Pastor's Corner

14 Sep
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Mid-Week Challenge

James 2:17 tells us that “faith without works is dead.”  This verse has long been used to debate many theological topics. Is James telling us that if we do not perform some type of spiritual work we cannot be saved? Is he saying that people can work their way into Heaven?  Is he pronouncing some type of test so that we can hold others accountable and measure spiritual faithfulness?  Over the years the Church has focused a lot of time on this one verse. This has resulted in doctrinal foundation and denominational direction for some. Sadly, it wasn’t until seminary that I took a hard look at the verse in context, and it changed my understanding of its application.    

James 2:14-17 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?  Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food.  If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?  In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

I found it curious that James used addressing a physical need as an example of Christian brotherhood over thoughts and prayers only when measuring one’s personal faith.  It appears that James is saying that as we combine compassion through physical service, along with “in the name of Jesus” we are much more likely to direct people to their need for a spiritual Savior.  I thought about this passage as I read two different articles today.  One deals with Evangelicals and Climate Change and the other with the predicated decline of Christianity in the US to below 50 percent by the year 2070.  One might not draw a connection, but I believe that there is one.  

The National Association of Evangelicals believes that a “rapidly changing environment” is making it more challenging to care for the world’s poor.  Their report notes that evangelicals “are quick to give when disaster strikes,” but they feel we can do more to eliminate climate change.  “People need to see not only our witness in relief efforts after a disaster but also that we understand what causes natural disasters to be so terrible,” the report says. “They need to see not only that we will clean up after the disaster but also that, whenever possible, we will help prevent situations that displace millions.”

The second report, by Pew Research Center, tells us that the percentage of Americans who consider themselves Christian may fall from 64 percent to under 50 percent by 2070 if current trends continue.  The percentage of people who describe themselves as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” may also top 40 percent. 

Here is the connection: Christians do a lot of “good” but do not follow it up with evangelism.  We do this by giving money, time and effort, addressing physical needs, but in the process, we don’t tell people about their spiritual needs.  For some reason we have convinced ourselves that as long as we are loving them through our gifts, God will take care of their soul.  Addressing the physical need is God’s way of opening a door to evangelism. If we do not recognize this by taking advantage of a witnessing opportunity, we show Him no glory in combating the natural results of living in a fallen world.  Bad things happen because the world is broken.  Meeting physical needs in the middle of these events is a sign of great compassion. Not telling people about their need for Jesus is contributing to an even greater spiritual tragedy.  If we want to see more Christians in the US, we need to begin by taking the Great Commission seriously and become the Evangelicals our Lord has called us to be both physically and spiritually.    

Serving the Savior,

Bro. Jonathan

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