James 1:22 (NIV)
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
We have read this verse many times I’m sure. And as the Spirit has been encouraging us to be in the Word and studying it; this is the call to “do what it says”. All the reading and studying in the world is not going to replace action and putting the Word into practice. I am reminded (and convicted) by what Jesus said as He concluded His “Sermon on the Mount” recorded in the Gospel of Matthew:
Matthew 7:21-29 (NIV)
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ 24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” 28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at His teaching, 29 because He taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.
In the context, it is those who do the will of the Father that will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. And the words of Jesus have taught us what the will of the Father is: “To believe in the Son whom the Father has sent.” When asked, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the One He has sent.” (Cf. John 6:28-29) This is the teaching we are to put into practice – the exercise of putting our complete trust and faith in Jesus. But then, in order to grow in our faith, there are disciplines that we will follow to bring us to maturity in Christ. We take root in a local assembly in order to be equipped for ministry. We exercise our spiritual gifts through good works so that we are putting His teachings into practice. This is how faith becomes effective and productive! As James would remind us:
James 2:14-18 (NIV)
14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.
So it is important for us to active in our faith and engaged with those around us. Jesus made it clear that when we serve others, we are serving Him. For Jesus said, “Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.” (Cf. John 12:26) So we need to be where Jesus is and serving as Jesus would. For we are His Body in the world.
Matthew 25:31-46 (NIV)
31 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, He will sit on His glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on His right and the goats on His left. 34 “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ 41 “Then He will say to those on His left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ 44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ 45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ 46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
This passage does not teach that salvation is based on our good works; rather, this expounds on the things that we are saved by grace to be doing for the glory of God! Remember, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Cf. Ephesians 2:8-10) So we have been saved to serve. That is the point! We serve with grace as we proclaim the light of truth through the Gospel. This is what I believe it means when James tells us to get busy and serve. If our faith does not activate us to be serving others, it is essentially no faith at all and we deceive ourselves if we think otherwise.
So let’s be about the Father’s business! There is a world around us that is broken and hurting … searching for the answer we have received by grace through faith. The opportunities are not hard to find. The question is whether we are looking for them. Maybe it is time for us to be more intentional. To be sure, we should always share Jesus with our words. But as we all know; actions will always speak louder than our words. So I pray we will “be” Jesus to those who need Him more than ever before. And I hope that thought will challenge us in the days ahead….