Friday, February 01, 2008


Believe On Jesus

(1) Fall Upon the Cross, (2) Fall Into His Arms, (3) Rest On the Rock

Fall Upon the Cross "Fall Into His Arms" "Rest On the Rock"

(Click on a picture to read a little more about it.)

By Ramone - January 25-26, 2008 (poem - February 1st)
Believe on Jesus
Fall upon His cross
There for our crimes He died
Gave pardon through His loss
Cast your whole hope and life
Your everything must fall
At the foot of the cross
Receive His life, His all

Believe on Jesus
Fall into His arms
In His loving embrace
Find safety from all harm
Give Him all of yourself
Your junk, your flaws, your sin
Trust in His hold on you
And not your grip on Him

Believe on Jesus
Rest upon the Rock
His strength overcomes weakness
In Him put all your stock
Rest your whole life on Him
He's the Rock, not you
Know peace complete, secure
His faithfulness is true

These pictures came one day when I was meditating on the book of James. Chapter 2 of James is sometimes considered "difficult" because it seems to contradict how we are saved by faith in Christ's work instead of by our works (*see note below). To summarize what I've learned from reading the book in context, James lashed out at hypocrisy in the church. A careful study of Paul's writings finds both apostles in complete agreement. The "deeds" that James speaks of are the outworking of faith, the deeds of faith (not of the Law), and they do not negate that we are saved by Christ's grace through faith.

As I was thinking of this, I remember that older English expression of believing in Jesus which says, "Believe on Jesus." I remember once hearing a pastor make a big fuss about the difference between believing "in" and believing "on" Jesus. I didn't quite see his point and thought it was a little too nitpicky. (**see note below)

But as I thought of it in the context of James -- about believing God enough to actually trust in God with your whole life, including your actions -- it made sense! Believe "on" Jesus -- cast your whole life on Him! And one, two, three, these pictures came and illustrated it, helping me understand visually what it means to believe "on" Jesus!

(First sketch on January 15, 2008)



(*) About James: Probably one of the biggest problems with James is when Christians read the "works" he talks about as if he is talking about the works of the Law, when in fact he is not. This is clear because of the two examples of "faith & works" he mentions -- Abraham sacrificing Isaac (forbidden clearly by the Law) and Rahab the prostitute lying to the Jericho authorities (lying was forbidden by law, as was prostitution). The works James speak of are clearly the works of faith, the result of listening to the Holy Spirit. James speaks of the "law that gives freedom", which we know from the book of Romans is not the law of Moses, but rather the law of the Spirit (see Romans 8). The law of the Spirit gives us freedom, but our receiving of Christ's grace is conditional upon on being willing to give the same freedom to others -- to live in the grace He's given us and extend it to those who have wronged us. Refusing to give grace leaves little grace for us (James 2:12-13).

James does not speak of works or actions in a way that "balances" faith. Rather, James distinguishes between hypocritical faith and true faith -- hypocritical faith professes belief, but true faith trusts God with one's whole life (compare James 2:20-24 with Hebrews 11:17-19, and indeed all of Hebrews 11!). James shows that we must trust God enough (and listen to His Spirit) that we will follow Him when He asks us to do things that don't appear to make sense (such as Abraham sacrificing Isaac), and in context, James urges us to live a life of love by stretching out with our whole lives on behalf of the poor and needy. In particular, James urges that we do not profess belief and act contrary to the Spirit of love. Acting contrary to the Spirit of love, he argues, shows that we do not possess a saving faith.

(**) About believing "on" Jesus: I looked it up in the Greek, and often (especially in Romans) it does say believe "on" Jesus, however, the point may only be a matter of Greek grammar using a different word in different grammatical situations. All the same, the difference between the English "in" and "on" is helpful in illustrating the full faith and trust that James speaks of, that Paul includes in "calling on the Lord", and the life of faith that Jesus invites us to.

Ramone, this is really a blessing to get the concept of faith vs. works down in picture form! Bless you for receiving God's heart on this to makes James clearer!

In His great love,
Regarding James 2:

In musing about this tonight after reading a certain article, I began to realize that in God's sight, "justification" is a little different than it is in ours. We tend to think of justification in terms of time, so we look for the "point in time" in which we were justified. And to an extent that is really real and important to understand.

But then of course James 2 comes along and seems to contradict the timing of justification. Paul had written of it as at the moment of belief. James seemed to put it later after works. Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians have tried to sort of bridge the two apparent differences by syncretizing them into the idea of an "ongoing justification". However, as believers in the reformation rightly point out, that idea undercuts past justification completely and ultimately places everything on works.

What struck me tonight in re-reading what I wrote above is that God often repeated His promises. If you look at His dealings with Abraham in Genesis, He re-stated His promise(s) several times. And each time it seemed like He was stating things for the first time! At the first promise, His promise was true. But then later He restated it. And after Abraham did something like sacrificing Isaac, He again re-stated it. In fact, what Abraham did confirmed further that what God had promised was true! It showed that what God had promised at first was already being fulfilled.

