Learning the Spiritual Practice of Release

by Rick Duncan, Founding Pastor

In his message in our Risk-Takers series on Jochebed, Moses’ mother, Pastor Chad Allen told the story about how the Egyptians feared that the Israelites might one day outnumber them and overturn them. So, they ruled that all Jewish baby boys had to die. 

Moses’ mother, in order to save his life, released him by placing him in a baby boat on the Nile River in hopes that Pharoah’s daughter would rescue and raise him. That’s risk-taking faith in action! 

When we take risks by God’s grace and for His glory, His blessings will surely flow. Case in point? As result of Jochebed’s risk, Moses’ life was indeed saved and God eventually used him to set the Jewish people free. 

 Pastor Chad asked us what we need to release to God, “What (or who) is God asking you to release to Him and to His sovereign plans?” He said, “Sometimes risking means releasing – spiritually, relationally, conversationally, & financially.”

Chad led us in an exercise to open our fists, to symbolically let something go, and then to receive the blessing that He gives to those who practice the discipline of release.

But exactly how do we do it?

Here’s a guide – something you might want to do 8-10 times over the next 2 weeks – to help you develop the spiritual skill of release. Release needs to become a godly habit that must become a life-long practice. Why must this practice become a habit? We all have a tendency to take our burdens to the Lord… and grab them back!


The Spiritual Practice of Release : 5 Steps

 Get to a quiet place. Ask God to meet you – to speak to you and guide your thoughts. Ask Him to show you what you need to release. It might be a person, a right, a plan, a future, a dream, or a job. Make a list of 8 – 10 things that you have been grasping – things that you have been holding onto that you know have been limiting your joy and peace in Jesus, things that have been causing you worry or fear. After you have listed 8-10 things, choose one that will be your focus for this spiritual practice.  

  1. Recognize that your good and powerful God is sovereign over that very thing that is stealing your joy and peace and that is causing your worries and fears. “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good…” (Genesis 50:20). Express this in your own words either verbally or in written form in a journal. 

    “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good…”

  2. Admit to God that you have been hanging on to your will, your rights, your ways, your plans. Think of different ways that grasping may have hurt you and others around you. Jesus said, “Whoever does not take his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 10:28-29). Again, express this in your own words either verbally or in written form in a journal.
  3. Acknowledge that God’s ways, thoughts, and plans are higher and better than yours. He has allowed this thing that is causing your pain for His wise and perfect reasons. For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9). State this truth aloud or write it in a journal.
  4. Tell God that you are right now choosing by faith to let go and trust Him – that because He’s in control you don’t have to be. Tell Him you will accept whatever He allows to happen. “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself…” (Philippians 2:5-7a). Literally open your hands (palms up) as you verbally give that person, right, plan, future, dream, or job into God’s hands. Now, just in case you’re tempted to grab what you are seeking to release again, turn your hands palms down, signifying that you don’t hold it any more. To reinforce this action, verbalize it or write it in prayer.
     
  5. Thank God in advance for the outcome – whatever it might be. Tell Him that you will by faith praise Him no matter what happens because you know that He is working all things together for your good. Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (Philippians 1:2-4). Pray this aloud or make it a written prayer.

Remember what Pastor Chad said, “Relinquishment isn’t a passive ‘let go, let God’ moment. It’s an active ‘let go, grab God’ lifestyle where we learn the habit of seeking God’s plan.”

Practice these steps 8-10 times with your 8-10 different situations over the next few weeks to develop deeply the skill of release – a skill that will serve you well as you walk with God your whole life long.

Risk-Takers

 

by CVC Staff

During a recent staff meeting we read through a bit of Joshua about being courageous risk takers and reflected on how God is calling us to move spiritually, conversationally, relationally, and financially.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

Joshua 1:9

Here are some risks that we think are worth taking.

Spiritual Risks

  • Abandon our agenda/distance yourself from comfort.
  • Humble ourselves—goes against our flesh to not be filled with self.
  • Pray risky prayers.
  • Invest time in eternal things.
  • Listen to God and do what He says—obey Him.
  • Consider it JOY in trials.
  • Utilize the power of testimony (yours and others’).
  • Form risky relationships for the sake of advancing the gospel.
  • Walk in spiritual disciplines (fasting, prayer, Bible reading) instead of other things (“Meditate day and night”).
  • Seek spiritual wisdom from others who can speak into your life (accountability).
  • Know God’s Word.
  • Be doers of the Word not just hearers.
  • Walk with God in such a way that it’s enough for you to have just enough light for the step you’re on.  Trust God for the rest.
  • Identify spiritual warfare and respond to it.
  • Walk in unconditional love and be willing to be vulnerable.
  • Follow Christ with ALL your heart, soul, mind, and strength.

