Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Easy Like Friday Afternoon: A Manifesto on Hard-Believism

Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
-- Matthew 7:13-14 (in the King's English)

When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, "Who then can be saved?" But Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."
-- Matthew 19:25-26

It is still scandalous to say what the Scriptures say, which is that no man who doesn't take up his cross is worthy of Jesus (Mt. 10:38). Many are they who want to extrapolate from sola fide to something that is not fide at all. They assume oddly that because faith alone justifies, real faith may be alone, unaccompanied by works, or that the sum total of salvation is justification alone and not also sanctification.

We saw this in the relatively recent "Lordship salvation" debate, in which many solid Reformed brothers helpfully affirmed the classic doctrine of "faith alone" while also affirming what the Bible both says and implies: saved people are changed people. To have Jesus as Savior is to have him as Lord. It is not legalism to say the new birth begins a new life. Yes, we still battle the flesh -- crucifying it daily -- but this in itself is a change from the old life, in which we cared nothing about battling the flesh. We still have sin in us, but we are conscious of it, convicted about it, and concerned to be rid of it. This is not works salvation; this is the fruit of salvation.

Obeying the commands of God does not save us, but it is the way we prove saved. This is the testimony from Abraham onward to the new covenant. It is the testimony of James -- So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead (2:17) -- and of Jesus himself -- "If you love me, you will keep my commandments" (John 14:15).

What self-professing "easy-believists" think is that they are upholding the free gift of grace by insisting one can believe without actually changing, that one can have the benefits of Christ's salvation without actually worshiping him as Lord, and some will charge the "hard-believists" with being scandalized by grace. This is because easy-believists are doctrinally dense and categorically confused. They say all one needs to be justified is belief -- which is true -- but they are hard pressed to define what belief is. They cannot explain how one can trust without, you know, actually trusting. Trust for the easy-believist becomes an idea, not an actuality. It is something intellectual, or less. The "faith" of the easy-believist means Hebrews 11 should consist of only ellipses. John Calvin says faith is an empty vessel, but it is held up to be filled. The easy-believist's faith may be called a fog, except even a fog is visible.

Martin Luther -- who nobody with any integrity can charge with legalism -- ran up against this problem himself, writing:
"Faith is not something dreamed, a human illusion although this is what many people understand by the term. Whenever they see that it is not followed either by an improvement in morals or by good works, while much is still being said about faith, they fall into the error of declaring that faith is not enough, that we must do works if we are to become upright and attain salvation. The reason is that when they hear the gospel they miss the point. In their hearts and out of their own resources they conjure up an idea which they call belief which they treat as genuine faith. All the same, it is but a human fabrication, an idea without a corresponding experience in the depths of the heart. It is therefore ineffective and not followed by a better kind of life..."

-- Commentary on Romans
Commenting on this, John MacArthur goes on to say about the easy-believist's notion of faith, "It's not faith at all. They just call it faith." Luther again:
"Faith, however, is something that God effects in us. It changes us and we are reborn from God. Faith puts the old Adam to death and makes us quite different men in heart, in mind and in all our powers. And it is accompanied by the Holy Spirit. Oh, when it comes to faith, what a living creative active powerful thing it is. It cannot do other than good at all times. It never waits to ask whether there is some good work to do, rather before the question is raised, it has done the deed and keeps on doing it. A man not active in this way is a man without faith. He is groping about for faith and searching for good works but knows neither what faith is nor what good works are. Nevertheless he keeps on talking nonsense about faith and good works. It is impossible indeed to separate works from faith just as it is impossible to separate heat and light from fire."
And there's the key! Not only does the easy-believist hold to a faith that is essentially Jello, only less substantial, while claiming to hold more firmly to a scandalous grace, he also underestimates grace.

I am a hard-believist. I am a hard-believist because I take Jesus at his word when he says easy is the way to destruction and hard (or narrow, if you prefer) is the way to life. I am a hard-believist because I take him at his word when he says that with man, being saved is impossible. I am a hard-believist because I believe salvation isn't easy: it requires the death of Christ. It requires new birth. (Anybody know what a baby has to do to be born?) It requires nothing short of Spiritual intervention. It requires quickening, resurrection, cured blindness and healed deafness, a softened heart -- none of which we can do for ourselves. We need radical intervention. We need the command of God, "Let there be light!" We are helpless to be saved. We simply can't do it. Paul writes in Romans 8:7, "For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot."

