The statements of James in his New Testament letter about faith and works so irritated Martin Luther from his platform of newly-discovered grace that he didn't want to include James in his translation of the Bible into German. Luther might have missed the statement that places the demands for works in James under the cover of grace. Can you have faith without works? Probably not. Jesus certainly spoke negatively of seed that germinated but didn't produce. Can you have works without faith? Probably. Jesus spoke of some who did many mighty works "in his name" yet declared that he didn't know them.
So, what is the big deal? The writer of Hebrews expresses faith in stark terms: And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (11:6) Now that we have that settled, both having and proving that faith becomes extremely important.
Jesus paints an attractive and scary picture of faith in such expressions as Your faith has saved you. And I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, "Move from here to there" and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.
I have observed numerous and embarrassing attempts to exploit that last statement to accomplish things more showy than edifying. Often, the mountain is the one who prays (who then gets moved into obscurity) rather than his proposed mountain. Jesus didn't mean for that to be an opportunity to show off. Remember that only those things done in his name (compatible with his nature) have his power behind them.
So what might best represent that mountain and what is that core secret of faith? James actually describes it clearly: If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, "Love your neighbor as yourself," you are doing right. (James 2:8)
Problem! Loving my neighbor happens to be the biggest mountain I face, since I am, by nature, so self-centered. Getting the disciples to love one another rather than compete with one another proved to be the most difficult task Jesus faced. Only after the incredible infusion of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2, were they able to stand "together."
Now, we have enough clues to begin to put the faith problem to rest. To a church that had lost its way in returning to the legalism of its before-Christ past, Paul writes words that move me even if it didn't move the Galatians: The entire law is summed up in a single command: Love your neighbor as yourself. (Galatians 5:14)
The entire law? Yes. All of our works that prove our faith is love? Yes. That covers a lot of territory. True. However, just eight verses earlier, he wraps it up just as tightly: For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. (Galatians 5:6)
This is so direct – neither keeping the law nor not keeping the law has any value. This certainly flies in the face of religion in general. You may with great effort attempt (as some denominations do) to live in the rules of the Old Testament. What does Paul say? No value at all! You may declare yourself as living in the New Testament and free from all rules. What does Paul say? No value at all! Though Paul declared himself free to do anything, he also restricted his freedom to one rule (the Royal Law) that his actions must always be to edify others.
So where is the value? Where are the "works"? It is all in love. In fact, the only thing that counts is love. I think the Holy Spirit must help us with that, but Jesus made him so available to us. All we have to do is ask. (Luke 11:13)
And all it takes is a grain of faith to move that mountain. Amazing! And I didn't even have to mention 1 Corinthians 13.
— Gayle D. Erwin
Just wanted to send you an update, my Dad (a long-time friend of Servant Quarters) had a heart attack about a month and a half ago. Dad is fine now feeling even better than before the attack. Thank the Lord for His awesome provision; meanwhile, the doctors are shocked at my Dad's recovery. I don't know if they contacted you or not, between them both it seems they are always at the doctor's. You know how our bodies "groan"! It's tough watching my Dad slow down. He used to be so strong, amazingly strong!
I find a lot of encouragement in your teachings, of course, because it's the word of God but also I feel like I am being led by someone who's been there. Funny enough I am going through the Valley of Baca lesson right now to glean, not copy, but glean, in preparation for my singles study tonight.
Charlie, you can copy anything you want…and don't give me credit. — Gayle
Thank you for this past weekend and your teachings on The Jesus Style. I took the calling to be closer to God and how blessed I felt to the point I started to weep and I found it difficult to sleep that night because I wanted to shout and tell the world how Jesus is our Lord and Saviour and how blessed I am in knowing this.
First, I love your heart and the wisdom that the Lord has imparted to you. You are one of those preachers who makes the Word powerful, yet loving. I have only one issue, that may not even be an issue.
Regarding the Law being in public places….
Is not the Law the "schoolmaster to bring us to Christ" (Gal 3:25)? If the Law is not out where people can see it, or used in evangelism properly (for which it was intended – 1 Tim 1:8, Rom 2:15) then how can a degenerate heart know its position before a Holy and Just, wrathful God?
I write this only because I think the church in America has lost its footing in this area and preached a "man-centered" Gospel instead of a Christ-centered one. I am not implying that you have, but I wanted to clarify, in my head, what it was that you were saying in this newsletter.