 

Conversational Risks

  • Be willing to say hard things.
  • Be a better listener.
  • Have intentional conversations.
  • Be responsive to what you see around you.
  • Be selfless with your time.
  • Use discernment in order to ask “next level” questions (going deeper, not just having surface conversations).
  • Ask creative questions.
  • Remember: people over screens!
  • Create space for conversations.
  • Push past the awkward moments.
  • Be willing to move out of your comfort zone (cross generations, cultures, affinities, etc.).

 

Relational Risks

  • Be faithful in relationships—don’t give up on people.
  • Go deeper in asking follow-up questions.
  • Be persistent.
  •  Take the first step…then the second…and so on.
  • Help a stranger.
  • Show hospitality with openness and trust.
  • Be honest and transparent.
  • Slow down enough to serve and sacrifice.
  • Develop diverse relationships.
  • Take initiative without be prompted.
  • Listen to the Holy Spirit.
  • Ask someone for help if you need it.
  • Offer to pray with/for someone.
  • Love and forgive those who have hurt you.  Reconcile broken relationships.

Financial Risks

  • Title 10% (or more).
  • Be good stewards while trusting God to provide.
  • Hold loosely to the nest egg.
  • Acknowledge that all your resources are from God and for God.
  • Pray for God’s wisdom in using money.
  • Set a “blessings budget” to be intentional with giving.
  • Teach your children about giving.
  • Give your time too—don’t avoid serving because you think it’s enough to give money.
  • Don’t give with “strings attached” or ulterior motives.
  • “Live Simply so that others can Simply Live.”

Risk Takers Prayer Guide

by Rick Duncan, CVC Founding Pastor

In a message on the life of Sarah, the matriarch of the Jewish people, we discovered reasons why she could have disqualified herself from doing great things for God. She was small, wrong, mean, doubting, and old. Yet God use her to bless the world.

Maybe you have disqualified yourself. But God hasn’t disqualified you.

Below is a prayer guide that might help you work through your disqualifiers so that you can see yourself as a Beloved Child who can do great things for God.

***

Make a list of 8 to 10 disqualifiers that you are personally tempted to use and that sometimes keeps you from taking risks for God. Write them down on a sheet of paper or in a journal. 

Choose one of the disqualifiers as the focus for this spiritual exercise. You are now going to write a brief prayer to the Lord by following the suggestions below.

  1. Admit to God that you have allowed a disqualifier (call it by name) to keep you from taking a risk for him – to keep you from obeying Him. 
  2. Thank God that even though you’ve disqualified yourself and have been disobedient, that you are still His Beloved Child.
  3.  Identify your disqualification as a weakness while realizing that in your weakness Christ’s strength can be made known. (Read II Corinthians 12:10. Your weakness is the perfect backdrop against which the Lord longs to display His strength.)
  4. Praise God for one of His specific character qualities or attributes that he can make known through your weakness – your disqualifier. (For example, His greatness outshines Sarah’s smallness; His righteousness outshines Sarah’s wrongness; His kindness outshines Sarah’s meanness.)
  5. Ask God to give you strength to display His character in spite of your disqualifier. Ask Him to use you to bring him glory by becoming a greater risk taker. Write down the specific area in which you feel He wants you to take a risk for Him. 

Qualifying the Disqualified

by Rick Duncan, CVC Founding Pastor

In our message on the life of Sarah, the great great great great great great great… grandmother of Jesus, the Messiah, we made a list of the things that could disqualified her from making her mark on the world, from being a blessing to others.

  • Too small.
  • Too wrong.
  • Too mean.
  • Too doubting.
  • Too old.

What do you think disqualifies you?

If God did not disqualify Sarah, then God won’t disqualify you. So, today, why not pray the following prayer that expressed what Sarah might have prayed.

God, for too long I have viewed myself as too small, too inconsequential, too insignificant for You to use. I see now that you delight to use the little guy in big ways. So, where are you sending me? Here I am. Send me!

