Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Corpse in My Closet

"But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?" ~James 2:20

     I used to think this was talking about those people who believe you can go to Heaven without keeping the commandments - that the commandments were done away with at the cross. And it is... But there's a deeper meaning, a more personal meaning, which just dawned on me this morning as I added this verse to my memory bank.
     When I pray for various things, I generally believe (at least intellectually) that God will answer my prayers. But this verse made me think, Do I demonstrate that faith by my works, or do I have a "dead faith"? Do I do my best to help God answer my prayers, or do I sit back and do nothing? Do I move forward, making choices which reflect my faith that God will answer my prayers? I had to ruefully admit that my faith was nothing more than a corpse in the closet of my heart.
     But I thank God that He is a God who can make dry bones live! (See Ezekiel 37.)
     So my next question was, "What can I do to show God (and myself) that I believe His promise to answer my prayers?" One of my prayers lately has been that I will find a Thai friend to help me get around town, and to help me learn Thai. However, I'm a little ashamed to say that I haven't really done much to "help God out" in that realm. Perhaps an appropriate response on my part would be to make more effort to associate with people in my community, and make myself available. It's inconvenient sometimes, it's not always what I feel like doing, and it's embarrassing when people try to talk to me and I have no clue what they're saying. But do I really want God to answer my prayer? If so, I need to act accordingly. After all, isn't that what I came here for - to reach out to people and show them Jesus' love? Jesus wasn't a hermit; I can't be one either.
     That's just one example of faith that needs to be acted out in my life. There are many more. Perhaps there are corpses in your closet, too. Let's work together to "prophesy" to those "dead bones", that Christ might breathe His life into us and give us a living, active faith.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Mercy Rejoices

“And mercy rejoiceth against judgment.” James 2:13

This verse puzzled me, so I took my devotional time this morning to figure it out. http://Bible.cc brought me to Barne's Notes on the Bible, where I found some helpful insights.

The context of James 2 is about not having respect to persons - impartiality. I noticed that James' emphasis is on the do not rather than the do. So I wondered, what would it it look like if I were to turn it around and emphasize the do? Instead of saying, "Don't have respect of persons," perhaps it might read, "Treat the poor just as you would the rich. Treat the undeserving as if they were deserving." A light bulb turns on. This is mercy! Justice (or judgment) dictates that people should be treated no better than they deserve. This is why mercy appears to triumph over (or "rejoice against") judgment. This is a foundational principle of the plan of salvation - "Christ was treated as we deserve, that we might be treated as He deserves." (DA 25.2) At the final judgment, Satan will argue against us, "They are guilty! They deserve to die and share my punishment with me! They have broken your Law, and your Law condemns them to death." That's when Mercy will come forth to triumph over Judgment. "Yes, you are right - they don't deserve eternal life. They have broken my Law," Christ responds. "But I took their punishment for them. I was treated as they deserve, so that they can be treated as I deserve."

How can I not be merciful, when Christ has shown so much mercy to me? Wow....