We require rescue. If it were easy to believe, more people would do it.

I am a hard-believist not because I think we have to do things to be saved, but because we can't do things to be saved. I am a hard-believist not because I think life change is required for salvation but because life change is required of those who are saved. I am a hard-believist not because I deny grace, but because I affirm it. This is what I mean:

In the end, the essential trust here is not that our "life change" justifies us, but that those whom God justifies, he sanctifies. We trust that God is pleased to credit Christ's perfect righteousness to our account, but that he is also pleased to actually make us righteous, to faithfully complete the work he began in us, to Spiritually plant and grow righteousness in our lives. The Bible calls this fruit, and it is by this fruit that we are known as Christians. This is not a denial of grace, but an affirmation of real grace, of the only grace there is, which is the grace that comes in the gospel that is power.

The grace by which we are saved does not stop at enabling some philosophical ghost we would like to call "faith"; it is the power by which we are saved and being saved (1 Cor. 15:1-2). Grace powers justifying faith and grace powers corroborating good works. Grace powers new life.

The easy-believist, on the other hand, posits a de-powered grace, a grace effectual for a belief that requires no according action, a faith that needs no evidence, a new birth that leaves us stillborn. Their gospel is Sanka. It's near-beer. Friends, don't mess with that stuff. The free grace of God is transforming.

34 comments:

Gabe said...

There's a saying you might be familiar with,

"This will preach."

Wow. You outdid yourself in showing Jesus.

Patrick Mitchell said...

"...a grace effectual for a belief that requires no according action, a faith that needs no evidence, a new birth that leaves us stillborn."

That last line especially is a disturbing image. And it should be as an analogy for God's grace being abandoned to nothing more than a seat saved in glory--if the seat will be there at all.

Thanks for this Jared. Powerful words that I plan to share.

David Regier said...

Here's what has helped me sort this out:

Professing is easy. Confessing is hard. But professing is work. Confessing is a humble acknowledgment of truth.

That's why the confession that Jesus Christ is Lord (Rom 10:9) saves, but the profession of all we've done in His name (Matt 7:22) stores up wrath.

DJ said...

"hard-believism"? It is impossible for man. That's why there is the new birth. Is it hard for a regenerated heart to believe? No. The problem I see with this type of talk is that sensitive brothers & sisters that are genuinely trusting Christ and persevering in sanctification will start to doubt if they "believed hard enough". I think it's unhelpful.

Vitamin Z said...

In some ways I don't understand how we continue to have this debate. James is clear on this is he not? Less quoted would be Titus:

End of chapter 2 - "...waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, [14] who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works."
(Titus 2:13-14 ESV)

Chapter 3 - [8] The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people.
(Titus 3:8 ESV)

Faith and obedience are never to be separated. Not the same in function or progression, but necessary. Romans begins and ends with Paul talking about "the obedience of faith". Another great example. Thanks for this post Jared.

Jared said...

DJ, I counsel such sensitive brothers and sisters regularly. I am preaching on etenral security this very Sunday. It is an issue near and dear to my heart.

But if "this sort of talk" is unhelpful, so is much of the Bible. The command remains: Test yourself to see if you are in the faith. Let's not shy away from it because it's "hard."

Jared said...

Zach, it's amazing to me that this appears still up for debate too. But I sure got into it with a fellow yesterday. He insisted that believing was both "very easy" and that expecting any corresponding life change was denying "faith alone." Boggles the mind.

DJ said...

Then I would say use the warning passages and not slap yet another extra-biblical label on it...

Jared said...

It's just short-hand, like nearly all theological terminology. "Trinity" is extra-biblical.

It's not like I'm printing up T-shirts or anything. :-)

DJ said...

I know... but as a sensitive believer myself, and an ex-fundamentalist (KJO, legalistic standards), this just strikes a nerve. I get a funny twitch when I read stuff like this and it reminds me of days gone by where only the pastor and his wife we holy enough for heaven.

I don't disagree with a faith that works - I think that's pretty clear biblicly. However, IMO, I just think language like this puts the focus on my (horrible) attempts at practical sanctification rather than focus on the good news of Jesus as my positional and objective sanctification (as I Cor 1 tells us he is). If I don't pursue sanctification (works) in light of the gospel then I am doomed.

"Hard-believism" doesn't sound like good news to me. However, when I see warning passages in scripture and I understand them in the light of the gospel and Christ as my sanctification, then I have hope to change and fight my flesh while on the narrow road.