Lord, I’ve been wrong over and over and over again and again. I’ve believed a lie – that my wrongs have disqualified me from taking risks to serve You. But I’m beginning to see that the only people You can work through are people who have done wrong. We all have done wrong. Now, because of Christ’s work on the cross, I believe You will cleanse me of my wrongdoing. Guard me, O Lord.  May Your rightness outshine my wrongness. Amen.

Lord, You know I’ve done many mean things. I’ve said mean words. Would You cleanse me? Would You give me grace to seek forgiveness from those that I’ve hurt? Please forgive me for allowing my meanness to be an excuse for not serving You. You’ve always blessed mean people. So, please bless me.

Dear Lord, I do believe in You. Now, help me believe You. I believe. Help my unbelief. Help me to trust Your nature, character, and goodness. I believe that no good thing will you withhold from those who walk up rightly. Give me the ability to find promises in Your word and to claim them for Your glory and my good.

Lord, for too long I have used the excuse that I am used up and too old. Teach me to believe that You’re not only the God of the young and energetic but that You are the God of the old and the weak. You delight in taking those that the culture would leave behind and accomplishing great things through them. So, Lord, take my older hands and feet and mouth and mind and heart and do mighty things for Your glory through me.

Now, add you own words to this prayer.

Express your heart to God in your own way in and in your own words.

What a God we serve. He makes the disqualified qualified. That’s the gospel!

New Faith & Old Promises

by Rick Duncan, CVC Founding Pastor

Risk-taking faith sees the invisible, believes the incredible, and receives the impossible

A story for the young… and the old

Before the Jewish nation was ever born, a young man fell in love with the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. Abraham (and just about everyone else) thought Sarai was simply stunning. The young couple married and lived happy, carefree lives as most lovers do waiting for the birth of their first child.

Months and years went by, but still no baby. They began to hate the inevitable question, “When are you going to have children?”

Then one day, Abraham heard the voice of God, “Leave your people and go to the land of Canaan. There I will give you a home and make you a great nation.” So, with disappointment because of past infertility and with hopes for a fruitful future, this couple left everything familiar behind and moved to Canaan land.

As they traveled through the strange new land with their flocks, herds, and servants seeking to settle into a permanent home, a king noticed that Sarai – even though older now – was a dazzling beauty. The king wanted her for his own harem. Abraham thought, “If I say she’s my wife, they might kill me. If I say she’s my sister, they’ll spare my life.” But before the king had slept with Sarai, he and his family became terribly ill. Somehow God revealed to the king that the illness had come because Sarah was not free for him to have – that she was already a married woman. The king quickly sent her back to Abraham.

In spite of Abraham’s foolish scheme, God kept the couple safe.

But still they waited and waited for their baby to be born. And God made yet another promise to Abraham, “You will be the father of a multitude.” More months and years passed. Still Sarai’s womb was closed. Had God forgotten His promise?

Sarai began to think, “What if I gave my maid servant, Hagar, to my husband? Perhaps she will get pregnant and we could raise her child as our son.” That was not God’s plan. But Sarai had grown impatient. She did give her husband freedom to be with Hagar and sure enough, Hagar did give birth to Abraham’s son, Ishmael. But Sarai grew jealous and her heart turned against Hagar her servant. Sarai drove Hagar and Ishmael away and into the wilderness.

What was once the ideal couple with hopes for a bright future had now become a family filled with heartache, drama, and conflict. Not only did they stay childless, but their love had grown cold. Plus, they still roamed in the land of Canaan with no permanent home. It seemed like God would not keep His promise.

This is ridiculous! It’s impossible!

Then God made yet another promise to Abraham, “At this time next year, Sarai will have a baby boy.” Sarai overheard the messenger and she laughed, “I’ve heard this before. God has made this promise one too many times. You’re not going to get my hopes up. I’m totally past childbearing age. This is ridiculous! It’s impossible!”

What’s impossible to us is possible for God. To make the point, God even changed Sarai’s name from Sarai – a name that means “my princess” signifying that she’s Abraham’s princess or one family’s princess – to Sarah, a name that means “princess at large” or “mother of nations” signifying that she’s everyone’s princess, that a King for everyone will one day come from her.  

