I’ve been doing a personal Bible study on salvation. I’ve been studying scripture for the better part of a year in an attempt to understand the ideas of lordship salvation vs. free grace or ‘easy believism’. If you’re not familiar with these terms, it’s okay, neither was I. Terms aren’t important, but they represent two very different understandings of what salvation is and it’s important to know the difference, and what’s at stake.

Some people frame the debate between lordship salvation and easy believism as a debate between works and faith, as if one is works and the other is not. The opponents of lordship salvation claim that by making Jesus your Lord you are “working” and therefore doing something more than faith. An extra step if you will. But I’ve learned that this debate isn’t really about works- but about faith- and what true faith really is. The opponents say you’re working to secure your faith. The Bible says you are secure and your works prove it.

It comes down to this fundamental question: Is there a connection between obedience and faith, and if so, what is that connection? To put it another way, is obedience required for salvation or do we just need to ‘believe’ and that’s all? This is a fairly personal question. For most of my life I was taught that all we needed to do to go to heaven was to accept Jesus into our heart, believe, and we would be saved. It apparently didn’t matter how I lived or what I did. But the crucially important thing, apparently, was that I accepted Jesus into my heart. My assurance of being saved therefore could be traced back to an event I did a long time ago when I was a kid. I said the prayer- I’m in. However, is this really what the Bible teaches? Is this the pattern we see in the scriptures?

Well, no, actually. There’s nothing in the Bible that suggests a one time act is all that’s expected or required of a genuine believer. Rather we see a ton of scripture that talks about bearing fruit, confessing your sins, repenting and turning to Jesus, obeying His commandments, loving one another, walking in the spirit, following our shepherd’s voice, picking up our cross and following Jesus no matter the cost. . . These aren’t one time occurrences but rather patterns (fruits) in the life of a person who is truly saved. Jesus says “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.” – John 15:4 Abide means to remain in. It means walking with Jesus, knowing Him, loving Him, and being like Him. Abiding in Jesus and bearing fruit is a continual thing, and is evidence that we truly know Him.

I’m not trying to downplay the importance of asking Jesus into your heart. Coming to know Jesus as savior and Lord can be a moment in time. In an instant our eyes are opened to the truth of the Gospel. Jesus and the Bible all of a sudden taste really good in our mouth, we believe and are saved. Hallelujah!

However, it can’t stop there. As great as that is, it’s equally important to live out our faith- to continue doing good for God, bearing fruit and growing. James 2 says faith without works is dead. If your faith doesn’t show forth and is not evident in your life what good is it? Faith like that is useless. The parable of the sower teaches us that faith can’t be a shallow thing. Our faith (the seed) has to go deep, take root, and produce fruit. Only then will it stand the test of trials and tribulations, distractions, and the deceptions of the devil. So here again we see that faith has to have substance. It can’t be claimed in a moment, packed away, and brought out only when we need it. Jesus says to be ready, and to those not ready, “I do not know you.” – Matthew 25:12. Faith has to be lived out. It has to produce something. “You will know them by their fruits” Matt 7:16.

So there is a connection between obedience and faith. Obedience doesn’t save you, but the Bible says that without obedience you’re not really saved. You have a dead faith- a fruitless faith that gets gathered up with other dead branches and destroyed in the fire. Obedience produces fruit and this more than anything else is evidence that you are saved.

This is not a debate about works versus faith. Everybody agrees that we are saved by grace through faith. The question hinges on what kind of faith we’re talking about. Is it an easy faith? A faith that doesn’t require or produce any fruit? Is it not accompanied by a repentant heart? Does your faith exclude Jesus as Lord of your life? We can see from a wealth of examples in Scripture that this is not the kind of faith God wants us to have.

“The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar , and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected.” 1 John 2:3-4

Faith alone saves you.
But the faith that saves is never alone.

Taken from Josh’s journal, 7.17.2016

Community. I see a pattern running through my life lately, a thread that binds the pieces together, and it all comes down to community. Kim and I just had a good talk where we really examined this core desire in our heart and how it has manifested itself especially over the last couple years. Very interesting. Let me try to explain.

