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Faith without works is a dead faith (James 2:20-24). But ... doesn't Paul say that salvation comes by faith alone (Rom.3:28)!
Sometimes the Bible seems to contradict itself in this. While giving training courses on cognitive behavioral therapy (RET), I started thinking more about this. After all, there is a relationship between the things you feel, think, say and do. How does that work in our faith?
Is it now about what we believe or what we do...?
First, God asks us to actively think differently. For example, when you come to faith the Bible tells us, Be reformed in thinking (Rom. 12:2). There is an active element in this. Something you have to act in yourself. In Philippians 4:8 it says in which, among other things, you then begin to think differently: Furthermore, brethren, all that is true, all that is worthy, all that is just, all that is pure, all that is lovable, all that is eloquent, all that is called virtue and worthy of praise, consider this.
Your thinking is influenced by yourself, by what comes out of you and by what you have experienced. Not everyone experiences the same in a certain situation. The credo from RET¹:
It is not the events themselves that make things so difficult for us, but the way we look at these events.
Imagine having to give a presentation to a large group of people at work or school. One may do this with a little excitement but pleasure. Another will suffer from terrible nerves, start stuttering, lose the thread halfway through and not know what to do. As you can see, the situation is exactly the same, but the perception and how we deal with the situation is not.
In it are three elements: The actual situation, your thoughts/feelings about the situation and its history (or that which you have experienced before in a similar situation).
So how does God ask us to deal with this differently, to be transformed in our thinking? I think first of all He asks of us to looking at the facts differently. There is another reality beyond what the eye can see. Consider the story of Elisha saying to his servant, when they are surrounded by enemies: Do not be afraid for there are more with us than with them.' And Elisha prayed, "LORD, open his eyes so that he may see. And the LORD opened his eyes, and there he saw that all over the mountain around Elisha were horses and chariots of fire drawn up (2 Kings 6: 16-17).
Second, He asks of us to work in a start thinking differently as I described above (by considering what is good, morally right, looking through the eyes of Jesus, ...).
Third, He asks us to consider history with Him, to consider what God has already done for you: Though you might think, "Those nations are far more numerous than me! How will I ever be able to drive them out?", you should still not fear them. Remember what the LORD your God did to Pharaoh and all of Egypt; the awesome plagues you saw with your own eyes, the signs and wonders, the strong hand and outstretched arm with which the LORD your God delivered you. In the same way, the LORD your God will treat all those nations of whom you are so afraid (Proverbs 7: 17-19).
When we begin to think in this new way and look at our situation and God differently, we also begin to realize more fully how Jesus wants us to deal with everyday problems and tasks. For example, consider what Jesus says about worry in Luke 12:
22 He said to his disciples, "Therefore I say to you, do not worry about what you will eat to stay alive, or about the clothing for your bodies. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 24 Look at the crows: they neither sow nor reap, they have no storehouse or barn; God gives them food. And how great is not the difference between you and these birds! 25 Which of you, with all your cares, can extend your life even a cubit? 26 If you are incapable of something so small, why do you worry about the rest? 27 Look how the flowers grow: they do not work and do not spin; yet, I tell you, even Solomon with all his splendor was not so beautifully dressed as one of these flowers. 28 If God so clothes this field crop, which stands there today and will be thrown into the furnace tomorrow, how much more will He clothe you, you with your little faith. 29 Yet stop looking for what you will eat and what you will drink. Do not worry any longer. 30 For all the nations of the world are looking for such things, but your Father knows that you need them. 31 No, seek his kingdom, then you will get those things.
To ponder: What shouldn't you do? What should you do? What comes first? Then what follows naturally? Is that easy? What does that look like to you? When you think about this topic you begin to realize how important it is how you view God. How you think about His omnipotence, salvation, the power of prayer, and so on. Let's not stop sharing our thoughts on this with each other and putting words to it.