We don’t know the whole story, but somehow Sarah began to not only believe God but to believe God. Sure enough, Sarah, miraculously, found herself expecting a child. She gave birth to a baby boy. They named him Isaac, which means “He laughs.” God fulfilled His promise and He filled their house with laughter. Sarah lived a long, full, grateful, faith-filled life for 37 more years after little Isaac was born.

The Bible tells the rest of the story. Baby Isaac grew up and married the love of his life, Rebecca. They had two sons, Esau and Jacob. Jacob blessed the world with 12 sons who became the leaders of the 12 tribes of Israel.

After waiting for such a very long time, Abraham and Sarah indeed finally became father and mother of a great nation. God kept His promise after all.

Remember God’s promise was to do something great for more than just Abraham and Sarah? God had promised to bless the world through them. And He did – after His people had waited for a long, long time. You see, one of their offspring – their great, great, great, great, great, great, great… Grandson became the Savior of the world. His name was Jesus. By grace through faith, everyone who believes in Him will be saved.

Sarah teaches us that faith pleases God and that He rewards those who seek Him. Faith waits on God. Risk-taking faith sees the invisible, believes the incredible, and receives the impossible.   

Mexico Medical Missions

by Dahlia Orth, CVC Missions Coordinator

At CVC, we support a wide variety of missionaries who serve across many different countries overseas. Often times people ask me about the missionaries we support and what they are doing. I am excited to highlight our missionaries, Eric and Sheena Kramer and provide a little insight into their ministry with Mexico Medical Missions. 

People often ask me about ways to be involved with our missionaries. One of the best ways to do that is through prayer efforts.

I first met Eric and Sheena Kramer this year when they came to a mission meeting here at CVC. Prior to that time, the only communication and contact I had with them was via web. Eric and Sheena were serving overseas in Samachique, Mexico with Mexico Medical Missions. They serve an unreached people group called the Tarahumara people.

The Tarahumara people are an indigenous group who are afraid of much and do not trust easily. They have their own heart language which only a small percentage of people can speak fluently. While on the field, Eric served as an anesthesiologist in a local clinic and his wife Sheena raised their young family. Eric provided care in a wide range of areas including surgical services within the operating room. 

Tarahumara from Pioneers-USA on Vimeo.

Eric and Sheena served in Mexico until recently. They came back to the states for a brief period of time to allow Eric to earn his degree in family medicine nursing. This degree will provide them even more opportunity to serve the Tahurmara people with medical care. Additionally, they hope to open a clinic there when they return. They are in process of fundraising for the clinic project while Eric is completing his schooling here in the states.

People often ask me about ways to be involved with our missionaries. One of the best ways to do that is through prayer efforts. They have seen much answered prayer, both on the field and here in the states. They need your continual prayer and support for both their time in the states and the work that they are preparing to go back and do in Mexico as well. Here are some specific ways that you can pray for them: 

  • For a new teaching job for Sheena while here in the states. They were informed recently that the job they believed she would have is no longer available. 
  • Eric is beginning his clinical for school soon. He has not experienced a great amount of crossover experience and training from being an anesthesiologist. He is in a Spanish-speaking only clinic and needs continued wisdom and understanding while learning new materials.
  • Continued spiritual well-being while they are here in the states and prepare to go back to the field after Eric completes his schooling. 
  • The Mexico Medical team in the recent loss of their friend and colleague Bob Hudson who passed away in a plane crash.

 

Don’t Waste Your Life

by Chad Allen, Lead Pastor

Hello risk takers for Jesus!  As our church emphasizes taking greater spiritual, relational, conversational and financial risks for Christ, one of the tools we would like to add to the mix is a recommended read to go along with the theme of risk taking and to offer additional support material around some of the teaching series. 

The first book we’re recommending is John Piper’s Don’t Waste Your Life.  Hopefully the title alone is intriguing enough for you to download or buy this book and add it to your spiritual growth efforts this quarter.

There are many good reads out there that can help spur us on to be greater risk takers for the Gospel, to help us be more faithful as every day missionaries, to love people and engage them when they come into our “three foot zone”.  Also, to be more proactive as LifeHouses as we pray, care and share with our neighbors. 

Don’t Waste Your Life is an exceptionally motivating read because John Piper weaves together our call to live life to glorify God, Christ’s challenge to pick up our cross and die to self while compassionately confronting our fleshly default to comfort, pleasure and spiritually fruitless pursuits that can unintentionally culminate into a “wasted life”. 

