by Mike Ratliff
10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. John 15:10 (NASB)
This walk before our Lord must be by faith, but it is an active faith. This active faith is fulfilled only by being obedient to our Lord’s commands empowered by the Holy Spirit. When we obey Him by keeping His commandments this way then we are abiding in Him. In fact, Jesus gives each of His sheep commands to keep as signs to others that they are true branches. What do you suppose is the essence of Jesus’ command to His disciples? Isn’t it to love each other? (John 13:35) Jesus modeled this command for us. As a result of His keeping this command, He remained in the Father’s love. Therefore, if His sheep keep this command, they will remain in Jesus’ love.
Some Christians seem to be all about faith, but are very lacking in works. On the other hand, others are all about works, but we will never catch them stepping out on faith. Neither faith nor works can be ignored. When preachers and teachers emphasize works and neglect faith they actually shield the truth of how we are joined to Christ and become branches of him. As a result, their followers resort to works. Many years ago I heard a very popular SBC preacher on the radio preach on discouragement. His advice for Christians to pull out of the deeps was to work harder at doing good works. He said, “We can work our way to feeling better a lot quicker than we can feel our way to working harder.” I had been a Christian about 5 or 6 years at that point and it sounded right to me. I point to that advice as one the bricks in the wall that blocked me from walking by faith for over a decade.
On the other hand, when preachers and teachers teach only about faith, churches become full of false believers. The pendulum has swung in this direction in the American Church for well over a century. People are declared to be saved because they had “believed” and prayed a sinner’s prayer according to a specific formula. When doubt comes, and it always does, these poor souls are counseled to simply keep believing by looking back at their “faith” when they prayed and became converted. They pray, are baptized and are called Christians, but since they are totally lacking in the fruit that genuine branches of Christ bear, they are obviously disingenuous believers. Their leaders never place the requirement of “evidence” of a regenerated heart as a requirement for membership in their churches. Therefore, numbers are revealed as far more important than trusting in the work of the Holy Spirit in saving those chosen by God. These churches are full of hypocrites because the majority of their members are devoid of the power of God in their lives because they are converts rather than regenerated believers.
I have looked at my writing over the years to see if I was overly biased towards faith or towards works. I noticed that sometimes I emphasize faith and sometimes I emphasize works. However, I try to balance the two. Genuine faith will produce good works. Good works are evidence of a regenerated heart. This is one reason that, even though I am a Calvinist, I refuse to sever fellowship with other Christians who are not Reformed. If I see the evidences of God’s good works in any professing Christian’s heart then they are my brothers and sisters in Christ. Being Reformed is not a prerequisite for saving faith. If that was the case then I wouldn’t have been saved. I know many non-Reformed professing believers who are 100% certain that all Calvinists are going to Hell and I know many Reformed professing believers who are 100% certain that all Arminians are going to Hell. I find that this is good example of the being out of balance between works and faith. The Totally Reformed bunch emphasize works to the detriment of faith while the Totally Arminian bunch emphasize faith to the detriment of works. I will not mention the Pelagian bunch very much because I fear that most of them are not Christian because they tend to be moralists.
I heard John MacArthur in an interview many years ago say that we should never sever fellowship over the Reformed vs. Arminian issue. He is right. Instead, shouldn’t we be very concerned over being properly balanced by preaching both works and faith? We should always look for the evidences of a regenerated heart in new believers, which are the good works that naturally flow from those abiding in Christ by obeying Him. We should never take the profession of faith as being valid from any “believer” whose works consist only of being religious. Do they love the brethren? Do they love the Lord their God with an ever-increasing devotion? Are they constantly being convicted of a lack of personal holiness in their lives? Does their sin break their hearts? Are they growing in grace? Are they becoming separate from the world?
We must teach and preach the truth. The sheep in our care must be those who deeply desire to remain in the vine. This is clear evidence of authenticity. To them, we must teach them to trust in Christ by faith, and to put their faith into action in their everyday lives. When we do this, aren’t we teaching them to be properly balanced and aren’t we revealing our own balance to them as a sign of our own authenticity?
Thy will be done my Dear Heavenly Father!
Soli Deo Gloria!