Therefore I say unto you, Be not anxious about your life.... 18 Think not of that which was before, nor pay attention to that which was done of old; 19 behold, I am making something new,.... (Isa. 43:18)
[vimeo 36776225 w=640&h=360]
Words have power!
I always thought it was a bit exaggerated and typically "evangelical" or "charismatic" to say that words have power. As if it were something magical, some kind of magic spell. But if you study the Bible more closely you find out that words have a very special place. That words are creative . ahem ... yes ... that words have power!
Everything begins with a word: In Genesis we see that God has a creative word from which almost everything we know arises!² In Isaiah 55:11 it says about the spoken word of God: So will it be with My word. It comes forth from My mouth; it does not return to Me fruitlessly, but only when it has done what pleases Me, and accomplished all that I sent it to do.
What Word is sent? How is it that the Word is creative? The Bible teaches us that Jesus is the living Word from which everything was created: 1 In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God. 2 In the beginning it was with God. 3 Everything came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being. Whatever came into being 4 had life in Him, and life was the light of men. 5 The light shone in the darkness, and the darkness could not take it (1 Jn. 1).
Now what does all this have to do with your "thinking"? Speaking is the physical expression of your thinking. As the (Biblical) proverb says: What the heart is full of, the mouth overflows! When you start thinking about that, something comes to mind that you don't hear much about these days: Blessing and curse. And even though we don't really know it that way anymore, it still exists! Statements about yourself and others hook into you. That which you think and express has an effect not only in the visible world but also in the invisible world. Statements about yourself and others can bind you. It influences you. In both positive and negative ways. Statements that build up, strengthen, connect, make the other person visible, etc. have a much greater effect than you can imagine. Statements that bring someone down, despise them, make them small, make them invisible... also have a great effect. Jesus talks about blessing your enemies, loving them. How far-reaching! And at the same time how completely logical when you think about how the world was created, you think about God's purpose with us and the world. God's world works "upside down" from a human perspective!
- Read James 3
Not just listening but more importantly doing
James says, Do not just listen to the word, but act on it; otherwise you deceive yourselves. (James 1:22) James says in the following chapter that faith without deeds is dead: 14 Brothers and sisters, what does it profit a man to claim that he has faith if he cannot show deeds? Can such faith sometimes save him? 15 Suppose a brother or sister had no clothes and nothing to eat, 16 and one of you were to say to them, "Go in peace, keep warm and eat well," without giving them what they need, what good is that? 17 Similarly, faith, taken by itself, if not expressed in deeds, is dead.
In Matthew we read that you are judged precisely by your words (12:36,37) but also that one recognizes by the tree the fruit! (12:33)
What does this mean now? Are you now saved on the basis of faith? From what you think? From what you speak out? Or on the basis of what you do? In my opinion, this is the key: Believing = thinking AND doing! Faith means having trust. And faith you can think and know, but most of all you have to do.
It is even better to think the wrong thing but end up doing the right thing. Huh? Yes, consider the parable from Mat:21 about the two sons: 28 But what about this? Someone had two sons. And he went to the first one and said, "Boy, go work in the vineyard today." 29 He replied, "No, I don't want to." Later he changed his mind and went anyway. 30 Then he went to the second and said the same thing. The latter replied, "Good, Lord." But he didn't go. 31 Which of the two did the will of the father? They said, "The first one. Jesus said to them, "I assure you, tax collectors and prostitutes go before you into the kingdom of God. 32 When John came to you in the way of righteousness, you did not give him faith. The tax collectors and the harlots did give him faith. But you also did not change your mind later, when you saw that, and did not give him faith.
As you read further you also begin to see the seriousness of the matter. Jesus does not say there that we may bear fruit, but that it is even expected. It says in verse 43: The kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who bring forth the fruits of the kingdom. It may be inappropriate to cite this text here because there is more to it than what I am taking from it now. Therefore, I challenge you to read and ponder the section for yourself.