Simply put, Don’t Waste Your Life is a call to take risk for the sake of the Gospel in order to make our lives count for eternity, which is exactly what we’re being challenged to do.

In the Preface on page 10, Piper states, “If you live gladly to make others glad in God, your life will be hard, your risks will be high, and your joy will be full. This is not a book about how to avoid a wounded life, but how to avoid a wasted life. Some of you will die in the service of Christ. That will not be a tragedy. Treasuring life above Christ is a tragedy.”

So take the risk of reading this book with an open heart and desire God to keep pushing you beyond your comfort.  May God push you toward the capacity He has put in you to live this life for Him.

Pr@yers for SOLI

by Joe Valenti, CVCMissions Pastor

Pray for us also, that God may open to us a door for the Word, to declare the mystery of Christ. Colossians 4:3

I have been reading a book called Warrior of Ethiopia. It tells the story of a missionary couple and the dangerous work of taking the good news to the unreached tribes of Ethiopia. One story that I have been sharing recently is one of two sisters, 11 and 12 years old, who committed their lives to prayer for 5 of the unreached tribes in Southern Ethiopia.

A missionary had come to their little, country church and they took his prayer card. They asked him for the names of 5 tribes that had not yet heard the gospel and they wrote those names on the back of the card. They were diligent in their prayers and when the missionary returned to their church some years later, he was thrilled to share with them that all five of the tribes had been reached with the story of Jesus and that thousands had come to faith in him. 

Over the past few years, Cuyahoga Valley Church (CVC) has adopted an unreached people group on an Island that we call Pearl Island. Pearl is, quite literally, on the other side of the world. We realize that not everyone from CVC will be able to make the trip to share the gospel with the SOLI people. Our heart is that many would make that trip over the next many years, but we realize that it is not feasible for everyone. This leaves us with an important question:

How can 100% of the people at Cuyahoga Valley Church share in the mission to the unreached on Pearl Island?

Here is the answer – Prayer.

Prayer is the power behind T&K, our partners on the ground, and prayer is the power behind all of those from CVC that will make that trip to Pearl Island both in 2017 and in the years to come. 

Prayer is a power that moves the Holy Spirit to cause people to respond to the gospel when they hear  it. 

So, CVC, we need to be praying for our partners on Pearl Island. Here are 10 prayers to pray for T&K, their team, and the SOLI people. 

  1. Pray that the new SOLI believers would grow in their faith in the midst of persecution and adversity.
  2. Pray for the national team of Indonesians’ spiritual health, physical health, and continued boldness to share the gospel.  
  3. Pray that God would send dreams and visions to the SOLI guiding them to respond to the good news when it is presented to them.
  4. Pray for T&K to set up healthy boundaries with their family in order to stay connected to one another and to God.
  5. Pray for the SOLI Bible translation project to be funded and for the translation process to go smoothly. 
  6. Pray against the attacks of the enemy who strives to cause disunity and bring persecution.
  7. Pray for the first SOLI church to be planted in 2017.
  8. Pray for T&K’s future teammates – S &M – who are currently studying the language before they launch onto the field. 
  9. Pray for the CVC team that are going to Pearl Island in 2017 – that these teams would prepare well and that God would prepare them for action.
  10. Pray that T&K’s visas would be processed smoothly and without complications. 

I’ll close with this. D.L. Moody once said, “Every work of God can be traced to some kneeling form.” Let there be a mighty work of God on Pearl Island, and let it be traced back to the people of CVC committed to prayer. 

 “Every work of God can be traced to some kneeling form.” – D.L. Moody

 

Being a Financial Risk Taker

by Ron Dick, LifeGroup Leader

A little over 8 years ago, I asked my father-in-law for his blessing as I planned to propose. Much like my wedding vows, I promised that I would honor, cherish and love his daughter for the rest of my life. He gave me a big hug along with his approval. 

Can you imagine how that interaction would have gone if I had promised to love, honor and cherish his youngest child only 10% of the time if I had extra after my needs were met? I’m pretty sure that instead of his blessing he would have given me a stern lecture. Why? Because my idea of caring for my wife would have been vastly different than what he would expect from someone to whom he would entrust his precious daughter.

This humorous example illustrates how many Christians approach finances. As with most everything in life, our financial behaviors are driven by what’s important to us. The world will tell you that you should make more money, live securely in retirement, provide for your family and have nice things. While these goals make sense, I believe there is a larger purpose for our finances.

