Saturday, February 7, 2009

Working out my faith.

I've been mulling over this whole issue of faith. I have always struggled personally with the question:
"At what point do I stop living in my own strength and start living in the strength of Christ? Do the two modes blend seamlessly or is there a point where I break from me and lean on Him? How do I know when I am acting in faith or in my own strength?"
The fact that I have this question probably indicates that I am not relying on His strength very much or it would either not matter or not have the question. But then if I weren't the type of guy that strains at gnats I probably wouldn't be writing this blog. But, that said, I am sure I am not the only one who has thought about this.

I said in my previous post "Peace! Peace!" that faith is like two sides of a coin, it must be focused on something worthy of faith to be effective. I have faith in Christ to save me and to work through me. The second part of the equation is where I am struggling. I again, can mentally aspire to belief that Christ can work through me but how do I know it is happening?

I have sensed a tension in the Church through history about the book of James. The staunch Calvinists would be happy to see it removed from the bible and the staunch Arminians like to set up camp there. James has a definite focus on works and actions of faith. I think I have a new respect for James since I have been working through this.
James 2:14-24 NIV
14 What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 15 Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
18 But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds." Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.
19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.
20 You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless[d]? 21 Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,"[e] and he was called God's friend.
24 You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.

My strength ends and Christ's begins when I simply do what Jesus commands. As I walk through my daily routines and I see the desperate need of the world I must set aside my selfish motivations and DO what is needed, clothe the naked and feed the hungry. Ah that is wonderful and true but somehow I get lazy and when I don't see any naked, hungry or needy. I think there is nothing to do here and I go on my selfish way. When I am faced with no overt need I must be diligent to look inside myself and find areas where I have not surrendered to Christ. So my original question of when does my strength end and His begin is simple. Jesus' strength should be always on and ready in a moment.
James goes on to the next step of fighting the internal fight in Chapter 3. He points out the need for the taming of the tongue and living in humility.

3: 13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.

This is especially difficult at home, and therefore especially important. If I am one way at church and another at home I am the worst kind of hypocrite. It is difficult at home because I excuse myself and say, "I need a place where I can let my hair down and not have to fight the good fight, just relax." I am thinking now that I have put the cart before the horse. If I can't live out my faith in the toughest field of battle, at home where everyone knows my faults, how effective can I be outside. I am pierced and convicted! I have not been very good at applying my faith at home up to now. If anyone reads this please pray for me and ask me how I am doing. Thank you.