Anonymous said...

Jared: I heard someone quote this equation once.. I think it's pretty much on the ball, and I want to know if you thought so too. It went like this:

Salvation does not = saving faith + works.

Saving faith = salvation + works

Thoughts?

Jared said...

DJ, do you see the gospel in the closing paragraphs of my post? I am saying unequivocally that God is faithful to make us righteous, that our good works are his work. This is not about "trying harder," and indeed if you read through my regular body of work on this site and elsewhere, you will see I am firmly against try-harder.

We are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling . . . but it is God who works in us according to his good pleasure.

Hard-believism is bad news. The intervening free grace of God is good news. You've got that right. I am not saying with this post "try harder;" I'm saying that real grace changes our lives.

Thanks for the opportunities to clarify.

Jared said...

Anonymous, I'm not sure I like that. Perhaps with some explanation/qualification, I would agree.

I do not like the idea of faith "consisting" of (our) works, or the idea that our works contribute in some way to the salvation/saving faith equation. I see works as more the demonstration that the equation works, know what I mean? Like maybe there's some formula for rocket fuel that grace & faith would be involved in, and "works" is the physical movement of the rocket.

I don't know math well enough to know what sign might work well, though. ;-)

Gabe said...

I need to design a Hard Believism shirt. I would wear it.

Josh said...

We aren’t saved because we’re “worthy of Jesus.” We’re saved by the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ which is given as a gift to all who believe, not just to those who are worthy to follow Christ. Your fundamental misunderstanding is the confusion between life as a disciple which is very hard, requires OUR sacrifice and OUR work, and salvation which is a gift purchased by the work of Christ.

It’s not an “odd assumption” that saving faith may not be accompanied by works. It’s a biblical fact. Romans 4:5 says, “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” A man who does NO works whatsoever will be saved if his faith in in Christ. This is because those who are born again understand that our salvation is secured, not by what we do, but by what Christ has done.

If the plan of salvation required us to live a particular way observe some particular religious exercise, then our faith in that “plan of salvation” would require works. If we believe circumcision saves, then proof of that faith would be our circumcision. If we believe that church attendance is what saves, then proof of that faith would be our church attendance. If we REALLY believed that, we’d do it, right?

But the gospel is Christ’s imputed righteousness to all who believe, not because we deserve it but because we’ve received it as a free gift. If we believe Christ has done everything necessary to save us…that nothing we do makes us worthy to receive it, then the proof of that faith is that we stop trying to earn our salvation. Jewish believers in the New Testament stop following the ceremonial law. If Muslim claims to be born again by faith in Christ alone, the proof of that faith would be the forsaking of Islam.

It doesn’t, however, follow that someone who puts his trust in Christ for salvation will necessarily become a regular church attender, or get baptized, or stop getting drunk, or read the bible, or share the gospel. These are all good things, things which the bible commands of us. But each of these things requires our own will, our own effort, our own decision to do. God doesn’t turn us into little robots that automatically do what He tells us when we are born again. We STILL have to make a DAILY decision to die to ourselves to follow Christ. We must decide that we will get up and go to church on Sunday morning instead of sleeping in. We must decide to abstain from sexual sin, and drunkenness, and lying. We must decide to be cheerful givers who don’t live our lives for money. We must decide to share the gospel with the lost, and to read the bible, and to love our neighbors as ourselves.

The bible says plainly, “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” John 1:12-13. Salvation—being born again—doesn’t require our willingness to serve God, to live right or to do works. The only thing we must be willing to do is turn to God in faith and trust Him to save us.

Josh said...

Contrary to your strawman argument that “easy-believists” can’t define what it means to believe, once again, I turn, not to some theologian or man-made “systematic theology,” but to the bible. What did Jesus say it means to believe for salvation? In John 3:14-15, Jesus says: “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” So Jesus says eternal salvation is accomplished in the same manner that temporal rescue from the serpents of fire in Numbers 21. That passage is thus:
5And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread.
6And the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died.
7Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD, and against thee; pray unto the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people.
8And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live.
9And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.
What did the people bitten by the serpents have to do to be saved? Believe God and look to the fiery serpent on the pole. What was the evidence that they believed God? They looked at the fiery serpent on the pole.
What deeds accompanied their belief? They started loving their neighbors, following the law or giving up sin? No, the ONLY “deed” that was required of them was to stop trusting in themselves and look to God for salvation.
You wrongly suggest that those who believe the bible when it says salvation is a free gift requiring no sacrifice on our part think that works don’t matter. Once again, another strawman. The bible teaches that God has prepared works for us to do (Eph. 2:10), but that we will be rewarded for all of our works of eternal value. (1 Cor. 3:10-14). We cannot repay God for our salvation and to pretend to do demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of the gospel, but God, who is just, will reward us for our work for His kingdom. But, contrary to your claim that every believer has works, 1 Corinthians 3:15 says that even a man who has no works of eternal consequence will STILL be saved.
It’s true that James says that faith without works is dead, but you misunderstand what dead faith is. If faith without works is the equivalent of “no saving faith,” then what is the status of our eternal destiny when we have no works. Have you ever gone an hour without works? Your faith was dead. How about a day? A week? A month?