In the Old Testament, King David was eager to build a temple for God. However, God decided that such a task would be better suited to David’s son, Solomon. Knowing that Solomon was young, inexperienced and the work was great, David raised the capital and gathered all the materials so that the temple would be ready to be built. (1 Chronicles 28-29)

As David prayed in anticipation of the temple, we discover his ultimate intention:

 “But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you.” (1 Chronicles 29:14)

For David, everything in life was about God. He believed it all came from God and belonged to God. He understood that he was a steward, entrusted to manage the resources given to him, not for his benefit, but for God’s benefit. David’s purpose was to honor God with all that he had. 

What if you chose to have faith as David did and allow your personal finances to be driven by one thing – honoring God? What if you stepped out of your comfort zone and became a financial risk taker for God? What would this look like?

 Could you sacrificially increase your giving? Would you invest in being a LifeHouse to your neighborhood? Would you eliminate your debt in order to increase your generosity? Could you take time off from work to go on mission? Would you be more aware of what other people need and more content with what you already have? 

God wants us to live beyond our comfort zone, to unleash the potential of His design in us, to live to the capacity for which He has built us and that means risk. If you are not sure where to begin, start with a simple, sincere prayer, “God, show me how to honor you with everything I have.” Then, in faith, be obedient to how He calls you.

If you need help with your finances or are simply looking to learn Biblical and practical steps to managing your money, Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University is a 9-week study that will be held Wednesdays at 7 pm beginning January 25th. For more information regarding the class or cost, you can attend the free, preview class at 7 pm on January 18th or email coordinators Michael Kubach (mpk6.cwru@gmail.com) or Ron Dick (rondick44-FPU@yahoo.com).

Saving Faith Works

by Rick Duncan, Founding Pastor

As we launch our new series on risk-taking faith, it’s important to understand the connection between faith and works.

Pastor Jeff Ziolkowski preached a powerful message to launch our new series, Risk Takers. He quoted from Hebrews 11 and James 2 and taught us how faith leads us to take risks and how risk-taking requires us to do good works for God’s glory.

Someone came to me after Jeff’s message and asked a question: “Rick, you’ve taught us that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. So, how do works fit into the picture?”

Let’s take a quick look at a famous passage that connects saving faith and good works.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 2:8-10

And if you will get these verses correct, you will never get skewed. You will never get confused.

Remember your high school English class? Remember what a preposition is? There are three key prepositions here. If we will keep them straight, we will keep our theology straight. To keep the faith-and-works relationship biblically correct, remember 3 prepositions: 

These three prepositions are: by, through, and for. Let’s say them: “by, through, for.” Say them one more time:  “by, through, for.”

We are saved by grace through faith for good works.

If we have real faith, it is going to be for good works. We are not saved by good works. We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works. Again, we are not saved by good works. We are saved for good works.

You cannot save yourself. Good works, a little or a lot, don’t save. They don’t help save. You could no more save yourself by good works than if you were drowning could reach up with your hand, take yourself by the hair, and lift yourself out of the water. 

We are saved by grace alone through faith alone, but the grace that saves through faith never stays alone. We are not saved by faith and works, but we are saved by a faith that works.

Is this a Paul vs. James issue? No! James is not pitting works against faith. Paul isn’t pitting faith against works. They are both fighting against a professed faith that is false.

Are we saved by our works? No. Are you crystal clear on this teaching? It’s His work apart from your works that saves you. But once you have been saved, then the proof of that salvation is good works. Faith alone saves. But the faith that saves is not alone. 

  • Faith is the root of salvation. Works are the fruit of salvation.
  •  Faith is invisible, the root beneath the ground. Works are visible, the fruit above the ground.
  • Faith is the foundation of our faith. Our work is the building that is built on that foundation.
  • Faith is inward. Works are outward.
  • Faith is the provision of our salvation. Works are the proof of our salvation.
  • Faith is the means of our salvation. Works are the marks of our salvation.

So, in 2017, let’s all live by faith. Let’s all take risks. Let’s all do good works. Not because they will save us, but because we are saved! The risk-taking will prove it!

 And, as Pastor Jeff said, let’s not settle for small steps. Take a big leap of faith. Go out on a limb for Jesus in 2017. Why? That’s where the fruit is!