But the Bible says much more about the relationship of bearing fruit and having faith. For example, read Matthew 7 which also contains this text: 21 Not everyone who says Lord! Lord! to Me will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, "Lord! Lord! Have we not prophesied in your name, have we not cast out demons in your name, and have we not done many mighty deeds in your name?" 23 But then I will say to them openly, "Never have I known you. Depart from My sight, transgressors of God's law!"
Other parables also speak for themselves. I never realized so much until fairly recently that the parable about the sower (Mark 4:1-10) is not so much about non-believers and believers, but rather it is about people taking in the word of God. After all, the seed is the word of God which may or may not grow in different ways.
Or consider the parable of the 5 foolish and 5 wise virgins from Matthew 25:1-13. All are waiting for the Bridegroom. Think about what this means now!
Background Matthew 25: The kingdom of heaven: the new Jerusalem (Rev. 3:12), The bridegroom: Christ (Eph. 5:23-30), The coming in the midnight: the return of Christ (1 Thess. 5:2), The virgins: Christians (2 Cor. 11:2-4), The wise: those who had prepared (Phil. 2:12), The foolish: those who had not prepared themselves (Matt 7:26; Luk 12:20), The lamps and the oil: that which is necessary to be saved, viz. faith and works and the Holy Spirit (Jac 2:17; Rom 8:9; Heb 11:6), The bridegroom's failure to come: The failure of the return of Christ (cf. 2 Pet 3:9-10, Matt 24:48), The falling asleep of the virgins: the dying (1 Thess 4:13-15), The cry in the middle of the night: the call to the final judgment (1 Thess 4:16-17), The refusal to give oil: was not for them to give oil (Rev 3:18; Ezek 18:4; Lament 3:25), The shutting out of the foolish: the rejection of those who had not prepared (1 Cor 11:27-32), The closing of the doors: the impossibility of being allowed to enter yet (Heb 9:27)
And isn't that precisely what coming to faith is all about. That you repent? That you take a new path? Being born again, being a new person, changed in your thinking?
There is a great danger in this age of "cheap grace"³ i.e.: You pray the sinner's prayer get baptized and then go to church from now on. Hopsa, converted. But this is not Biblical conversion. There is no sinner's prayer in the Bible. God asks for real repentance. For change. And this can be recognized by the fruit it brings.
I believe it was N. Gumble who wrote, "It is possible to have a redeemed soul but a lost life. I would seriously doubt this. You cannot continue to follow your own needs and pleasures and at the same time follow the Spirit. And if you are not following the Holy Spirit ... who are you following? At the same time, this is not in continuing to sin, but in the relationship, The problem is namely not a moral, but a relational problem.
But... if you don't see fruit in your life (yet), don't you belong to Jesus? Have you just been freed from the yoke of the law (Gal. 5) you still have to work for it...? No. You don't. You cannot earn it yourself. No matter how much you do or don't do does not diminish grace. The point I would like to make clear is the question of your faith. If you are filled with the Holy Spirit your life changes. Isn't it possible then that you are saved while also sinning? Of course it is, because we all sin. We can't "get it right" in that sense. The point is to build your house on the right foundation.
In Matthew 6, Jesus tells us how we may pray. The "Our Father" is a prayer known and prayed by many people. But now look at what it says in verses 14 and 15: For if you forgive men their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.
One is connected to the other. We are supposed to do what our Father sets before us (as Jesus did).
Finally, I would like to share something that is important to me in my daily choices. God's Kingdom is also here on earth. This Kingdom is eternal. So in that respect, as a human being, you have 2 choices in everything you do and think: Invest in the Kingdom of God or not. And even if you do not invest in it, that is a choice that is eternal. Forever a missed opportunity, if you want to put it positively. In other words; everything you say, do and think has eternal value! That gives a huge charge, but at the same time is incredibly FAT:
You can decide here and now to invest in the Kingdom of God!
1) RET stands for Rational Emotive Therapy or better known in business as Rational Effectiveness Training. This is a therapy/training developed by Albet Ellis and falls under the 2nd generation cognitive behavioral therapy.
