This is a comment that my buddy Ramone left on my post about my relationship problems with the Father. As you can see it’s a pretty long and well thought out comment, and I really wanted to put it out there to share with everyone else. Love and blessings!
Now Seiji, I’m going to comment about works and grace, haha! You said,
In James 2:14 it says “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can his faith save him?” Now I don’t want to get into an argument of Works versus Grace (as interesting as that may be) because the fact is that works has a role to play in the development and maturation of our faith.
I’m going to pick on this because not many of us think about the two evidences (examples) of “works” that James talks about in the same breath of air: Abraham and Rahab. Abraham’s “work” was trying to kill his son Isaac as a human sacrifice for God. Rahab (whose occupation was adultery) disobeyed her government authorites by hiding spies, and then lied to the authorities to cover it up.
In other words, in short form, we have one person trying to kill his son as a human sacrifice, and then we have an adulteress disobeying government authorities and then bearing false witness about what she’d done.
How often would you recommend those kind of “works” to help people build up their faith? Would any of us say that our faith was “dead” unless we had such works as these as well? Generally, such “works” would be considered lawlessness extraordinaire, don’t you think?
I believe our reading of James 2 is generally messed up because we read “works” thinking of “law” or “principles”… like standard behaviors that are always good or always bad. Sort of external, unchangeable things that are always good to do or perform. But looking at James’ “evidences” doesn’t fit that very well.
Of course, we quickly (and rightly) object to such a reading of Abraham because we know that God was testing him, that God had actually told Abraham to do that, and Abraham was obeying what God’s voice had told him to do. (And maybe we reject such a reading of Rahab because we know that the government authorities of Jericho were in the wrong, opposed to God, and that she had heard of God’s might works and wanted to seek His mercy, even if it should get her in trouble with her own people… and He accepted her for that!)
The bottom line: Abraham obeyed God’s voice, not a written law. And Rahab had no law, but she heard of God’s mercy and laid her life (and her family) at His feet.
Those are the “works” of faith that James was talking about!
Listening to His voice–living by the Spirit, you could rightly say! And trusting your very life to His mercy, even if it could cost you dearly!
James’ two “evidences” of the works faith requires have nothing to do with a list of good deeds, required reading, required ritual, etc. But they have everything to do with listening to God, responding to His voice, and trusting your life to Him in spite of the personal cost.
What you wrote afterwards hits close to this:
But it isn’t all about works. Why? Because works is about us. At the end of the day, my works are really about me. A works based faith system is a system that is based on the individual and not on the Father. A works based faith system is one that relies on the law to tell us which works are good and which are bad.
We want a map, a guidebook, a step-by-step how-to manual. Relationship seems more difficult (even though it actually isn’t), it seems more messy. More possibility of mistakes. We want principles of truth like we want to know the sequence of numbers to punch in at the ATM — enter in the correct “code” of faith, thoughts and behavior, and cash-in on God’s rewards!
We’re afraid that God isn’t going to fulfill His end of the relationship. We’re afraid that we won’t be able to hear Him, and we’re afraid of the mistakes we’ll make. But God isn’t afraid of our mistakes—tripping and falling is part of learning how to walk, and no good parent will leave their toddler because the toddler didn’t keep walking without falling.
And then if we do begin to understand and accept that grace, we still have trouble with not being afraid that the Holy Spirit won’t speak, comfort, teach us, guide us, and keep us from falling too hard or too far. So we star to map out “relationship” — relationship with God means reading your Bible, understanding this and that, community service, going to church, prayer meetings, discipleship, etc.
Asking the Spirit to come in and fulfill His promise of the New Covenant in us (reveal Himself to us so that we know Him), and then waiting on Him and trusting Him to do that in His way and at His time… well, that just doesn’t seem to offer us any assurance of reaching the finish-line, you know? It doesn’t seem to hold any promise that we’re going to ever “get there”. A step-by-step process seems more sure. A law seems more desirable and firm.
But… how do I know when I will really know my wife? I need a step-by-step method! I need to be able to see the finish-line! I need to know “how to have a relationship” with my wife! I will feel so much better if I can measure it — read her letters to me daily, get taught by someone “about her” and about “how to know her”, and do things for her that she liked when other people did them for her in the past, etc.
Of course, if you think of relationship with your spouse this way, it sounds absurd. But that is exactly what we do with God. Because we’re afraid that we can’t know Him, that He won’t answer, that He will leave us, that He has already left us and rejected us for some reason or another before we even got started trying to know Him.
My response to any of this stuff:
Relationship with God, like dating, is a process that takes time. No one faults you for not “knowing” your date through and through, and no one faults you for being smitten in love in spite of not “knowing” your date fully. Learning to love your date… who becomes your boy/girlfriend… who becomes your fiance/fiancee, and then who becomes your husband/wife… learning to love them is a growing process. Learning to communicate with them is a growing process! It takes time. It takes experimentation. There are going to be mistakes.
And then after all those years together when you know them “so well”, you’ll love the otherness of them, and you’ll realize that you don’t know exactly how they’ll respond to you. You don’t have them as pigeonholed as you think you could. They still surprise you and keep you on your toes. And you love that. You love them, not your understanding of them.
All throughout your relationship with them, you know that they’re there, that they love you, and that they’re not going away. And you trust that. You go through rocky times, but you know you’re bonded together. You have room to make mistakes, room to grow and spend time getting to know each other better, room to learn to communicate and share better. Room to learn to respect the other person’s individualness, thoughts, and their heart and desires.
But waaaaay back at the beginning of your relationship, way back at the start, you’re not sure. Your heart is thumping, your pulse is racing, your face is blushing and your palms are getting sweaty. And you haven’t even asked her out yet! You’re still not sure that she’s thinking what you’re thinking. You’re afraid that maybe she’s not smitten with you like you are with her. You worry that she might say “no” when you carefully (or recklessly) ask her out, holding your heart out on a platter in front of her, giving her a rose that she might accept or that she might trample on the ground.
In other words, it seems like there’s risk.
Isn’t it the same with God? With asking His Spirit to come and make that relationship real instead of theoretical or academic?
Yeah, it feels the same. But He says that He is smitten with you, thoroughly, through and through. He’s waited for all of eternity for you to notice Him! That doesn’t mean “relationship” will not take time. It will. But you can begin knowing that He has already “tied the knot” with you in His heart, and so you have eternity to spend getting to know one another better.
We can be free now to just ask Him out, and rest knowing that we’ll know Him better and better as we go on living with Him. We’ll hear Him better and better. We’ll make mistakes, but that’s part of growing together. We’ll learn how to communicate better, how to hear Him better–and how hear to hear our own hearts better, too!
No pressure, no time-table. No comparisons with the other couple’s relationship next door. Just you and me, God. Let’s go out!