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Obedience that comes from Faith | Preparation for living with Yahuwah

The King James Version (KJV) is mostly used in these lessons. Click here to access the KJV online.
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Like salvation, obedience itself is a gift. Obedience that flows from our own strenuous effort is nothing but works and is unacceptable to Yah.

Martin Luther did not like the book of James. In fact, in his preface to the New Testament, he went so far as to call James a “straw-epistle” when compared with the Gospel of John and the writings of Paul.

Perhaps Luther’s reaction to James is to be expected. After all, Yahuwah used Luther mightily to restore the truth of justification by faith, not works. The book of James, however, has a very important place in sacred canon. It provides a clear explanation of the interrelationship between faith and works.

Faith versus works

Without a doubt, salvation is by faith alone. Paul states unequivocally: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of Yah, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (See Ephesians 2:8-9.)

But even this beautiful truth has been corrupted by Satan. Because there is absolutely nothing anyone can do to “earn” salvation, the devil has brought in what Dietrich Bonhoeffer referred to as “cheap grace.” To quote Bonhoeffer, cheap grace is “the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance … Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without [Yahushua] Christ.”1

In cheap grace, the emphasis is placed on the benefits of Christianity without any acknowledgment of the costs involved. It is those who, knowingly or unknowingly, embrace cheap grace, that level accusations of “legalism” against all who maintain the binding nature of the law of Yah.

James provides the resolution between these two opposing camps.

Faith and works

When faith versus works is debated, the one main point people tend to forget is that everything necessary for salvation is a gift—including faith! Yahuwah “has dealt to each one a measure of faith.” (Romans 12:3, NKJV) That “measure” of faith is sufficient to grasp the word of Yah that promises salvation.

But obedience itself is a gift! And that is what most people do not understand. James did. He opened his epistle with the gentle warning: “Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.” (James 1:16-18, NKJV)

This includes obedience! Just as faith is a gift, so is obedience.

Works that flow from faith

Christianity today presents a dichotomy: many of the most worldly Christians often appear to be the most joy-filled. While, contrarily, many of the most legalistic Christians, are the most sincere—even while laboring under a heavy burden of guilt!

The joy-filled worldly Christians have embraced the truth of righteousness by faith alone, but often fall into the trap of rejecting obedience as nothing more than legalism. The legalistic, heavily-burdened Christians who understand the perpetuity of the divine law, meanwhile, struggle because having accepted the gift of salvation, they feel they must now cooperate with Yah by resisting Satan’s temptations in their own strength. And both groups fail to understand that obedience itself is a gift.

James understood this. He said:

Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does. (See James 1:21-25.)

Notice it is the “implanted word” that enables recipients to be doers of the word. Only when we receive the gift of faith with the gift of Yah’s own righteousness implanted in our hearts can we then render obedience.

Faith that works

Yahushua understood that obedience is only truly acceptable to Yah when it flows naturally from a purified heart in which the law of Yah has been inscribed. In explaining this concept to the Pharisees, he said:

Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit. Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. (Matthew 12:33-35, NKJV)

This was not a lecture to increase their works. Rather, it was an appeal to allow the Father to cleanse their hearts. Then the works that they were attempting to do through their own efforts, would flow easily and naturally, a result of the transformed heart gifted to them by divine, creative power.

Obedience springs forth from faith. Faith is not produced after one obeys. In fact, it is impossible to obey without first being gifted with faith. James communicated the same principle, stating:

What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?

Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made [perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed Yahuwah, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of Yah.

You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?

For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. (See James 2:14-26.)

The gift of obedience is the result of the gift of a transformed heart.

The gift of obedience

You don’t need to deny the perpetuity of the law of Yah because you are afraid you cannot keep it. The truth is: you can’t! Not in your own power, at any rate. Obedience is a struggle and a burden … when you attempt to do it in your own strength. But Yahuwah does not expect that from anyone! He is offering you the gift of a purified, new heart with His law inscribed on it.

A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.” (Ezekiel 36:26-27, KJV)

Paul concurred, stating: “It is Yahuwah which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” (See Philippians 2:13.)

This is a gift. It is an act of divine, creative power. When Yahuwah has done this without any help from us, our response will be acceptable to Yah. With the psalmist we will rejoice, “I delight to do thy will, O Yahuwah: yeah, thy law is within my heart.” (See Psalm 40:8.)

Accept the gift today and obedience will no longer be a burden, but a natural outflow of your new heart.

1 Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship.

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