Okay, so we’ve really gotten into something here. In the previous studies, we’ve discovered that God is only asking us as humans to change for the better.
The point I need to make here at the beginning of this one is that God knows you will make mistakes as you try to follow what He is teaching you. You are allowed to completely blow it. What is not allowed is messing it up on purpose. Like the parent that hugs you after breakfast and grounds you that afternoon for not cleaning up your room, God tends to treat deliberate disobedience as a parent would: He will punish those who simply disobey, while He will judge those who ignore him completely.
And so we come to the first question: What about the people who are trying to get it right?
The Long answer: James chapter 2 has a little news about what God expects of someone who would follow His teachings. He tells us quite simply that we have work to do. Look at verse 14: “14What good is it, my brothers, if a man says he has faith, but has no works? Can faith save him?”
I can hear a bunch of people tuning up right now: ” I knew it! I have to go to church, or pay a tenth of what I make, and sing in church, and … and … and …”
Let’s put the brakes on that line of thought for a second, and move on down a couple of verses first, and look at all of them at once, the way they were intended:
15And if a brother or sister is naked and in lack of daily food, 16and one of you tells them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled”; and yet you didn’t give them the things the body needs, what good is it? 17Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead in itself. 18Yes, a man will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without works, and I by my works will show you my faith.
A lot of debate is centered in these few verses. There are entire sections of the Protestant faithful who believe that you have to somehow earn further favor with God after accepting Jesus as the person who can save you.
Paul is telling us something entirely different. He is warning us with verses 13 through 18 that anyone can say they are a Christian. You must be a positive influence in the lives of others if you want anyone to actually believe that you are one.
The Short answer: Check out verses 13 through 18 of chapter two. The author is simply using a method of thought in which he inverts an argument against him to prove his point: Being a Christian is about being a positive influence, in the best way you can, so that when you talk about what Jesus did for you, people will listen.
The Brutal Answer: Jesus told anyone who would listen that He was the Son of God. It wasn’t until he neatly folded the shroud he was buried in and walked out of a grave that people believed him. If you say you’re a Christian, you had better believe you just raised the bar on what the entire world expects from you. You’ve talked the talk, it’s time to walk the walk. Jesus had to die to prove His point; all you have to do is help others when God asks you to do so, even if it hurts.
Question 2: Okay, So what happens if I mess up the work that God gave me?
The Long Answer: This is where I repeat the message you may have heard before in the other studies: God loves you, God cares for you, God plans good things for you. There are days when you are asked by God to help the homeless, and when He meant take them all your extra winter clothes that you will not (or cannot) wear anymore, you throw a few bucks out of your car’s window at the guy in the intersection holding a sign that says “Need money for beer.”
You should know the author of this article has gotten quite a few things wrong. I wrestled with God for five entire years before I finally did what he was asking me to do. In the five years that went by, I lost everything twice. I even had the exact same car repossessed twice. My father rescued the car the first time, only to see me lose a job, have my child support go up in spite of that job loss, and lose the car to a second repo man in early 2009. All the while, I was trying to teach in a Sunday School class at the church that I attend. How in the world does a person who can’t hold a job and get his car repossessed end up teaching a Sunday School class? Did you notice I said my child support went up? I’m also divorced, and the church lets me teach a class. So why am I teaching a class?
The answer is exactly the lesson that I’m throwing out in this article: You are human. If your life before being a Christian was messed up, you’re going to get aspects of Christian life wrong as well. What matters is how you deal with the screw ups. You deal with them the same way that you deal with God when it comes to being a Christian: 1.) Admit that you screwed up. Do this before someone tells you that you messed up. You tell them that you messed up. 2.) Ask what you must do to repair the damage you did when you messed things up. 3.) Pay the penalty you are asked to pay – and ask if there is more that you must pay, so that the person you wronged knows you are serious.
My church is rather large, but the people with whom I am familiar at the church all know that I was struggling, and still do struggle with trying to live right. There are even a couple people who ambush me with the question “How’s websites?” because they know I was dealing with surfing all the wrong sites on the internet. I can now answer that it’s been nearly a year since I’ve hit an X-rated website for any reason.
The short answer: Try dealing with God about the screwups in your life: 1.)Admit that you have (or are) messed up. 2.) Believe that Jesus wants to save you. And 3.) Commit to changing your life for the better, just because Jesus asked you to.
The Awesome answer: Once you commit to changing for the better, you will realize that you are not alone. Or did you miss the part where a divorced college drop-out with a bankruptcy and a repossession on his record wound up teaching a class at church? Put simply, if my mistakes were bricks, I’d have most of the road to better living paved for you already.
All I can say now is that a couple of those kids I taught in Sunday School actually thought I was funny.
And I realized what they were telling me when they said I was funny. They were telling me that they had been paying attention to me – in other words, I was to them a positive influence.