It is wonderful how a few hours of fishing can provide a special place and time to contemplate things that are important. Today at Cold Creek was one of those moments.
I have come across a couple of books that have helped me to be more attuned to the Holy Spirit that dwells in me. Like all Christian believers, I know I am saved by faith alone (it is a gift from God that no one can earn). But perhaps also like other Christians, sometimes when I am at my weakest, Satan gets into my mind asking me questions like, “Are you sure you are saved?” So, my mind takes me down a road of potholes filled with self-doubt. I am thankful to report that re-reading the Word and listening to the power of the Spirit within me always places me back on firm footing.
One of the areas I seem to examine when fighting this spiritual battle with Satan is questioning my works, i.e., the evidence that will convict me of my salvation. If you are like me, you can succumb to the falsehood that you are not bearing adequate fruit. The works of your faith do not match your potential.
I have grown to realize that we rarely, if ever, see the fruit of our deeds. Friends and acquaintances, and almost always strangers, hardly ever provide you feedback on the profound change your actions and/or words made in their lives. Sometimes it is the simplest of things that bear the greatest fruit, and maybe that is by the Lord’s design to protect us from our worldly egos.
I will introduce those two books in a moment, but first I’d like to wade through some scripture references about “faith” and “good works.” Please stay with me on this.
In the Old Testament, Isaiah 11 prophesied the future coming of Jesus the Messiah. In verse 2 of this chapter, Isaiah writes, “The Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him – the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the LORD.” When Jesus ascended into heaven after His crucifixion, He left us the Holy Spirit as our counselor and advocate. The powers/gifts described by Isaiah are the same Jesus bestowed upon us.
I am aware of James’s warning that faith without works is dead (James 2:17). Some might contrast James’s admonition against the many “saved by faith” verses in the New Testament (a smattering of which are Mark 16:16, Luke 7:50, John 3:15, John 5:24, and Ephesians 2:8) and falsely declare James has to be wrong. The Ephesians 2:8 verse is interesting as it declares salvation from our sins is an undeserved gift bestowed upon those who believe in Jesus. But the following verse 9 provides the reason “good works” cannot earn your salvation: “not by works, so that no one can boast.”
In John 14:15-31 we are told that if we receive the Holy Spirit into our lives, He will change us, change our thoughts and our behaviors. Jesus stated that he would send the Holy Spirit to be our “helper,” our “advocate” who will guide and strengthen us so that we may “obey my commands” (verse 23). Our faith and love for Jesus will change us, and we will bear fruit.
Galatians 5:13-26 further describes our life with the power of the Holy Spirit. Verse 22 describes the fruit of the Spirit as “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Such gifts free us from the law, a law we cannot keep by our own power due to our sinful nature.
So, believers who have accepted the Living Word of God and received the Holy Spirit into their lives will indeed bear fruit. They will be kind, gentle, and good. They will love their neighbors, provide for the poor and sick. But we must not confuse ourselves that our good deeds earn us eternal life with the Lord… our faith and love for Jesus comes first.
In Matthew 7:21-28, Jesus says some false disciples will claim to have done deeds in His name, but that they are imposters who did not “obey the will of my Father” (v. 21) and did not “put into practice the Word of Jesus” (v. 24). They will be rebuked by Jesus, who will say, “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” So, deeds alone will not get us into heaven.
So, about those books.
A few years ago, I learned that a reader of my blog was chair of the Communication Studies Department for a college in Saratoga, California. From there I discovered that Randy Fujishin had a website to assist Christian leaders with their communication skills. I believe it was on that website where I discovered his first Christian book, Your Ministry of Conversation. I like to talk, but can sometimes be overbearing as my friends will attest. I bought Randy’s book (click the Amazon hyperlink in the previous title) and was surprised by it’s simple yet brilliant approach to conversations that potentially, with the help of the Holy Spirit, can be life affirming and produce fruit in the lives of others. Being a communications specialist, Randy provides practical advice and techniques on how to use everyday conversations to “encourage, reframe, support, guide, and even pray for those individuals the Lord brings across your path.” It’s equally useful for talkaholics (like me, who need to slow down and listen more intently) all the way to bashful folk who are prone to avoid conversations despite their God-given ability to share and empathize with others. The meat of the book is barely over 130 pages; it’s a quick read, but you’ll find yourself using it as a resource and refresher for you communication skills. Best of all, Randy based these communication skills on what Jesus taught and did according to the Gospels. Here’s a Chapter 2 excerpt that might ease any concern that this book might be too intense for anyone:
The purpose of your ministry of conversation is not to have the person accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior every time you enter into conversation. Your purpose is to be a blessing by showing the love of Jesus in the words you use and the things you say. You’re not the evangelist winning souls in every city on the map with eloquent sermons and convincing delivery. That’s someone else’s ministry.Your Ministry of Conversation, by Randy Fujishin
The other book was a recent gift from a brother in my Men’s Group. Dave happened to attend a church service in a small Colorado town he recently traveled through. As part of the service, the church distributed a little book titled Holy Moments by Matthew Kelly. David asked if he could have extra copies to share with his Men’s Group, which is how I obtained mine (use the Amazon hyperlink in the previous title to get yours). Similar to Randy, Matthew builds upon the truth that the simplest of things can often snowball into the greatest events. He describes the clarifying thought, unknowingly planted by a Christian mentor, he had at age 15 as, “some moments are holy, some moments are unholy, and our choices can guide a moment in either direction.” These holy moments happen continually throughout your day. Too often we do not recognize them. Your wife asks you to take out the garbage while you are watching your favorite sporting event. You are watching a movie when you suddenly discover it is mildly pornographic. You notice a senior citizen in need of assistance loading their groceries into their vehicle. Opportunities to “pay it forward” after a kindness was bestowed upon you. Just making the time to engage in a conversation with someone in need of a kind spirit who will listen and care. These are small moments; they appear throughout our day but we often miss them. Here’s an except from Part Three, The Divine Plan, of Mathew’s book:
Holy moments are usually small and simple. This is why we dismiss the idea that they could transform our lives and change the world. We have a bias against things that are simple, even though there is genius in simplicity. We have a bias against small, thinking bigger is always better.Holy Moments, by Matthew Kelly
My prayer is that you come to recognize the holy moments in your life, whether it be a task that needs to be done or a conversation that needs to occur, and that you choose to meet God as He is working in those moments.