Steve, we tend to assume that everyone who sees the Ten Commandments will immediately know their sin and get saved. We both know that is not true. I have observed that in new areas of evangelism, 'legalism' does not produce converts. The Law and any legalism actually is man-centered in that it focuses our attention on ourselves and how we are doing rather than on Christ. Indeed, the revival that followed the freedom in Russia produced many believers because of the hunger in the hearts of people as grace was preached to them. We had only the local 'legalistic' churches to send them to and in six weeks, the converts could not be found. Remember that our hearts condemn us already. Only grace and faith in Christ draw us to him. — Gayle
Today I was totally blessed to learn that you have made all your resources available for free. This is so radical! What a joy to know that we can give to others what the Lord has given to us for free. I think the Lord is talking to me about the things that I have received from Him that I too can give to others freely. Thank you for being more and more like Jesus – it gives me such encouragement and challenges me to follow hard after Him.
Bob and I will never forget the love of Jesus you shared with us when we lived next door in Costa Mesa. Your life lived for Christ changed our lives forever.
If you go to our Web site, www.servant.org, you will find podcasts galore, humor that you will love, print copies of different translations of The Jesus Style, almost all of our past newsletters – all of it free. We also have a list of our resources available such as books, CDs and DVDs on a donation basis. Many more translations are on the way. Enjoy.
Thanks for another fine issue. You have the healthiest, most realistic, most joyful faith of just about anyone I know. It's been a pleasure to know you and share the faith with you over these many, many years. (28 years — Gayle)
I now have my own Web site which is still in process at: www.lutheransonline.com/bjurgensen/. The peace and exuberance of the Lord be with you,
Barbara Jurgensen is the most concise and brilliant writer of allegories and satire that I ever had the privilege of publishing. — Gayle
Twenty years or so ago it was my birthday; the place was California; I was 25 or so and the stage was being set for me to meet you!
As my friends came to the house it seemed as this would be just another gathering in the process of getting older, but the Lord had other plans. It started with the normal greetings then getting down to business, "the presents"! I started opening gifts. To my amazement the first two gifts were the same, a book(!) by some guy I had never heard of with the title, THE JESUS STYLE.
I was wondering what was going on here, as my friends laughed in regards to books being the same one(!) and maybe the Lord was trying to tell me something! Just then a friend who was late to the gathering walked in. Looking across the room he asked what I had been given. I held up the two books by you and he started busting up. "What's so funny," I asked? He said he was just at the book store and he had picked up the same book for me!!!
"No way," I said!
He handed me the package and said, "But I put it back and got you the record by Keith Green."
They all busted up and said, "Well, I guess you should read it!" Well, at one point I think I started it but never got back to it, then actually gave the book away. Sorry this is so long, but we moved to South Dakota and at my job I was talking to a brother and he mentioned your book and proceeded to give me his copy. That was in 1991, so to make this short, I gave the book to my daughter a couple of months ago and hoped she would read it. I have no clue why I was so unwilling to read it. She gave it back. I asked if she read it; she said "No!"
So back in my hands, I sat down and started reading the book. To my amazement the words filled my heart with joy as I read the words that confirmed my beliefs. I have always been considered a rebel in my thinking in regards to those in Body who call themselves leaders. Love and example have always been my heartbeat as I have pursued the Lord these 24 years. All I know is I am very happy to say this book should be second to none in reading material for all those who call themselves leaders and I'm starting a study to get this into the hands of the men in this ministry. Once again, thank you for the truth which seems so hard to find these days.
Brian C Baker
Rapid City, South Dakota
(First letter) I feel fortunate to have caught your last broadcast in the series today! I enjoyed what little I heard and quickly wrote down the Web address so I could look into more. I was eager to find out more about you as a person and what you believe to ensure we believe the same in terms of essential Christian doctrine as well as your background. I've not done this type of investigation in the past and, consequently, was led down the wrong path. I'd prefer to avoid this if it's the same in this case. Any info you could provide would be greatly appreciated.
Go to my Web site and read my 'Contract with God.' Also, if you read The Jesus Style book, you will know the underpinnings of all my beliefs. My background is irrelevant. — Gayle
(Second letter) I've listened/watched several of your talks from the Web site. WOW, I really appreciate your humor and your "rubber-meets-road" practical approach on the Christian walk. THANK YOU! for making your resources available to all! God bless you my friend as we "trudge the road of happy destiny!"
