As a new Christian, I wondered about a question along the lines of: "If we are saved by grace, not by works, why bother working anymore?" Or as Alan Scholes put it (in the title of a chapter in his excellent book The Artful Dodger) "What if I accept Christ and keep on sinning?" Eventually I was able to reconcile grace and works after reading and truly understanding what both Paul and James have to say and how they compliment eachother.

Tonight I was reading Watchman Nee's book The Normal Christian Life which is essentially a commentary on Romans. As Nee described how our sins (plural; ie, things we have done wrong) are dealt with by the Blood of Jesus, and our sin (singular; as in our nature as a sinner) is dealt with by the Cross of Jesus, I for some reason thought of a joke told by Demetri Martin.

It's probably better if you listen to him tell the swimming joke here (about 30 seconds) but if you can't or would rather not load a YouTube clip, here's the gist of it:

Swimming is a confusing sport. Cuz sometimes you're doing it for fun … and other times, you're doing it to NOT DIE.

You can usually tell by the outfit:
Pants? Uh oh!
Swimming trunks? Okay!

Grace and works is kinda like that. A person doing works to try to be saved (a futile endeavor) may be doing the exact same actions as someone who does works out of gratitude (response to grace). But the person who realizes they are saved by grace is not doing things to AVOID DEATH, they realize that they have already avoided death.

And like the swimming analogy, you can tell which is which by a person's outfit … ie, by what attitude they are doing things, how they approach their tasks, what goal they have in mind, and why they are doing them in the first place. A grace-filled person has "put on the new self" as their clothing. (Ephesians 4:24)

I guess the answer to the question "If we are saved by grace, not by works, why bother working anymore?" is that working is only a chore when it's an obligation. Serving out of gratitude, through the empowering of the Holy Spirit, is an entirely different thing than desperately paddling away trying to save yourself. That doesn't mean that serving in the church is always less stressful or frustrating or costly than serving outside (I know that all too well!) but it does help explain the difference. And it makes all the difference in the world!

[HT: TheJude3Project]

1. What author do you own the most books by? Lee Strobel.

2. What book do you own the most copies of? "The Artful Dodger" by Alan Scholes (old used copy & new copy self-published by the author)

3. What book have you read the most times in your life? "Finding Faith" by Brian McLaren.

4. Favorite book as a ten year old? I liked "Sideways Stories from Wayside School" (I bought a copy of it recently :))

5. What is the best book you’ve read in the past year? "Crazy Love" by Francis Chan.

6. If you could force everyone you know to read one book, what would it be? Besides my own 😉 "Reasonable Faith" by William Lane Craig.

7. What is the most difficult book you’ve ever read? The two that come to mind are "Fear and Trembling" by Søren Kierkegaard and "God, Freedom, and Evil" by Alvin Plantinga (for very different reasons!)

8. What is your favorite book? I have a tough time choosing favorites. I'll say "Case for Christ" by Lee Strobel, because it was the first Christian book I read, before I was a Christian.

9. What is your favorite play? I don't really watch plays …

10. Who is the most overrated writer alive today? Dan Brown? 😀

11. What is your desert island book? The Bible … the only book deep enough to read for a lifetime

12. And … what are you reading right now? "The Pilgrim's Progress" by John Bunyan and "The Gospel for Muslims" by Thabiti Anyabwile … next on my list/shelf is "The Normal Christian Life" by Watchman Nee and "The Trellis and the Vine" by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne.

DetectiveI was re-reading Case for Christ by Lee Strobel last week, and the following quote jumped out at me. Here, Gregory A. Boyd, near the end of the chapter where he has commented on and dismantled the assumptions of the ultra skeptical "Jesus Seminar", Boyd moves on to comment on the nature of faith and evidence:

"Let me get this straight," [Strobel] said. "Your Jesus -the Jesus you relate to- is both a Jesus of history and a Jesus of faith."

Boyd clenched his fist for emphasis, as if Id just scored a touch-down. "Yes, thats it exactly, Lee!" he exclaimed. Moving to the very edge of his chair, he spelled out precisely what his scholarship -and his heart- have brought him to believe.

"Its like this: if you love a person, your love goes beyond the facts of that person, but its rooted in the facts about that person. For example, you love your wife because shes gorgeous, shes nice, shes sweet, shes kind. All these things are facts about your wife, and therefore you love her."

"But your love goes beyond that. You can know all these things about your wife and not be in love with her and put your trust in her, but you do. So the decision goes beyond the evidence, yet it is there also on the basis of the evidence."

"So it is with falling in love with Jesus. To have a relationship with Jesus Christ goes beyond just knowing the historical facts about him, yet its rooted in the historical facts about him. I believe in Jesus on the basis of the historical evidence, but my relationship with Jesus goes way beyond the evidence. I have to put my trust in him and walk with him on a daily basis." (Case for Christ, 125-126)

Although Boyd is a somewhat controversial figure in certain evangelical circles, I find him to be right-on in his commentary here.

Please see the "Links" area in the sidebar to the right for further resources on this topic and related areas of inquiry.

Was reading for my History of Christianity class today (phenomenal class, consistently interesting) and came across this passage:

How [is] one to be a true Christian … when the church joins the powers of the world, when luxury and ostentation take hold of Christian altars, when the whole of society is intent on turning the narrow path into a wide avenue … how is one to resist the enormous temptations of the times? How is one to witness to the Crucified Lord, to the One who had nowhere to lay His head, at a time when many leaders of the church live in costly homes, and when the ultimate witness of martyrdom is no longer possible? (Justo L. Gonzalez, The Story of Christianity)

Sounds like he is describing our current situation in North America, but he is actually referring to the time of Constantine in the 4th century. This isn't to say that "money = evil". The often misused quote actually says "the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil" (1 Tim 6:10), not that all money is evil. But still, our situation here in North America is very different from that of the early church, to which people often wistfully wish to return to, as if that were possible. Maybe this is one reason why Jesus spent so much time talking about money and possessions. He had the wisdom and foreknowledge to know we'd need the advice!

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