faith, Light

When Faith Doesn’t Work

A discussion began in the comment section of my last post and, since I have a lot to say, I decided to continue it here.  We were talking about how wonderful it is that Christians can be wrong on certain issues and still “march into heaven arm in arm.”  That was Wally Fry’s phrase and I really like it.

Later Wally said, “The sad truth is, many denominations still preach a gospel of justification by faith and works, or faith with salvation being kept and maintained by works.  Sadly, those who maintain hope in their own efforts as the basis for entrance into heaven…won’t be there in that march.”

The world is going to h-e-double-hockey-sticks in a hand basket and we Christians are still putting time and energy into the old separation of faith and works debate.  It’s silly, if you really think about it, because faith and works cannot be separated.  So let’s think about it.

James said, “Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.”

Exactly, James, the two are intertwined.  Jesus said so, too.

Remember when He separated the sheep from the goats?  The sheep clothed the naked, fed the hungry, cared for the ill, visited the imprisoned.  They weren’t even aware that their eternity was at stake.  They just did those things because God was living in them and those are the things God does.  Good trees produce good fruit.  They just do.

The goats, on the other hand, thought they were fine with God.  They spoke godly words: “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but they did nothing to  actually bring anyone peace, warmth or nourishment.  God was obviously not living in them.  Bad trees can look real good and healthy and full, but if they don’t produce any fruit, what good are they really?

It’s not the works you do, the fruit you produce that saves you, it’s the fruit that shows you are already saved. They are evidence that the Holy Spirit is alive in us.

With regard to vines and branches and fruit production, Jesus said, “apart from Me you can do nothing.”  So if Catholics are doing good works, it is only because they believe in Jesus and His Spirit is at work in them.

They BELIEVE in Jesus.

Paul said, “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

We protestants love Paul, right?  So why do we have so much trouble believing that our Catholic brothers and sisters – who have confessed with their mouths and believed in their hearts that Jesus is Lord – are really saved?

Oh, because they are adding on to their faith, and that is WRONG, wrong, wrong.  Salvation = faith + NOTHING!

Faith + 0 = salvation.

Anything + 0 = the thing.  So, when it comes to salvation, if all except faith = nothing, then works = nothing.  Works = 0.

Therefore faith + works (0) = faith.  Follow?

Adding works to faith does not negate faith.  The person still has faith.  The person still believes that Jesus is God and that He saves us.  My Catholic grandma had a portrait of Jesus hanging in her hallway because she believed Jesus is God.  Yes, the Catholic church added purgatory and penance to the mix.  Yes, the Church became controlling and corrupt.  But she believed in Jesus.  Those who corrupted the Church will be judged according to their corrupt deeds.  She will be judged according to her faith in Jesus.

But here’s the thing I really wanted to point out:

Protestants add works to their faith, too.

I know plenty of Baptists who have faith in their perfect doctrine.  They put A WHOLE LOT OF WORK into defending that doctrine.  One Baptist blogger accused me of not being a real Christian because I did not agree with every jot and tittle of her iron-clad doctrine, which she puts a whole lot of WORK into defending.

I used to lean legalistic.  It was the doctrine I was taught.  But then the Spirit pointed out to me that Jesus died for PEOPLE, not doctrine.  Perfect doctrine does not save anyone.  It is important to know the Scriptures in order to know the heart, character and purposes of God and, therefore, I have set my mind to understanding them.  To understanding Him.

But Jesus’s final instructions to us were not to defend doctrine.  That was Paul’s gig.

Jesus said, “Make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (italics added)

So the question is, what did He command us?

Keep the (ten) commandments.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. (Get to know HIM.)

Love your neighbor as yourself.  Which includes:

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”

Hmm, the list does not include “make sure EVERYONE precisely separates works from faith.”  “Actually,” He would likely say, “Please don’t.”

I don’t believe that it’s “all good” and that anything goes.  And I am peeved by Christians who presume to speak for God when they are clearly unfamiliar with Scripture, who make it up as they go along, but I am certainly not going to condemn my Catholic brothers and sisters or exclude them from the march into heaven.

It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to guide me and my Catholic and Protestant brothers and sisters into all Truth, it’s my job to love them, and to enjoy a humble walk with God.

And to have an occasional respectful debate with my friend Wally.

Oh and thanks Martha Kennedy for this:

“Rumi said, ‘To those who love God, the only religion is God’ meaning there are no hairs to split, there is only God.”

Amen.