I have struggled most of my life with my faith, my image of God, and most recently with people who call themselves Christians. A friend of mine mentioned your name sometime last week and I "googled" it and found your site. I've listened to many audio sessions and I delight in your style and manner. Your messages are so darn "human" as our Lord is also and listening has helped this tired, embittered man of 54 to feel someone perhaps would understand him.
I too wish I could tattoo the nature of Jesus on the inside of my eyelids, or, better yet, burn it on my heart, but that's a work in progress! Do you have any "others" stickers left? I want to put it on my windshield where I will see it, not on my bumper! Love "The Jesus Style" podcasts – keep up the good work!
Jenny opens the door for me to tell you of something we are distributing to those who want it. It is a bumper sticker, vinyl, so you don't have to sell your car to get rid of it. The story deeply inspired me years ago. Recently, I felt that we should do something about it by making bumper stickers. Here is the story:
A century or so ago, General William Booth, founder of The Salvation Army, wished to send a telegram of encouragement to his missionaries around the world, only to find that he could afford to send only one word. He chose the word "Others." That so speaks of our understanding of the Nature of Jesus and the purpose of Servant Quarters that we have had a quantity of bumper stickers made so we can make them available to you. We will send one free. If you want them in bulk, call our office, 1-888-321-0077, for details.
Now that the elections are over, let's have some fun with politics.
If you don't read the newspaper you are uninformed, if you do read the newspaper you are misinformed. — Mark Twain
Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But then I repeat myself. — Mark Twain
I don't make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts. — Will Rogers
No man's life, liberty, or property is safe while the legislature is in session. — Mark Twain
A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul. — George Bernard Shaw
Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner. — James Bovard
Talk is cheap...except when Congress does it. — Unknown
The only difference between a tax man and a taxidermist is that the taxidermist leaves the skin. — Mark Twain
There is no distinctly Native American criminal class...save Congress. — Mark Twain
What this country needs is more unemployed politicians. — Edward Langley
A government big enough to give you everything you want is strong enough to take everything you have. —Thomas Jefferson
by David Guzik
God did something special when He called Abram out of Ur of the Chaldees and promised Abram all of the land of Canaan. But when Abram brought his nephew Lot with him into the land, it wasn’t long until there was conflict. (Genesis 13:8-9) Abram and Lot each had considerable herds of livestock, and their herdsmen fought over the choice grazing lands. Abram and Lot each claimed to serve the Lord God instead of the local Canaanite idols, and their conflict made them look like hypocrites. The logical solution was to separate the flocks and give them different grazing lands. But who would go where? That is when Abram exercised his right to lay down his rights.
“If you take the left, then I will go to the right; or, if you go to the right, then I will go to the left.” God gave all the land to Abram (not to Lot), so it was pure generosity on the part of Abram that caused him to make this offer to Lot. We are almost tempted to think that it was weakness. But Abram was quite able to fight when he had to; he did not yield to Lot out of weakness but out of love and trust in God. A few acres of grazing land didn’t seem worth fighting for to this man of eternal perspective.
This giving up of our rights is theme throughout the Bible. God was glorified when Paul, out of love, waived his right to be supported by the gospel. (1 Corinthians 9:14-18) God was glorified when Jesus, out of love, waived his right to an existence that knew no human suffering or trial by experience. (Philippians 2:5-11) In fact, here Abram fulfilled the New Testament principle of love: “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4)
But if we give up our rights, who will look out for us? Abram knew that whatever Lot chose, God would make sure Abram came out all right. In previous experience in the land of Egypt, Abram thought he had to take his fate into his own hands. Abram thought he had to look out for his own rights. Now being wiser, he was willing to let God look out for his interests. Right or left, it didn’t matter to Abram, because God would be there.
Because he trusted in God, Abram did not have to be obsessed with his own “rights” and neither do we. Of course there may be a time and place to stand on principle and claim a right; and sometimes doing so is good for others and not only ourselves. Yet we never forget the bigger principle: Everything else is the free gift of God, and has nothing to do with our “rights.” We can do what is right by committing our “rights” to God.
On behalf of the crew of Servant Quarters, Gayle and Ada Erwin, Clyde Erwin, David Bjur, Gilbert Lopez, Joe Warren, Dempster Evans and Data Mail, Inc. of Evansville, Indiana, we pray that God will overwhelm you with his blessings this season.
Servant Quarters, Vol. 28, #3
Available on request by e-mail or by post
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Cathedral City, CA 92235
Web site: www.servant.org