Faith Versus Deeds

Disclaimer: This post is from the archives, and may not represent the current views of the author. It also may not be at all interesting to read. Continue at your own peril!

You know, it’s sort of strange how I don’t usually get much out of my daily devotions until I set down the Bible and walk away. I mean, that sounds impossible, but it’s true. I always sit down and read what I need to, do what I need to, and then say, “Well, that was nice,” and walk away. Then, as I sit down at the computer here, things start popping out in my mind that I just read, sometimes revealing some really good stuff.

That’s what just happened about thirty seconds ago. I was trying to think of something to write here today, and something hit me. I’ve heard this sort of truth before, but not exactly in this context or application, and it was pretty cool to think about. You see, I’ve been reading Colossians 1 and doing an inductive Bible study on that, and in that chapter it deals a lot with the supremacy of Christ. Today I was marking down every time the word “all” or “every” was used, and it was used quite a few times. But I got to thinking about that, and how the text was basically saying that Christ was supreme over all. My mind chewed on that for a little bit, and then came up with the conclusion that it meant that, were the choice between Christ and a Christian, one should choose Christ.

Have you ever had one of those arguments inside your head? It’s almost strange how it works, but I suppose since people are used to concluding things between two people by discussing or arguing back and forth, it just seems natural to do that in your head as well. Anyways, as I got to thinking about it, I thought that perhaps that last statement about Christ and Christians wasn’t necessarily true. I mean, my loyalty is to Christ, but Christians belong to Christ as well, and therefore it depends on what I mean by that statement. Certainly we are to put our faith in Christ; that wasn’t what I was saying. So I had a little mini-argument in my head over what I was actually saying.

I basically came up with this conclusion: if you are presented with a choice between spending time with Christ and spending time with Christians, it’s no more spiritual to choose one over the other. I mean, obviously both have their place, but I’ve noticed a tendency for myself to place getting to know God by personal devotions and such as being “more spiritual.” The truth is that you can learn about God anywhere you go and with whoever you’re with; even if the people you’re with are immoral, the least you can learn about is what God is not, or about God’s creation in general. I mean, there’s so much to learn about Christ, and I’m definitely not downplaying the tremendous benefit of looking in Scripture, but we’re not called as Christians to keep our noses stuck in a book all the time. The whole reason we’re still here is to help and love others; otherwise, God would just take us to heaven as soon as we were saved. If you think about it, though, you probably wouldn’t be saved today (if you are indeed saved, that is) if it weren’t for another Christian leading you through the path to salvation. So if I’m always reading God’s Word, that’s great, but what am I doing for others?

You see, as well as learning about God, we’re also called to help others – both Christians and non-Christians. While our mission is different for each group, we are to encourage and build up believers, and make disciples of unbelievers. The point is that knowledge of God doesn’t get you anywhere if you never apply it. I’m reminded of James, the book that deals extensively with this topic: “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” (James 2:14-17) You can claim to know all you want about God, but God says that if you love Him, you’ll obey Him, and He’s also told you to love your neighbour as yourself.

I think the conclusion is fairly obvious, although I should be careful how I’m wording this so it doesn’t seem like I’m saying something I’m not. I previously said that if you are presented with a choice between spending time with Christ and spending time with Christians, it’s no more spiritual to choose one over the other. Now, spending time in the Word is very important to your spiritual health. But I’ve had a tendency to focus solely on that and get away from fellowship with other believers. Then when I get into a serious conversation with another Christian friend of mine, I’m almost blown away by how much I learn about both that person and God. It’s amazing how much you can learn through other people, and it’s important to keep a balance between your personal time with God and your time with other people. I’m not saying that you should always be out preaching and evangelizing or helping others 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, but rather showing that there’s a balance. I don’t want to go to either extreme, because both can be equally as dangerous.

I’ve been to both extremes. I used to always hang out with my friends (which wasn’t always helping them or serving them or anything, but usually it was because they wanted my company, so it was the nice thing to do) but neglect reading my Bible. I’m talking about Christian friends in particular here. What happened was that I would start to get depressed, because my source of joy – Christ – was gone. Then, as a result, those relationships I had built also suffered.

Now, I’ve also gone to the other extreme, something which I’ve noticed myself doing more recently. After this year’s youth retreat, I started to feel this incredible passion to know Christ burn inside of me – a great thing. I wanted to know Him so badly that I forced myself to keep committed to reading my Bible daily and actually created a habit, right then and there. I mean, I haven’t missed a day of reading my Bible in months now, whereas before then I might be able to remember perhaps once every two or three weeks. It was amazing how much I grew just within that short time; however, as I started spending more time with Christ, I started to neglect spending time with my Christian friends. And while I now am so much closer to Christ than I was (although I’m still so far away), I now have nowhere to practice my faith, because I’m not as close to my Christian friends as I used to be. Now, I don’t think I’ve gone to as far of an extreme on this end, but the point still remains: on one hand, you have faith, and on the other hand, you have deeds – but they’re really all the same hand. Faith brings deeds, and deeds come as a result of faith – you cannot have one without the other.

To conclude this whole thing, I’d just like to point out one more verse that may make this whole thing a little clearer: “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'” (Matthew 25:40) The context of this verse is the judgment of the righteous and unrighteous, where Jesus tells the righteous that He was hungry and they fed Him, He was a stranger and they invited Him in, and all sorts of other things. The righteous are confused and say, “Hey, when exactly did we do this stuff?” The verse stated above is Christ’s answer. The point is that when we do things for other people, we are really doing it for Christ. And when you do things for others, you also tend to deepen your relationship with them. So what better way to kill two birds with one stone? Why not do something nice for someone else, so you’re actually doing it for Christ, and deepen your relationship with both of them at the same time? Who knows, you may just learn something you never knew about God through that other person – or perhaps even through your actions. I find it awesome to think back on something nice that I did and say to myself, “Hey, that’s something that Christ would have done. Sweet!” It’s the feeling you get after passing a test, only multiplied by about a bazillion times.

Anyways, that’s what came to my mind today through my daily devotions. Well, not all that came into my head all at the same time, but I’ve expanded it and explained it so you can hopefully see my thought process in figuring this thing out. Basically, don’t get caught up so much in learning about God that you forget to love His creation as well. It’s all fine and dandy to know God well, but the more you learn about Him, the more you learn to think like Him, and the thought that’s constantly on His mind is how deeply He loves each and every person on this planet. If you ask me, that’s amazing.

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