In the book of Romans, the apostle Paul writes:
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.
I remember an afternoon in NYC about 30 years ago. A young man approached me on the street and asked “Do you want to be saved?”
So we talked. And I confessed with my mouth that Jesus was Lord. And believed that God raised him from the dead. And was told that I was saved.
But these were all things I had already known… things taught to me by the nuns who taught grammar school… by the Jesuits who reveled in deep theological conversations in high school. Truth is, that afternoon was just another afternoon… more about an interesting encounter with a fellow New Yorker than with the almighty creator of the universe. I confessed and believed… but saved? Hmmmm….
That encounter from years past came to mind as I meditated on what are perhaps the most discussed verses in the Book of James, 2:14-26, where James makes the case that faith—when not accompanied by action and good deeds—is dead.
If all it takes are your mouth and heart to be saved, why are works required to be alive in faith? How does the message from James relate to Romans TNT?
Perhaps faith is not a transaction, it’s a movement. Heart-felt belief cannot be measured once at a point in time… it’s more like the intensity of a light at the end of a well-travelled road… one that gets brighter or dimmer or simply stagnates depending on which way we are walking (or not) at any moment.
On Monday morning, my mind and heart were on Christ as I drove to work. A car was pulled over with its hood raised, so I stopped my car and offered to help. It wasn’t something I thought about… my car just pulled over to the side of the road by itself. There was no way possible that I could pass this stranded driver by while I believed in my heart that God raised his only son from the dead in order to save me. No. way. possible.
But alas, there are many mornings when I simply drive by such people in need. On those days, while I still may confess that Jesus is Lord and believe God raised him from the day… those words don’t consume my heart. And that’s where the difference lies. In the condition of my heart.
Deeds are the measuring stick of the heart.
How frequently does my heart stop beating for Christ? Too often. For while you can have good works without Christ, you cannot have Christ without works. The heart will simply not allow it. And too often, I am simply driving by. Dead when I should be alive.