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Back to Basics

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Basic Faith

Review: Faith and works
A true faith leads to works and fruit. Jesus cursed the fig tree for not bearing fruit when it looked like it should(having leaves). Faith without works is not faith. (Mark 11:13-25
Works can exist without faith, so works are not a guarantee that someone believes. That is why some will say to the Lord look at what we did in your name! Jesus will respond I never knew you.
Matthew 7:21-23

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and expel demons in your name, and perform many miracles in your name?’ 23 And then ⌊I will say to them plainly⌋,c ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you who practice lawlessness!’

Doing God’s will includes both faith and works, but works that please God come out of a genuine faith.

Basic works

But what works should we be doing? There are so many ministries and organizations.
James 1:27

Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our* God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

We can so easily become distracted by the many concerns of this world that we lose sight of the basics and fail to adhere to them.
We can get lost in the weeds, wandering about away from the firm foundations that our faith was built upon.

Good but not necessary

There are things we do that can sometimes be good that are either not necessary or fundamentally christian. Two immediate examples would be voting and military service. This may be good(presuming your beliefs are in line with God’s values) but does not qualify in the category as a Christian work. You can not delegate your Christian duties in the case of voting. Voting for policies that strengthen programs for orphans and widows does not absolve us from our own responsibility to take care of them. In terms of military service, it may sometimes be a very good thing, but is still not a Christian work. Paul made it quite clear that Christian warfare is of a spiritual nature, and therefore physical warfare cannot be a Christian endeavour. A person can be both a Christian and a military serviceman, and even some of the activities the military participates in can coincide with Christian works in terms of some of the humanitarian services they at times provide. These are just two examples.

Two basic types of ministry that are necessary

So what is necessary? Acts gives us a clue, as the Church was first beginning the most immediate and necessary needs were the only things they were capable of focusing on at the time.
Acts 6:1-4

6 Now in these days, as* the disciples were increasing in number,* a complaint arose by the ⌊Greek-speaking Jews⌋a against the ⌊Hebraic Jews⌋b becausec their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food.* 2 So the twelve summoned the community of disciples and* said, “It is not desirable that we neglect the word of God to serve tables. 3 So, brothers, select from among you seven men ⌊of good reputation⌋,d full of the Spirit and wisdom, whom we will put in charge of this need. 4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”

Ministry of the Word

This is the most fundamental ministry of the Church, and it is a universal ministry of all believers, not just the clergy. Not all are called to be teachers.
James 3:1

3 Not many should become teachers, my brothers, because you* know that we will receive a greater judgment.

But don’t be deceived, the ministry is of the Word belongs to all believers. Though you may not have a calling to be a teacher, you do have the calling to know God’s will and to do it. The early church achieved this by being devoted to the apostles’ teaching.
Acts 2:42
The New International Version (Chapter 2)
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
In Today’s context, being devoted to the apostles’ teaching is being diligent in understanding scripture. They wrote down much of their teaching in the Gospels and Epistles. Also since the foundation upon which they taught was the Old Testament, it is of equal value to understanding their message.
So what does that mean? Well, it is obvious, read your Bible. Whether it is a daily Bible reading plan, weekly chunks, going to a Bible Study, or whatever other means make the scripture a fundamental part of your life. Without it you can not know God’s will and if you can’t know it you can’t obey it. Do not let sermons or liturgy be the only source of scripture, but take it upon yourself to actively participate in this most fundamental of Christian works. This is the first and most important work as it is the foundation of all other works.

Widows and Orphans

Taking care of the people who can not take care of themselves was and is a Christian ministry that can not be ignored or denied. There can be arguments over who are the people who need to be taken care of and how we go about doing that, but the fact remains that it is a fundamental and necessary work for the Church. Before we move on to do any of the other works that are good but not necessary, we should make sure we are actively involved in this. This doesn’t mean this has to absorb all of our time and energy, but if we ignore this fundamental part of ministry for other endeavors we are missing the point. We don’t necessarily have to be actively seeking out people to serve in this capacity or be doing it all the time. Rather, we need to be open and available for the Spirit to use us when a need arises. Just like the parable of the Good Samaritan if you see someone in excruciating need along the side of the road, don’t ignore them.

Ministry in relationship

There is one last thing I want to point out about these 2 basic works of the Christian. All of it is built in the context of relationship. Of course the most important is a relationship with God, but I want to emphasize more today how these works are done in relationship to other people and especially how we often fail in this factor.
Luke 10:30-37

30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.v 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan,w as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denariie and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

I want to focus on a part of the parable that is easily overlooked. At the end the Samaritan said “Look after him, and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.”
You see what is often overlooked is that the man in the parable didn’t just help him and leave him. He planned to return, there is a promise of ongoing relationship.
The widows that the early Church were taking care of were people among their own.
The ministry of the Word, the Gospel of Christ wasn’t dropped in peoples laps as the apostles walked away from them. Rather they were invited into fellowship with the Church and Christ.
Even if it were possible to use something like Google Translate to translate scripture into Pamosu(side note, its not even remotely possible) it would be far inferior to building the relationships with those people because it is in the context of relationship that change, growth, repentance, and salvation occur.
So keep this in mind whenever you think you’re doing God’s will. How many degrees of separation are there between you and the other person? Is there a politician, then a beureaucrat, then a civil servant standing in between you and the person you are trying to help? Or do you go to their home and help them yourself and maintain a relationship? There is a world of difference between the two.
A loaf of bread and a friend is greater than a truckload by proxy.
Likewise, those of you who support us, know this, though our ministry is a ministry of the Word to the Pamosu speakers in Papua New Guinea, your ministry is a ministry of provision to our family.
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