetime of heartache and wrong choices so we closely monitor our kid’s friends, we scroll their text messages and social media feeds keeping a close eye on any activity that might indicate that they are hanging with the wrong crowd or getting into something that they shouldn’t.
But I wonder how we’re doing at applying this same principle to our lives as adults? How are we doing at discerning words of knowledge? You know sometimes we read a verse like this and we focus in on the, “leave the presence of a fool” portion and that’s true, we should surround ourselves with wise people. But how do we know if we’re being influenced by foolishness? How do we know if we’re in the presence of foolishness?
The litmus test for whether or not foolishness is present is whether or not we are discerning words of knowledge. What’s the word of knowledge? The word of knowledge is God’s Word
"If we’re not discerning words of knowledge, if we’re unable to discern God’s Word, if we’re not hearing from God, if we’re not perceiving the Holy Spirit’s leading in our lives perhaps we’ve allowed foolish people, foolish ideas and foolish ways of thinking into our hearts and minds and that foolishness has started to outweigh the wisdom that comes from above."
What do I mean by foolishness? When compared to the truth of God’s Word, foolishness is the latest personality test. When compared to the truth of God’s Word foolishness is the latest magazine article that’s supposed to revolutionize our marriage. When compared to the truth of God’s Word foolishness is the endless stream of social media opinions telling you how you should feel about what’s happening in our world.
Everything is foolishness when compared with the truth and righteousness of God’s Word. We spend countless hours safeguarding our kids and teenagers and reminding them that they are who they hang out with but allow me to remind us as adults that we are who and what we allow into our hearts and minds.
Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
Check out two more practical reminders from the book of Proverbs. If you missed the first two, you can check those out here.
3. Run From Temptation.
Proverbs 5:8 (NASB) says,“Keep your way far from her and do not go near the door of her house…”
Proverbs 7:21-23 (NASB) says, “With her many persuasions she entices him; with her flattering lips she seduces him. Suddenly he follows her as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as one in fetters to the discipline of a fool, until an arrow pierces through his liver; as a bird hastens to the snare, so he does not know that it will cost him his life.”
Perhaps you can recall the “less than wise” years of your life where you failed to map out anything beyond point A. You saw something in front of you and you just went for it. You failed to realize that A leads to B and that B leads to C and C isn’t so good. What at first appeared to be a good idea, what at first appeared to not bring any harm to anyone suddenly takes a turn and we find ourselves being sucked into a series of choices that develops into a lifestyle, a lifestyle that certainly doesn’t bring glory to God.
Why do we flirt with temptation? I want to suggest to you that we do so because we fail to think critically about our choices.
"Figuratively speaking we keep our heads down and we shuffle along only lifting our gaze to see the heels of those right in front of us, while we never stop to lift our eyes enough to see what’s coming on the horizon."
God’s Word maps out for us a model that encourages us to identify those temptations in our lives and to not make an effort to just skirt around them but rather to completely steer clear of them all together. The passage in Proverbs 7 speaks of the stag not being killed instantly but first being trapped. Likewise, the bird is first ensnared. In the same way you and I are cautioned to avoid at all costs those things that would lure us towards evil, we are called to avoid those areas that at first seem harmless but ultimately serve to trap us and bind us up in sin. Flee from temptation.
4. Don’t Hold Grudges
Proverbs 10:12 (NASB) says, “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all transgressions.”
This doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone but conflict is a normal part of our lives. We experience conflict at work, at home with our spouses, with our kids, with our crazy in-laws, with friends, we experience conflict within the church.
Allow me to suggest that the conflict we experience in our lives doesn’t have anything to do with any of those people. It’s not sourced in your moody spouse or your misbehaving kids or your jerk of a boss.
1 Peter 5:8 tells us that conflict is sourced in the adversary of our souls. 1 Peter 5:8 (NASB) says, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
Learning to not hold a grudge becomes a lot easier when we realize that it’s not really about me versus them. It’s not about me getting my way or being mad that they got their way.
When we realize that it’s really about the devil’s desire to sow discord, we suddenly understand the long-term negative impact that our grudge has not just on the relationship (horizontal) but also on our relationship (vertical).
We have to figure out through the power of the Holy Spirit to sow not hatred but love into the lives of those we disagree with and that’s accomplished through realizing that our tongues carry power. James 3:5 (NASB) says, “So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire!”
We must come to a better understanding of the power of uncontrolled anger in our lives. Ephesians 4:26-27 (NASB) says, “Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.”
We must learn to listen more. James 1:19 (NASB) says, “This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger…”
We must learn to forgive as we have been forgiven. Ephesians 4:32 (NASB) says, “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”
Be encouraged and keep moving forward.