Josh said...

James is not suggesting that our salvation is secured only when we prove our faith by our works. James says, “ But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.” James 2:20-24
So is James saying Abraham was saved when he offered up Isaac? Absolutely not. According to Romans 4:10 says that Abraham’s faith had saved him, even before he was circumsized. Abraham was 99 when he was circumsized, according to Genesis 17 and Isaac had not even been born yet. So Paul says Abraham was made righteous by faith in Genesis 15:6, before he was circumsized and before Isaac had even been promised, yet you think James is saying that Abraham was saved when he added works to his faith? Good thing Abraham didn’t die between Genesis 15:6 and Genesis 22, else his “dead faith” would have condemned him to hell, I suppose.
The addition of works to the gospel is necessary to your “hard-believism” because you claim, falsely, that Jesus said salvation is “hard.” Yesterday, you accused me of “proof-texting,” yet as proof for your assertion that salvation by grace through faith is “hard” for us, you cite no verses but rely on man’s “theology.” But Jesus said no such thing. Jesus compares salvation to looking at a snake on a pole, to eating a piece of bread, to drinking water, and to walking through a gate. Jesus did all that is necessary for us to be saved. We must only believe and trust him, and him alone, to save us. That is “easy-believism” and it is taught in the bible from Genesis 4:26 to Revelation 22:17.
No one disputes that some people might claim to believe but they really don’t. But “easy-believism” doesn’t posit that everyone who claims to believe really does. It says that everyone that does believe will be saved. Period. Stop drawing unbiblical distinctions between “believing” and “believing.” Stop encouraging people to trust in their works as “proof” of their salvation, and tell them to trust in the promise of God made before the world was even created that He would saved ALL those who put their trust in Him. If someone isn’t sure if he’s saved, the answer isn’t to hope that he’s met some vague, undefined standard of life change or submission to Christ’s “Lordship,” the answer is the believe the gospel trust in Christ’s work to save him.

Josh said...

If I’m wrong, it should be easy to answer this: what is the “life change” evident in all “true” believers that isn’t also found in unbelievers? I’ve known lots of “good” Mormons and plenty of “moral” atheists. What, specifically, is the “life change” you’re talking about? Giving up some sin in our lives? Many people give up vices without believing the gospel. Is it being kind and generous to others? Does Ted Turner’s generosity prove his “faith”? Even better, what kind of “life change” might we expect from a seven year old who believes the gospel? To stop sneaking candy and to do his homework diligently? Where was the “life change” in Samson or Lot, men the bible says were saved, but the accounts of their lives are far from complimentary. What of the multitudes of people baptized by John and Jesus’ disciples? If they had this “life change,” why were there only 120 believers together in Acts 1:15? Were all but 120 people who believed the gospel during John and Jesus’ ministry just “easy-believers” who weren’t really saved? Or were they saved people who were more concerned with living their own lives than serving God? Your false “life change” requirement produces false positives from both sides—unbelievers who appear to live decent lives, and believers who are not yet living godly ones.
Finally, if life-change is necessary for faith to save us, why does the bible teach that baptism should happen immediately after a profession of faith? Did Philip require a show of works from the Ethiopian eunich before baptism him in Acts 8? Did Paul wait to see what kind of life change the jailer and his family had before baptizing them in Acts 16?
The only person who truly believes that salvation is by faith alone is the one that will admit that the way we live our lives has NOTHING to do with salvation. We aren’t required to give up some sin or to commit to live a certain way. We aren’t required to go to church, study the bible, or put money in the offering plate. We are required to put our hope for eternal life in the hands of Jesus Christ. Easy for Christ? Absolutely not. Easy for us? Yes, if we can get over our pride in our works and become as children.

