A Faith that Works – Chapter 2 Excerpt

A Faith That Works is an examination of the gospel as the tangible power of God to save. Many Christians would be hard pressed to articulate exactly in what way the gospel had affected them. The absence of demonstrable change has become so prevalent that we’ve actually found a biblical basis to explain it. This excerpt from what may or may not be chapter 2 of the book dismantles that basis to make way for the legitimate work of God.

I can think of no better evidence to support my case that the gospel of the western church has been rendered inert through mishandling than the prevalence of the belief that Paul meant to describe the normal Christian life in Romans 7. I can’t count the number of times a Christian has told me something like, “Yeah, we’re forgiven by grace but we’re still going to sin every day. I know I’m not as strong as Paul and he had things he couldn’t get over either. Just look at Romans 7.”

Really? Is that the best that the power of God can do? If faith in Christ left Paul “dead” and “wretched,” then what in the “H-E-double-hockey-sticks” did it do for him!?

Far from commiserating with faltering disciples, Paul wrote Romans 7 to depict the state of existence that the gospel saved him from. Through his attempts to conform to an external standard of righteousness, he became as “dead in transgressions and sins” as the pagan recipients of the Ephesian letter had been.

Compare the description from Ephesians 2:1-3 of their pre Christian state with his condition described in Romans 7:

● Paul and the Ephesians had both been dead in sin.
○ “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins,” (Eph. 2:1)
○ “Once I was alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death.” (Rom. 7:9-10)

● Paul and the Ephesians had both been in bondage to evil desires.
○ “…in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts.” (Eph. 2:2-3a)
○ “We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” (Romans 7:14-15)

● Paul and the Ephesians both had natures that were hostile to God.
○ “Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.” (Ephesians 2:3b)
○ “For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 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 7:18-19)

If we agree that Ephesians 2:1-3 describes the lost state and then say that Romans 7 describes the common Christian experience, then we imply that the gospel produces no significant practical results. If we’ve come to identify a Romans 7 experience as the result of the gospel, then it’s no wonder there’s so little difference between the lives of Christians and nonbelievers. No wonder so few churchgoers evangelize. No wonder so many kids raised in church leave the faith.

Starbucks Appreciation Day

I cannot endorse homosexual marriage.  Sometimes I wish I could.  I don’t want to come across as bigoted or intolerant.  I don’t want to erect unnecessary hurdles to people coming to faith in Christ.  I don’t believe that anyone woke up one morning and thought, “I think I’ll be sexually attracted to someone of the same gender today.” That being said, I cannot endorse homosexual marriage because the Bible universally and unequivocally denounces homosexual activity.

For me, the choice is to either denounce homosexuality as one sin among many or deny my faith in the message of the Bible.  I will not choose that latter.  So does that make me a Pharisee or a bigot?  I’m sure there are many who would say, “Yes.”  Because they say it does not make it so no matter how many say it or how loud they say it.  No one’s words can change the truth of who I am or what I believe.  For that reason, I give anyone full permission to disagree with me or to say whatever they like about me.  I would appreciate the courtesy to be allowed to share my convictions, though.

By now, everyone as heard about Dan Cathy’s comments and their repercussions.  I think, though, that most people are missing the lesson to be learned here.  The main issue which the last two weeks have brought to the fore is free speech, or for that matter, free thought.  Mr. Cathy is a private individual who can believe and say whatever he would like to say.  He can spend his money or his company’s money in ways that he deems are worthwhile.  Should his stance be incorrect, those who oppose him have nothing to fear.

I believe in free speech for everyone.  When opinions are stifled no matter how egregious they may seem to our sensibilities, everyone loses.  When we muzzle one person or fail to tolerate dissenting opinions, we narrow our vision as a society and eventually become blind.

I didn’t go to Chick fil A yesterday.  I don’t like crowds and don’t prefer their food.  I do however like Starbuck’s coffee.  So I’ll be there tomorrow morning supporting their CEO’s right to his opinion and my caffeine addiction.

I’ll close with this landmark quote from Martin Luther which I believe applies to the current debate:

Unless I am convicted of error by the testimony of Scripture or by manifest reasoning, I stand convicted by the Scriptures to which I have appealed, and my conscience is taken captive by God’s word, I cannot and will not recant anything, for to act against our conscience is neither safe for us, nor open to us.

On this I take my stand. I can do no other. God help me.