2) Except heaven, earth and man! (Gen. 1:1, Gen. 2:7)
3) Cheap grace: This does not refer to the grace itself; as if you could take anything away from God's grace. Or as if you wouldn't have done well enough anyway. It actually refers to "cheap conversion. Saying that you (are) changed, but meanwhile not being connected to His Spirit. Then the fruit from this union will not follow.
Good article, do miss how you then link your actions to your thinking. I often have the feeling that people get stuck in their thinking and do not come to actions. Jesus received from His Father and then immediately distributed. Furthermore, I am happy to have a status as a basis, even when I fail in my inaction. I derive this status from Ephesians 2:1-10. There it says what I was and what I am, not in myself but in Him.
Otherwise a good article, especially the 10 virgins. Is a lot to think about.
Hi Johan, good point! And thanks for your input!
Perhaps somewhat underexposed in the little article, but I have a holistic view of man. In other words; that man is a whole. So with that, thoughts, feelings and behavior are related. That what you think = that what you do. With that, your "fruits" are directly linked back to that which thinks and believes. It is like the man standing on a railroad track telling you that the train is coming. He looks again in the railroad booklet; yes it really says, this track in 10 seconds. And then just stands there smoking a cigarette. He doesn't believe what he says. Otherwise he would have walked right off the track with what he said.
I agree with you that people get stuck in thinking and not coming to action, but then they get stuck in the "thinking process" (or not coming to choices). This is also why it says in Jac. 1:22 that one who hears the word but does not act on it is a liar (he himself does not believe it).
I get your point from Ephesians 2, though I continue to caution against being "hearers and not "doers" of the Word. Faith is something active and can never let you be as it is. With that, then, that status is not static. Indeed, it is not a moral but relational problem. Therefore, the solution lies in union with Christ (not in a legal status). So that you can also never claim to have been "so active yourself. And I think that is exactly how beautifully described in Ephesians 2?
The video is really super good to use in teen/youth work!
Thank you, I'll work on that.
Had to think of the GGG diagram myself (Event, Feelings, Thoughts, Behavior) So therein comes the link from thinking to acting (Behavior) Something is happening, you feel something about it, you think something about it (Or you believe something about it) and you act!
So your way of thinking/believing always influences your actions.
"So your way of thinking/believing always influences your actions." Right, that's exactly what I mean! Good summary 😉
Movie I found particularly good myself indeed. Thanks for your response!
Good article. It builds while reading, end in fact I find the strongest. Last 3 blocks and especially the 'conversion' block. Nice that personal in it.
Still, (especially the first half) the feeling creeps me out that you are using a method from psychology.
It strikes me as a Christian alternative of 'dream, dare, do' by management guru Ben Tiggelaar 🙂 ...
Certainly that change of thinking I think you are still looking too much in circumstances (situation, experience, history). The greatest source of change in thinking, in my opinion, comes from the change in your 'being'. The change in "who you are" determines what you want, can and ultimately do.
But that only applies to the "thinking" part and can be personal.
Rest is ironclad! Hope it is read among wide audience!
Ha Henk, thanks for your response!
The method from psychology, that's right ;-). But, in my opinion, anything thought up by humans has existed for a long time. In other words, the principle is now named in psychology, but it obviously worked that way before it was named or "discovered.
I do understand your link to the title and Ben Tichelaar. The title of the article is actually Believing = Thinking + Doing. That also covers the load better and may be less "tjakka!"?
It is not in itself a strange thought that thinking influences your behavior I guess? And your thoughts are influenced by the factors mentioned. That you prefer to name this as 'being' I do find interesting. But that raises the question "what is 'being' or who is who you are"? If by that you mean to indicate that is more like thinking and doing I agree. There are things underexposed that belong there as well. Like what Johan mentions earlier above about your changed 'status'. And in addition many other things like changed relationships, goals in life, different 'meaning' of life, etc, etc. All of that affects you.
Wonder if this provokes a new reaction in you! 😉
Erwin, you excite me from head to toe! Speaking to you.