Jared said...

Josh, I'm going to answer a few of your questions as a last ditch effort at engaging you. If this does not work, I won't approve any more long, bloated, multiple comments from you. I believe based on our Twitter convo yesterday that you are dense and unteachable. Prove me wrong and we can keep talking.

We aren’t saved because we’re “worthy of Jesus.” We’re saved by the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ

This is another example of your inability to understand what is being written. When I -- and Jesus -- say "you must be worthy of Me," I am referring to the need of Christ's imputed righteousness. I affirm imputation in this post several times, once explicitly and others implicitly. You either aren't reading or you aren't understanding.

Your fundamental misunderstanding is the confusion between life as a disciple which is very hard, requires OUR sacrifice and OUR work, and salvation which is a gift purchased by the work of Christ.

You cannot point to ONE place where I say salvation is purchased by our work. Not one. It's not there. You are choosing to see what's not there, because you don't like that I'm agreeing with the Bible when it says faith must have works to be real faith.

Romans 4:5 says, “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.”

I know you hate having context pointed out to you, but we could each prooftext all day long, yes? Romans 4:5 refers to those attempting to earn salvation; it is not saying obedience is optional. That's antinomianism. Furthermore, the debate here is not on what is counted to us as righteousness, which is what Romans 4:5 addresses, but how faith is shown to be genuine. Faith alone mediates Christ's righteousness to us. I say that over and over, but you ignore it. Where our righteousness comes from is not the same question as how faith is evinced.

(cont)

Jared said...

The bible says plainly, “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” John 1:12-13. Salvation—being born again—doesn’t require our willingness to serve God, to live right or to do works.

You're a lawyer, yes? So why can't you follow an argument put plainly and repeatedly. You can't find ONE place where I've written that our works or willingness to serve earns us the second birth. In fact, my main point throughout this post is that the second birth is wholly the work of the Spirit. Why are you not seeing or ignoring that?

No, the ONLY “deed” that was required of them was to stop trusting in themselves and look to God for salvation.

The looking to the serpent was the evidence of their belief. Looking to Christ is the first evidence of faith. The problem with your view is that belief is a vapor. You imagine some world where one can trust God without actually trusting him.

1 Corinthians 3:15 says that even a man who has no works of eternal consequence will STILL be saved.

And v.14 says works of eternal consequence will be rewarded. It is not consequential that any believers will have no works of eternal consequence, but that all believers will have some of eternal consequence and some of not. The difference -- again, one verse divorced from a passage is not a reliable prooftext -- is works done in faith ("on the foundation").

If faith without works is the equivalent of “no saving faith,” then what is the status of our eternal destiny when we have no works.

No works ever? I am not saved. Good trees produce good fruit. No fruit, no root.

Have you ever gone an hour without works? Your faith was dead. How about a day? A week? A month?

I have gone an hour, a day, a week, even a month probably. My faith was not dead but not exercised.
The problem is that in your view, works are all our efforts. In my view, works are the result of the fruit the Spirit brings forth in our lives. I know you see this as "being robots." I see it as the power and wonder of grace, that God has actually prepared good works for us beforehand for us to walk into. Real faith produces real works. Not perfection, as we are still at war. But progressive sanctification, in which we wrestle (imperfectly) with the flesh as the Spirit (perfectly) sanctifies us over time for the day of Christ Jesus.
And all that beside, my salvation is not contingent on how often/strong my works are, but how strong/complete Christ's was. I am justified by his righteousness, not mine, and while my faith may waver, it is not strong faith that justifies, but true faith.

(cont)

Jared said...

The addition of works to the gospel is necessary to your “hard-believism” because you claim, falsely, that Jesus said salvation is “hard.”

You cannot show anywhere where I said our works earn us salvation. Find one place I say that.

Secondly, even if I grant you that your KJV doesn't render Jesus saying "hard" but "strait/narrow" in Matthew 7:14, the meaning is the same, and further, Jesus didn't just say salvation "with man" is hard in Matthew 19:45, but "impossible." You are the one lying about my use of Scripture. To wit:

as proof for your assertion that salvation by grace through faith is “hard” for us, you cite no verses but rely on man’s “theology.”

There are 8 Scripture references explicitly cited in this post, and several others paraphrased/alluded to. You are not reading.

