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Failure of the Church to get the balance of the faith/works issue right (Part 1)

11/03/2014

Has the Church failed to get the faith/works issue right, and thereby failed to thrive?

It is my belief that the decline of the Christian church stems primarily from this one issue, the inability to get the faith/works balance correct.  We see some Christians working constantly on service projects for the poor, the sick, and the needy of all sorts. This is what Christ called us to do.

Clearly this is what Christ was explaining to his disciples near the end of his life, as he taught with a passion to drive home the full message of his ministry.

“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.  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, 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.'”  (Matthew 25:34-36)

Jesus is quite clear that our inheritance, our place in the kingdom, is based on how we love and care for others.  In fact to drive the point home he adds this.

“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.  For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 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.'”  (Matthew 25:41-43)

Based only on this information, one could certainly assume that it is our actions, our works, which allow us to present ourselves before our Lord and expect to be welcomed into his heavenly kingdom.

But not so fast.  You see this teaching was the third and last of three separate stories (parables) that Jesus told his disciples that night.  Each must be considered, in order, to get the full message that the Lord was teaching.

This is why reading the word of God in context is so important.  If you only read this portion of Matthew 25, you would believe that being good and helping other is all Christ is calling us to do.  That is simply not true, and there are way too many good, decent people who do not understand that they are mistaken.

Make no mistake, we are called to care for those less fortunate.  We will consider more on that later, however.  It is most important that we stop and take note of the two parables that Jesus taught before the story which contained the above quotes.

The first parable in Matthew 25 is about 10 bridesmaids (some Bibles call them “virgins,” which they surely were at that time).  It is in this parable that Jesus teaching what is the most important and first action that a person must take to be welcomed into the kingdom of heaven when that person passes from this life into the next.

Take time to read Matthew 25:1-13.  Consider his words and in the part 2 we will dig deep into what this very important teaching was all about.

Ponder it in your heart today. Ask God to bring understanding to you. Feel free to leave comments about what ideas come to mind.

Till next time, be blessed with joy and peace.

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