I believe it is in this sense that we should begin to understand the two "timings" of justification in the writings of Paul and James. Just as God's promise to Abraham was no more or less true the first time it was spoken or the second time it was spoken, in the same way Abraham was no more or less justified the first time (by faith) or the later time (by the expression of his faith in sacrificing Isaac).

To put it another way, we can ask, "Was Abraham FULLY justified by faith the first time?" And we can rightly answer YES. And then we can ask, "Was Abraham justified by expressing (leaning on) faith the later time?" And we can rightly answer YES.

I hope this makes sense. In another example, we see God re-stating the (old) covenant over and over to the nation of Israel. Or in the New Covenant, we see everyone continually partaking of is covenant in His body and blood. In that case, Christ was sacrificed only once. But we continue partaking of what He sacrificed that one time. In a similar way, Abraham only needed to believe once. But he would continue partaking of God through faith for the rest of his life (even faith expressing itself in works).
All of this previous comment mainly addresses only the question of the "timing" of justification. However, as can be seen by the context of James 2 (and the wider context of the whole book), James does mention "faith AND works".

Thus what I wrote above in my notes to the pictures & poem is, I believe, James' main point: Actions that contradict a profession of faith show that the faith is bogus. Hypocrisy disproves faith. James opposes a mental-assenting "faith" that does not take hold of your whole life. (And you don't have to read Paul with a microscope to see that Paul is also opposed to such a dead "faith".)

James' usage of "faith" and "works" is simply a little different than Paul's. James is talking about an unholy separation of profession of faith from actually giving your whole self to God. Paul generally doesn't go into that kind of thing (and when he does, such as in Romans 3 & 6, he only briefly mentions it because it should be so "obvious" to his readers that further comment isn't needed).

In other words, Paul speaks of "faith versus works". James, however, speaks only about faith, per say: Real faith, and fake faith. The "works" James speaks of are contained as part of faith. You could say that James gives an "in-house" discussion on "faith". He's not reverting back to "works" as a means of attaining or completing justification. Instead he screams about how hypocrisy shows that your faith isn't worth jack.

The gospel demands a response, a surrender, a "falling on" God with your life, not only your mind! Love Him with everything you've got (that's the greatest commandment). We could say it another way: Believe in Him with everything you've got--your mind, soul, heart, and your actions.

We are three-part beings (spirit, soul, and body). If we were only spirit and soul, then mental belief would be enough. But we were gifted with bodies and we live in a physical world. God wants all of us. He wants us to believe with all our parts. If we "have faith" only with our souls, then we are shortcutting faith, because God doesn't just want our souls. He wants all of us.
...The great irony to this, of course, is what James points out. That if we think we can give God our minds --just give Him "soul" and not body's actions-- then we are kidding ourselves, and it shows that our souls aren't actually saved.

Of course, as mentioned already, the wider context of James shows that he is talking about love and obedience to the Spirit of God. Not to a fixed list of laws or some external "evidence" of our salvation. As 1st John points out (which, by the way, is a book that really goes well with James!), we must be willing to let His love flow through us.

We don't have to worry about how much external "evidence" we have of that, by the way. As Paul wrote elsewhere, "If the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have." And we know that in terms of the necessary amount of "faith", we only need have the size of a mustard seed to see mountains move. If we are willing or want to be willing (or are willing to ask Him to make us willing!), we can trust that He will move whatever "mountains" we have in our souls and lives that block our view of Him.

We don't have to worry about how much "external evidence" we have because at our first justification, everything is complete. We were justified in what Christ has done for us. You could say that while our timing of "believing" had a beginning point in time (in our lives when we first believed), our justification has grounded itself at Calvary 2000 years ago. Christ has entered heaven itself and presented His blood there. He is our anchor in the Most Holy Place, as Hebrews puts it. In other words, because our justification is in God, it has moved to a point that is outside of time, just as God is outside of time. Because of this God can say that we were justified when we first believed, and we are justified today.

It's not an "ongoing" justification, like it was a little less complete yesterday compared to today when it became more full. We were fully justified yesterday, and we are fully justified today. And in Him, we will be fully justified tomorrow! (>_<) Let's call this a "living justification"! (>_<)

[In fact, I notice that I cannot speak of this in a static way -- just as facts. To explain this I must begin to speak in second person, to YOU, to SOMEONE. This is not a bare communication of information. This is speaking something that is LIVING! It only comes alive as it is spoken from one living person to another in real life, in real situation, in real CALL and real ACCEPTANCE. To try and iron it out as information tends to kill it. It becomes more clear as it is "moving", as it is applied in life. I believe this really illustrates how His "word" is living and active! To make it as if it were an inactive thing makes it NOT His word!] (>_<)

Believe in Him, believe on Him. Trust Him. If you find some part of you that is afraid, give it to Him. Ask Him to take it. Ask Him to make you willing to be made willing to let Him have it, to even let Him change you. And trust that He will do what He has promised. He will sanctify you. Yet you are also already sanctified in Him. In Him, everything is already finished, and you are hidden in Him (Colossians 3:3).

The gospel demands a response. So respond. And as you first believe, know that that mustard seed of faith is enough. You ARE fully justified in Him. Now let Him pierce your heart! (>_<)

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