Stop encouraging people to trust in their works as “proof” of their salvation

I've nowhere done this, and in fact, the body of my work on this blog and in publication contains the repeated, explicit, vehement warning against trusting our works.
You could do a search for "assurance" or "self-righteousness" or the like in this blog to see this.

what is the “life change” evident in all “true” believers that isn’t also found in unbelievers?

The fruit of the Spirit.

Your false “life change” requirement produces false positives from both sides—unbelievers who appear to live decent lives, and believers who are not yet living godly ones.

Make the same charge to Jesus who said if we loved him, we would keep this commandments. You have to take up your argument with him. You would say to Jesus, "No, it is possible to love you and never obey you once."

It is your view that assures false converts and would have many professing "Christians" coasting to hell. It is my view that says those captured by the Spirit delight in the Law of God.

if life-change is necessary for faith to save us, why does the bible teach that baptism should happen immediately after a profession of faith?

Baptism is an act of obedience, a profession of repentance.

(cont)

Jared said...

The only person who truly believes that salvation is by faith alone is the one that will admit that the way we live our lives has NOTHING to do with salvation.

You're wrong.
Justification is by faith alone, but the way we live our lives has a lot do with salvation. Not with saving us, but "to do with salvation." This connection is made throughout Scripture. You conveniently ignore it all, which is quite a feat. Here is just one example, using your same phrase:

Hebrews 6:7-12
"7For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. 8But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned.

9Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things—things that belong to salvation. 10For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do. 11And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, 12so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises."

Our works are "things that belong to salvation," although not things that earn/merit/cause salvation.

We aren’t required to give up some sin or to commit to live a certain way.

Why was the command to receive salvation throughout the Gospels and Acts stated thusly: "Repent and believe"?
Your answer must involve some clever exegetical gymnastics.

Easy for Christ? Absolutely not. Easy for us? Yes

Oh my. So when Jesus says "What is impossible with man is possible for God," you say the opposite. I fear for you.

As I said before, I won't approve continued adventures in missing the point. I have already approved your long comments demonstrating close to zero understanding already, this followed after a Twitter exchange revealing same. But if you can show me you can read and understand, I am prepared to continue.

Josh said...

I guess it boils down to this: The ONLY thing someone must do to be saved is call upon the name of the Lord in faith. He is not required to live a certain way. He is not required give up sin. He is not required to go to church. He is not required to be baptized.

I'd be happy to know that we agree on the gospel. If something more than calling on the name of the Lord in faith is required, what is it, specifically? I'd genuinely like to know what you believe since you keep saying I'm misconstruing what you're saying.

Jared said...

My answer to your question has already been made -- several times over. At the risk of reentering the vain disputation, I will answer it again:

"If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved."

"...whosoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life."

"For it is by faith you are saved, not the result of works, lest any man should boast."

We are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ's work alone.

Back to the riskiness: Our difference is that you say faith need not be evidenced by good works, and I say, along with the bulk of the Scripture's testimony, that faith without corroborating works is not real faith. You for some reason cannot understand that saying faith without works is dead is not the same thing as saying works save us. It's a rather elementary point that Christians for thousands of years have been able to see quite clearly.

JAy. said...

Josh,

If you really want to understand, I recommend you consider two words: salvation and sanctification.

Salvation is that which gives us access to eternal life in heaven. The cost was the crucifixion of Jesus.

Sanctification is the perfecting of our persons while here on earth in preparation for our eternal life in Heaven. Accepting Christ and having true faith results in us striving to be better people, to live as Jesus taught, and to be "crucified with Christ."

As far as giving false hope to those that are not saved and no hope to those that are, did Jesus not address this directly also. He said that those who refused good works would be allowed to enter the Kingdom. But many would be allowed to enter the Kingdom without thinking themselves worthy.

That, my friend, is the great miracle of salvation. The freedom we receive is the freedom of sanctification.
In His Love,
JAy.

Doug said...

I've often thought of the relationship between justification and sanctification as being like the relationship between a wedding and a marriage.


A wedding is a point at which two people's identities change forever, and at a fundamental level. It is a point, not a process, yet *by design* it leads to a process. There's the identity shift of "You're not her boyfriend anymore, you're her husband" (like the identity shift of "You're not guilty, you're righteous") and then there's the process of figuring out how the heck to be her husband (like figuring out how to obey Jesus). Now, if someone messes that process up, does he need to look for new and better ways to try harder? No-he needs to remember what happened to his identity on his wedding day, and live as if that were true. This is why Scripture-and Jared-are always telling us to look to Jesus, not just for an example, but for our Savior Who changed us and enables our lives catching up to the change He's made. We do and will mess up, and the process is harder and slower than we typically imagine it, but that's why we remember the promise, and continue.

