of Works


Wednesday Reflection


24th February 2021

...we cannot save ourselves...

Faith by itself,
if it does not have works,
is dead

... James 2:17

One of the primary beliefs
of the Christian faith is the
knowledge that we cannot save
ourselves by our works,
our deeds or our actions.

Salvation is a gift from God
and can be gained only through his
grace if we have faith in Jesus.

When discussing this with a group
of prisoners one time, one immediately
chimed up with,
'Oh good, that means I can do
what I like and if I say 'Sorry'
God will forgive me.'
No, not quite!
It does not mean that we can do
whatever we want and expect
to be forgiven for it.

But he was not alone in thinking that.
There was an early sect of
Christianity that taught not
simply freedom from the Law,
but the complete abolition
of morality, reasoning that
if Christ would forgive all sin,
there was no purpose in
stopping sinful behaviour.

There were even extremists
who encourage total self-indulgence
using the logic that
the more one sinned,
the more one showed themselves to
trust in Christ's forgiveness.
How far astray human logic can lead us!

Let there be no doubt,
as I pointed out to this
misguided prisoner,
a person who is saved by Jesus
will gratefully accept the fact
that they have been saved by
doing their best to
follow God's ways.

They will try not to do wrong
and to follow the laws God has
given us in the Bible.
The emphasis is on 'try';
nobody has really managed it.

Paul himself lamented,

15 I do not understand what I do.
   For what I want to do I do not do,
   but what I hate I do.
19 For I do not do the good
   I want to do,
   but the evil I do not want to do -
   this I keep on doing.

.....Romans 7:15, 19

It is difficult to make it all
logical and tidy, it isn't clear cut;
James wrote:

'Faith without works is dead.'

saying, if our deeds
do not reflect our faith,
our faith is worthless:
it will not save us.
If our faith is dead,
we are dead,
for it is a living faith that
provides the life of Jesus' forgiveness.

Does this mean we should feel
guilty about our wrongdoings?
Not necessarily.
It is the motives behind the action
that are the heart of the matter.
Doing wrong deliberately, saying
   'It doesn't matter because
    Jesus will forgive anyway',
is different from inadvertently
   'falling into sin'
and being truly repentant afterwards.

There is much to be said for feeling
absolute certainty about
our forgiveness.
This is the 'hope' in 'Faith,
Hope and Charity.'
But it does mean that we must
acknowledge our wrongdoing
and honestly resolve to avoid it.
If we are determined

God will send his Spirit
to strengthen us in our fight.

It may be interesting to watch,
or just listen to a song
'Forgive Our Sins As We Forgive.'
Lyric Video
via the link shown below.