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.
I’ve been having a discussion on my previous post with Eugene/Jordan who has been attempting to convert me, and I would suppose also other readers of this blog, to Mormonism. I don’t blame him in the least as I think anyone who truly holds a faith should share their faith provided that they are willing to listen as much as they talk.
As some of you know, I have some very good friends who are former Mormons. It has been a joy to watch them get the gospel and thrill over its transcendence. They truly desire to see others get set free from the confines and controls of The Church and have frequent conversations with those who are still trapped therein.
Maybe you know someone who’s stuck in Mormonism. I would ask that you please don’t just leave them to their religion. Mormonism is not healthy, benign or in any way Christian. The more I’ve learned about it the more convinced I am that it is nothing less than a Satanic counterfeit to the truth of God. You might think that assessment to be mean or judgmental but in their own Fall 2014 study guide on the Old Testament, Lesson Four, they teach that the woman eating the fruit in the Garden of Eden was a good thing because it gave us the knowledge of good and evil. It goes on to make the application that in the same way, Mormonism gives us the knowledge of good and evil so that we can become like God. Now, I ask you, who does that sound like?
So, if you’d like to start a conversation with your Mormon friend or family member, you might want to get some information. Here is a great place to start:
I’m reading Luke this week with my LTG. In chapter 24 vs 28 Luke tells of how Jesus nearly walked on by his disciples once they reached their destination. He had to be urged strongly before he would join them for a meal.
At the meal, they came to realize his identity.
This is how Jesus works. He introduces himself but will not invite himself. When a person hears his story with burning heart, they will not let him pass by. They may not have yet grasped his identity but they will not be denied the opportunity to get to know him better. He waits to break bread with such as these. With such as these he carries on his polite revolution.
In Tortured for Christ, Richard Wurmbrand tells the story of Piotr, a Russian soldier occupying Romania who came to faith through this story. Out of all of the amazing stories of Jesus recorded in Luke, this one struck a cord. Piotr commented, “The Communists are impolite. They force us to listen to them from morning to late in the night…We have to listen continuously to their godless propaganda whether we like it or not. Jesus respects our freedom. He gently knocks at the door of our heart.”
God is looking for a relationship of love. Love does not behave itself rudely. He means to overturn the hate and hurt of our world but he will only heal and help the willing. Those who have experienced him willingly join his cause. This is the polite revolution.
In Bill Hybels’ book, Just Walk Across the Room, he challenges his readers to write out their faith story in 100 words or less. Here is my 105-word attempt:
As a young person I dreamed of growing up to become a doctor. Then, I saw a “20/20” special on successful people who had attempted suicide. Their reason: Once they had reached their goal in life, they still felt empty. I projected myself into their shoes. I thought, “If this is all there is then life is meaningless.” So, I began reading the New Testament. Within those pages I met a man who transcended the vanity of this mortal coil. His name is Jesus. He invited me to train under him and so to become like him. I accepted and have never regretted that decision.