I don't hear Jared saying that the process precedes the point, which would be legalism. Rather, I'm hearing him say the point necessitates the process. He's pretty much saying that the wedding defines the marriage, and does so in definable ways, which just kinda' makes sense. Accusing him of otherwise is simply inaccurate.

Chanda said...

This is exactly exact. Is what we call Faith in Christ not worthy of any evidence in our lives? What kind of faith would that even be? Expecting folks to sit in the invisible chair we claim to rest in?
I don't think so.

josh said...

@Chandra,

Don't misunderstand what I'm saying. Absolutely the gospel is worthy of evidence in our lives, and if we aren't living godly lives we shouldn't expect to win others to Christ. It's like the parable of the sower...only those who are good soil will be fruitful.

My point is that many believers don't live lives that different than unbelievers. It doesn't mean they aren't saved, but it will mean they'll be unfruitful. We are saved entirely by faith in Christ. Our fruitfulness depends on our daily decision to follow Christ. That's what Jesus was talking about when he said to be "worthy" to follow him we must be willing to take up our cross.

Stacy Sublett said...

Jared, can I quote you this weekend when I talk about faith with my church? My main text is John 14:12, and I'd like to use the lines (or at least the thoughts) about saved people being changed people, pointing out that this is not works salvation, but the fruit of salvation. I know those thoughts didn't originate with you either, but I thought I'd ask permission to reference your work.
Stac

Jared said...

Josh, that is not what Jesus meant when he said we must be worthy of him. To say our works make us worthy of him is works righteousness. Only his own righteousness imputed to us can make us worthy, which means repentance of our own self-righteousness.
You cannot have it both ways, and it is telling how your view dictates your interpretation, rather than the other way around.

Jared said...

Stacy, of course. Use whatever you'd like.

Jared said...

Phil Johnson has a good post on this subject today:
http://teampyro.blogspot.com/2011/02/true-religion-undefiled.html

It is a comfort of sorts that this plainest reading of the text is the most widely held and normative, and this "faith is true even without works, despite what James and everybody else says" view is the aberration.

Josh said...

Jared,

I'm not having it both ways, I'm talking about two different things. None of us are worthy to be saved, but are saved by the unmerited grace of God through faith. (I'm pretty sure we both agree on this point.)

But Jesus isn't talking about being saved when he says to take up our cross daily. We don't have to get saved every day. We are born again once. But following Christ is a daily decision we must make--do we read the bible? do we pray? do we forsake sin in our lives?

Maybe your experience is different than mine, but I do a better job taking up my cross and dying on some days than others. Some days I work very hard for the kingdom, but some days I seek after money or possessions or the easy life for myself. Thankfully, my salvation is secured by Christ alone and not on my daily obedience. But I'd be lying to myself if I thought I was as much a "worthy" disciple when I'm living for myself as when I'm living for God.

nhe said...

@Josh

Having faithfully read Jared's blog entries for several years now (I need to buy his books too!) I can tell you that he is further away from Christian legalism than anyone out there, which tells me you're kind of reading past him and not grasping what he's saying.

....which is also kind of interesting to me. When I read the "hard" believism of Tozer and Bonhoeffer (and Jared here) it strikes me that all 3 of them are very easily misunderstood by a lot of believers. IMO - its because we've all been taught that "praying to accept" Christ = Eternal Life.

So, when that notion is challenged by pointing out that praying a prayer (even sincerely) isn't necessarily an expression of true saving faith (but can be), the reaction is "you're legalistic" or "you don't hold to eternal security."

I hope then Josh, that you'll re-read Jared's post and see that you may have missed the point the first time through - and that's ok - I think that's a pretty common reaction in the current U.S. evangelical sub-culture.

One thought to maybe further clarify Jared's (awesome) point:

A lot of Christians have this idea in their head that "Christ saved me, so I NEED to _________"(fill-in-the-blank). That's just not a transformed way to think. Rather, its "Christ saved me, so I GET to _________"(fill-in-the-blank). Being his Workmanship should elicit much more of a sense of privilege in our minds and hearts than a sense of oughtness. That's (I think) much more of what a transformed perspective looks like.