Have you ever had one of those trick coins with heads on both sides and used it to play a trick on someone? It can be a funny prank but it can also be something that gets used to pull more than a silly trick on friends. It can be used for dishonest gain. We have seen this reenacted in movies many times or maybe have had it happen to us. Either way we are given the expectation that things are as they appear, and that things are honest and fair, when really they are not. When the gag is up we feel cheated. We feel taken advantage of. We get a feeling that we cannot trust that particular individual any more. Trust has been damaged and many times in an irreparable way. We come into any coin flip with the expectation that there are indeed two sides to the coin. Two different sides. When expectations are met we are happy, when they are not, well....I think you know how it goes.
I had someone recently give me a great analogy about expectations. If you were to go buy a car and the sticker told you that the car would get 40 mpg, and six months after buying the car the most you ever got on a tank of a gas was 31 mpg, you would begin to think the car was maybe a little bit of a lemon. Especially if a little piece of chrome fell off when you bumped your shopping cart into it by accident.
Now take the same exact situation, except you were told that the car would get 30 mpg. Your expectations are different and subsequently your reaction to the same scenario is much much different. When you get 31 mpg from your 6 month old car you are thinking that your car is amazing, and when a little piece of chrome falls off because you bumped your cart into your own car, you chalk it up to "I should have been more careful" and not "Man, this car is a lemon".
In both cases the car is 6 months old. In both cases the car gets 31mpg. In both cases the car gets bumped by you with your shopping cart. And in both cases a little piece of chrome falls off. What is different between the two scenario's? Expectation.
Today we had the opportunity to read one of the most popular books in all of scripture. It is a book that is bursting with practicality and insight for our day to day 'life in the trenches', so to speak. James is a book that many of us have probably read and are probably very familiar with. And today the passage/passages I want to focus on are ones we have probably heard many many times and would consider ourselves to be very familiar with. But I want to challenge you to look at them with fresh eyes and ask that God would begin to stir something in your heart about how to put these practical scriptures to work in your own life.
James makes it very clear that to be a Christian means that there are two sides to "the coin" that we call our life in Christ. The two sides are commonly referred to as Faith and Works. You cannot have one without the other.
James 1:22-25 - 22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.
A couple of weeks ago I talked about something similar to this in my blog The Road that is Romans. There is a difference between being familiar with something in scripture and KNOWING something in scripture.
Faith and what we do are two sides of the same coin. Hearing great messages and being willing to agree with statements of faith while at the same time not being willing to have those same messages and statements take root in our lives to produce the fruit of being a follower of Christ begins to erode confidnece in the minds of those around us who may not believe.
Whether we want to admit it or not those who are skeptics and non-believers have a certain expectation of Christians. And sadly that expectation is many times not being met. James references this very issue 16 verses later in his letter.
James 2:14-17 - 14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
If we claim to have faith people will expect certain things to be evident in our lives. Our life then becomes a living testimony to those who don't know Christ yet. So many people's first thoughts of Christians these days are thoughts of hypocrisy. They see Christians who talk a good game but live the same way that the rest of the world does. This should cause us to ask the question, "what do people who know me, or look at me and the way I live my life, see, and what does it say about my faith in Jesus Christ?
Jesus told us that WE are the light of the world. WE ARE. It is by letting our light shine (which is the light of Christ in our lives) in a world that is dark and in need of hope. Is our light shinning or are we putting it under a basket. Christ also said that people would know us as followers of Him by our love for one another.
He summed up the entire law with two very short phrases. Two phrases that could be pared down to four words.
LOVE GOD, LOVE OTHERS
We are only a couple of days away from Christmas. The Christmas season is all about love and giving our life away because of the fact that God GAVE his only son for a world that needed him. For the Christian, this attitude should not be one that we take out of a box with the rest of the decorations only to be put away again come Jan 1st. It should be the driving force behind our entire life.
Because of our faith in Christ, because of the salvation and hope we have in his death and ressurection, because we have experienced new life and a life transformed, we chould be compelled to, driven to, and anxious to let it be known in the way we act, speak, conduct our business, love others, and Love God.
When we get rid of the one sided coin the world will be moved by the fact that our lives fit the expectations. Keep Colossians 3 in mind.
Colossians 3:1-17 - Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality,impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised,barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.