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17 thoughts on “When Faith Doesn’t Work

  1. Alma Mater says:

    I agree with what you are saying, but when it comes to the Catholic thing (I was born, baptized, raised and confirmed in the Catholic church) I think it gets confusing.

    Yes, they do believe in Jesus, but many also believe that Mary is saving them. My Catholic aunt recently told me that her blood ran through his veins, so it was also her blood that was shed for us. (I explained that the placenta actually keeps the mother’s blood separate from the child’s, so that it was not actually her blood in his veins). She believes that her suffering helped redeem us, and that it is through Mary that we come to Jesus. She is considered Co-Mediatrix and Co-Redemptrix.

    So while I agree that Faith in Jesus as Redeemer + Works = Faith in Jesus as Redeemer + 0, I wonder if perhaps the equation with many Catholics is more like this: Faith in Mary and Jesus as Co-redeemers + Works = ??

    And I am not sure whether that counts as faith or not.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for that added insight Alma. It seems there are church leaders with a whole lot of explaining to do. Woe to them. Thank God He sent His Spirit to set us straight. I pray He will lead your aunt into the Scriptures and talk her through the reading of them.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. andih94 says:

    AMEN! That is so well put. God wants relationship, not religion. Religion is full of shoulds and oughts and structures – even in forms of words – which help us humans show each other outwardly that we are ‘correct’ in our relating to God. Doctrine is important because we all need to know what we believe, ready to explain our hopes to those who ask, but it can become an idol, obscuring God with our cleverly finessed ideas about how we think we should be. I don’t see it as my right to fault another believer for their expression of their faith. It is the heart that counts. And only God knows the hearts of people.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Anonymous says:

    I love this part: “But then the Spirit pointed out to me that Jesus died for PEOPLE, not doctrine. Perfect doctrine does not save anyone. It is important to know the Scriptures in order to know the heart, character and purposes of God and, therefore, I have set my mind to understanding them. To understanding Him.” Yes!
    I don’t think we can have “perfect” doctrine, as we are not perfect.
    We are however, saved by grace through faith. Ephesians 2:8-9: 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.
    But keep reading! Verse 10: For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (‭Ephesians‬ ‭2‬:‭8-10‬ NIV)

    Ok, just one more thought, please. Does anybody remember when Laura Ingalls was complaining about Nellie, and Ma Ingalls said something like, “Well, I think a lot of people are going to be surprised by who they see when they get to heaven!” Isn’t that a great picture? And I’m so glad it’s not up to me to decide!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks anonymous, I was hoping someone would point out Ephesians 2:10. I was just thinking about that quote the other day, but I didn’t remember where I had heard it. I watched Little House on the Prairie every Wednesday night while I was babysitting the neighbor kids. I cried at the end of every episode and one of the little girls would always pat my shoulder.

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  4. Thank you for this, Julie.
    I wrote a post in response to this and The Spice of Life, The Flavor of God.
    It will be published on May 23 at 16:00 ET with this link.

    C.

    (It isn’t necessary to publish this comment. I just wanted to give you a heads up.)

    Like

    • Thanks Camille. I look forward to reading it. I am publishing your comment because the readers who commented on my posts might be interested in reading yours, too.

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  5. I’m playing catch-up, just now saw this. Very interesting in light of my present study in Galatians. We surely have succeeded in gumming up the works, but we’re not the first to do so, and we won’t be the last 🙂 Works are important, because they highlight our faith, which is dead (useless, without life, moving backward) without works. The problem, always, is depending on our own good works to get us to heaven.

    Sometimes I think the BEST good work we could do would be to just hush up and BE godly, compassionate, caring people who show the world Who Jesus is.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Struggling with Faith: In Search of Answers - Love Yourself Again

  7. So, you’ve got an awesome line in this blog. You said, “Perfect doctrine does not save anyone”. I agree with that statement. As a refugee from the land of legalism myself, I find that when leaning into the person, words and way of Jesus there’s a lot less doctrine to get wrapped up in than we think. You point out a very short list of things Jesus commanded us to do. Would we represent Christ well if we simply lived by the words and way of Jesus? By hanging out in Matthew 5-7 for a while I’m getting a different view of Jesus than much of our denominational doctrine would suggest. What is essential? What if the rest of the doctrine wasn’t essential? What if…?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Exactly – what if the rest of the doctrine wasn’t essential? What if Paul’s letters are to the New Testament what the Talmud is to the Old Testament? What would happen if we lived solely according to the red letters, the Law and the Prophets – since Jesus often referenced them.

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