Things That Go Together
Dr. Kevin Shrum
There are many things that should never be put together – they never should be mixed, i.e. water and oil, gas and a flame, fire and ice, etc. However, there are many things that must never be separated without impeding one of the ingredients. This is true in the spiritual dimensions of life. What things belong together and should never be separated?
· Faith and works go together and must never be separated. While we are not saved by works (Eph. 2:8), our works demonstrate our faith and trust in God. Pastor James (2:14-26) addressed this issue when he wrote that the believer should demonstrate his/her faith in God by his/her work for God. On the other hand, anything that happens without the motivation of faith is sin (Rom. 14:23) Faith without works is dead; works without faith is pagan religiosity. Faith and works together produces a life that expresses God’s grace and mercy in holy activity.
· Truth and time are essential partners. Time has a way of exposing the truth; truth, if given enough time, will bubble to the surface. Paul used this argument in 2 Corinthians 13:5-14 in defending his ministry. Some were accusing Paul of either not being an apostle at all or of abusing his apostolic power. In verse 8 Paul states, “For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth.” He wrote this after having stated that every person should examine themselves to see if they pass the test of faith. Be careful. Making rash judgments about a person or a situation may get one in trouble. Wisdom gives truth enough time to emerge.
· Missions and evangelism must not be separated. Matthew 28:16-20 and Acts 1:7-8 address the issues of Jesus command to preach the gospel to every person in every tongue on every continent. In general, we use the term missions to describe the larger scope of God’s redemptive plan, while we use the term evangelism to describe individual responsibility to share the good news of Jesus Christ. While this distinction may be artificial, it may be helpful in practical terms in holding together the corporate and individual responsibilities of reaching a lost world with the gospel.
· Here and there are two things that must go together. Some in the church would argue that we need to take care of things ‘at home,’ diminishing the need of missions away from home. Others emphasize the ‘there’ to the neglect of the ‘here at home.’ This distinction is petty and is killing the church. Too many churches have no global vision at all. And, too many in the local church only show up for the mission trip but can’t be found the rest of the year. Jesus never made this distinction. For example, Acts 1:8 notes that we are to be “…witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” So, it’s not here or there; rather, it’s here and there when it comes to missions and evangelism.
· Change and the unchanging must be held together. For example, God never changes. Malachi 3:6 declares, “For I the Lord do not change.” Hebrews 13:8 adds, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Some things never change – God, His gospel and His Word. And yet the gospel message itself is about change. 2 Corinthians 5:17 emphatically states, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” Some will say they do not like change. I think I know what they mean by this, but we had better hope change is possible because change is the very essence of the gospel itself. To deny the fact and necessity of change is to deny the very gospel we preach. Ironic isn’t it! The unchanging gospel we preach calls for change.
· Citizenship here and citizenship there are two things that must be held together. The Christian must remember that he/she has dual-citizenship. Romans 13:1 reminds us that we are to be “subject to the governing authorities” and 1 Timothy 2:1 notes, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” On the other hand, Philippians 3:20 reminds us, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” In brief, as Christian citizens we are to respect the laws of the land insofar as is possible, acting as salt and light in a tasteless and dark world. However, we must not become too attached to this world as we look forward to the “city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.” (Heb. 11:10) We live in one country by the rules of another.
· Already and not yet must be held together, as well. We are already children of God, made holy and righteous in God’s sight, forgiven, graced, redeemed, reconciled and secure. Yet, each day we are becoming more like Christ because we are not yet complete, mature and finished. Paul held these two concepts together in Philippians 3:12-16 notes, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead. I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.” We are becoming what God has already made us to be in Christ!
So, while some things do not need to be mixed, some things should never be separated. This is my short list. What about yours?