DayBreaks for 10/11/17: The Real Opposites
From the DayBreaks archive:
Salt and pepper. Day and night. Love and hate (or apathy). Men and women. Freedom and slavery. Good and evil. God and Satan. Hope and despair. It seems that everything has its opposite. Perhaps that’s part of the balance that the Creator put into the world at creation. It sure seems like it.
The past few Sundays I’ve been talking about faith. It’s a topic that I suppose could never be plumbed, and as a preacher, it’s hard to know when to stop talking about it and to move on to another topic.
Throughout the centuries, debate has raged between various camps in the Christian world. Some push faith; others seemingly push works. You can read what Paul had to say about faith and how works has nothing to do with it (otherwise we could boast about our role), and then turn to James and read how he seemingly stressed works and how important they are. I don’t really think that the two are at odds with one another, they were just emphasizing different aspects of a singular truth.
I think that perhaps Dallas Willard (once again) made some astute observations that are worth considering: “Faith is not opposed to knowledge; it is opposed to sight. And grace is not opposed to effort; it is opposed to earning. Commitment is not sustained by confusion but by insight. The person who is uninformed or confused will inevitably be unstable and vulnerable in action, thought and feeling.” – Hearing God
I can’t help but think that both camps are right. We are saved by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8-10). No matter how many good works we might do, not a single one of us will ever be able to stand before God and demand, justifiably, that we deserve to be saved. We’ll be dependent on grace when all else is stripped away before the eyes of the One who will judge us. But we are also created for good works in Christ. It seems to me that much of the confusion has to do with whether or not we’re talking about justification or sanctification. (These are relatively new thoughts to me, so I hope I’m not off base here!) Justification has to do with our salvation. Scripture says that we “have been” justified – once and for all. So that means that our salvation can’t have anything to do with ongoing works. But sanctification – the process of becoming more and more set apart and Christlike – requires all kinds of effort and works. Did Christ just sit around thinking about faith during his time here? No, of course not! He was working the will of the Father – healing, preaching, teaching, giving grace and forgiveness.
I think the effort comes into play with sanctification…it’s why Peter in 2 Pet. 1 says we need to make “every effort” to add things to our faith so we can have the completeness of life God longs to give us. No matter how hard I work, I can’t work my way into justification. And even in sanctification, without the help of the Spirit I can’t become Christlike.
Grace is not opposed to effort – only to taking credit, thinking we’ve earned something by our efforts.
PRAYER: Thank you for your love, mercy and grace, and the work of your Son on the cross and for the work of the Spirit in the lives of your children. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.