February 21, 2024

Faith With Gratitude

Faith With Gratitude

Scripture Readings:
Ephesians 2: 8 - 10
James 2: 14 - 17
1 Samuel 16: 6 - 7


  1. • The issue of the relative importance of faith vs works has long been debated by Christians.  
  • As we have seen from our reading from Ephesians, salvation is achieved by the gifts of grace and faith from God alone, not by anything we do.
  • A critical question, as James notes, however, is: ‘How do Christians respond to these gifts?’
  • ‘What do we do?’; and doing implies actions or works.

 2. • The all-male residence that I lived in when I started post-secondary education had a ‘meet and greet’ (we called it ‘Meet Your Fellow Inmates’) evening at the beginning of the academic year.

  • As is typical of those events, we started by introducing and saying something about ourselves.
  • Two of the young men, who had identified themselves as Christians, later said they had to leave early because they were going out to a pub to pick up some girls.
  • One of us suggested that their plans didn’t sound much like ‘Christian behavior’.
  • They responded that's ‘because they were already ‘saved’, any sins they committed would be forgiven.
  • Even though I was not a Christian at the time, I can distinctly remember the somewhat shocked and unsettled feeling that their comment left me with.
  • I felt that they were being hypocritical and perhaps, seriously delusional.

3. • Dallas Willard, the author of ‘The Divine Conspiracy’, would have described the young men’s statement that ‘they were already saved and any sins would be forgiven’ as an example of ‘bar-code faith’.

  • In retail outlets, barcodes on the outside of merchandise, serve to identify what the item is.
  • Switching barcodes on two different items will result in the incorrect identification of the items since what’s inside the packaging cannot be detected by the scanner.
  • Similarly, in bar code faith, claiming salvation through grace and faith (that’s the bar code) tells you relatively little about the person’s behaviour or personality; either positive or negative.
  • While Dallas Willard agrees that: “it is not necessary to be a good Christian to be forgiven”, he also writes: “Barcode Faith says you can have faith in Christ that brings forgiveness while in every other respect your life is no different from that of others who have no faith in Christ at all.

Accordingly, life now being lived has no necessary connection with being a Christian as long as the ‘bar code’ does its job. The implications of this teaching are stunning.”

 In fact, it has caused some people to reject Christianity altogether.

 The German theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, refers to this as ‘cheap grace’ and goes on to describe it as follows :

  Cheap grace is the idea that "grace" did it all for me so I do not need to change my lifestyle. The believer who accepts the idea of "cheap grace"  thinks he can continue to live like the rest of the world. Instead of following   Christ radically, the Christian lost in cheap grace thinks he can simply enjoy the consolations of this grace. (The Cost of Discipleship; Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

4. At this point, you may well be asking yourself: Is this what God intended; an arrangement in which the ‘saved’ can relax, make little or no effort to grow in their faith, serve Him, enjoy life, and experience the glories of heaven upon dying? 

  • Or as Willard put it: Are we to suppose that everyone, from Mother Teresa to Hitler, is the same on the inside, but that some of us are just vigilant or “lucky” enough to avoid doing what we all want to do?  Are we to suppose that God gives us nothing that influences character and spirituality?  Are we to suppose that in fact, Jesus has no substantial impact on our “real lives”?
  • Our third scripture reading from 1 Samuel 16 provides us with at least a partial answer to these questions.
  • Samuel had been instructed by God to approach Jesse’s sons from whom  God would choose a replacement for Saul to be the next King of Israel.
  • Initially, Samuel thought Jesse’s oldest son Eliab, would be God’s choice since he had a very kingly appearance.
  • Verse 7, however, states :

 “But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or height, for I have rejected Him.  The Lord does not look at the things man looks at.  Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

  • God ultimately told Samuel to anoint David, Jesse’s youngest son, to be the next king of Israel.
  • In 1 Timothy 1: 5, Paul states: “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.’
  • Clearly, God is concerned about the state of a person’s ‘heart’.

 5. • In his book ‘Mere Christianity’, C. S. Lewis, an eminent English academic, writer, and apologist suggests that: only true faith can lead Christians to salvation—and yet “true faith”  will also lead one to do as much good as possible in the world.  Put another way, good works are an unavoidable “symptom” of the faith that eventually leads Christians into Heaven.’ (Faith, Works and Salvation)                     

  • Another statement attributed to Lewis is as follows :

 ‘Regarding the debate about faith and works: It's like asking which blade in a pair of scissors is most important.

 • Like Lewis, I believe that true faith will lead a Christian to serve God.

  • Given the magnitude of God’s gift of salvation through grace and faith, it is natural to want to demonstrate our gratitude to Him.
  • This service can take on many forms; it often involves serving others but is always ultimately directed towards advancing God’s kingdom here on earth.
  • This can seem a daunting challenge and would be impossible without the guidance and support that we receive through Christ and the Holy Spirit.
  • It’s somewhat ironic that what God intends us to do, He also enables us to do through faith, prayer, and reading scriptures.
  • In 2 Corinthians 9:8 we read :

And God can make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.

  • Furthermore, as we serve God, we ourselves grow and mature in our faith, love, and relationship with Him.  (James 1: 22 – 25)
  • Note, we have a choice here; either to accept the status quo in our spiritual lives or to undergo God’s ‘refiner’s fire’ and become the servants He wants us to be.                       

6. • So, what can the congregation of Langley Presbyterian Church take away from all this?

  • Well, we can be assured that God does care about what is ‘in our hearts’ and what we do to serve Him.
  • Furthermore, we can be confident that God will support and guide us as we strive to serve Him despite the obstacles and perhaps even setbacks that we will face in doing so.
  • We can dedicate ourselves to pursuing what Dietrich Bonhoeffer would call ‘costly grace’ which he described as follows :

 ‘Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it, a man will go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price, to buy which, the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble; it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows Him.’

(The Cost of Discipleship)

  • Bonhoeffer should know; he was imprisoned and executed by the Nazis at the end of WW2 for his refusal to perjure his faith.                                              

 Prayer:   Heavenly Father, please provide us with the faith we need to be the servants you want us to be and thereby do what you want us to do.

                 In Jesus' name.