I think this idea of community, or team, or partnership has become very important to us. I realize just how deep this is when I see all the many ways we have tried to create this in our life in various ways. But before I get into that I think it’s helpful and interesting to chart how this all got started- and now why we are the way we are.

I don’t want to over analyze this, but just off the top of my head I see Indonesia having a lot to do with our  desire for community. Ever since we left the mission field we’ve been striving to re-create that sense of community- that sense of team that we used to have. We were very close to our local team over there- Joshua, Natalie, Beth, Marie, Jeremy and Lindsay were like family to us. We developed a very tight bond with them because we were so like-minded and in it together. We struggled through so many of the same things with them, and were working towards a common goal.

Raising support to go overseas we also had a team of prayer partners and supporters who “came with us” in a sense. We shared newsletters with them, prayer requests and updates, and came home and spoke at their churches. It was so encouraging to go through this experience with these people back home knowing that they cared and were praying for us. We really learned the value of community through all our partners back home. We couldn’t have done it without them- our local team and our “home” (back in the States) team.

We also experienced the depth and richness of community with our Lembak friends and neighbors in our house in Bengkulu. The idea of “community” is wired into the DNA of the culture over there, and we experienced this and lived it first hand. Living in community isn’t a choice over there- it happens whether you want to or not. I suppose you could be really rude and hide out in your house all the time. But aside from taking extraordinary steps to avoid it, if you live over there in a village-like setting you’re in community. And even this was a really cool thing. Yes it was hard at times but it was really special too. We were a part of something. We were accepted and adopted by the people. They loved us and we reciprocated it. The mutual sharing, mutual responsibility and trust was really cool. People didn’t hold fast to their stuff but many things were open and shared, especially if there was a need. But anyway this idea of community and sharing openly really got a chance to be lived out and practiced while we were there. We saw it, participated in it, and were really blessed by it.

I could name other communities too (Wycliffe, Campus Crusade, etc.) but you get the point. And ever since we left Indonesia to a large degree we’ve been trying to replace or re-create that community that we lost. I think that was one of the most abrupt transitions for us on returning to the States. One day we were on a team with people we loved, engaged in similar work- and then we weren’t. One day we were in the culture, in community with our neighbors- and then we weren’t. And for about seven years we had a worldwide network of prayer partners and supporters- people we kept in touch with, shared prayer requests, and letters- and then one day they were gone. Just like that, virtually overnight all of our communities vanished, and for the first time ever in our marriage we were on our own. We were still a part of Wycliffe when we first got back, so at least we still had that. And our prayer partners didn’t dry up that quickly. Maybe I over-exaggerate a little, but certainly in one years time we did lose all that. It was rather abrupt and I see now just how important these things were and are to us in the way we’ve tried to re-create it.

To put it bluntly, we long for this fellowship again. I see this in many of the things we’ve struggled with over the last couple years. We’ve tried to get this with my family, my brothers, and sisters-in-law. We’ve tried and failed to get this through our church (and then they went and had that terrible church split). We’ve tried with our apartment neighbors. I feel like a large part of why we’re adopting is so we can be in community with other people again. Indeed [adoption] has given us an opportunity to reach out and engage with a large number of people again. We are in a sense forming a team again around ourselves by sending out adoption updates, email campaigns, fundraisers, etc. We are inviting people to join us in something big. Of course we do have other reasons for wanting to adopt but it is so nice and so refreshing to be in touch with everybody again.

But we want even more than that. We want a local team. We want to be in a local community, not just far flung partners all over the world. We’ve been talking about moving lately to Deforest and Sun Prairie and the primary motivation for this is to find a good church, and get involved, and maybe do ministry again. It has a little bit to do with my job, and it’s closer, and we like Madison and don’t really want to be in Portage- but really it’s again mostly about community. Finding a good one and getting involved, and we think we have a good chance, or a better chance, of doing that in the Madison area.

We long for community. We long to link arms with others and do great things for the Lord. We have seen that our family really is the body of Christ, and those who are like us in mission and purpose. These are the people we really want to be in community with.

It was sort of interesting to see the larger picture and to connect many of these dots together. I think community is biblical (God is in community with Himself, the trinity) and it’s a noble pursuit. We do really hope to perhaps do missions work again one day and we’re praying that God would lead us and help us find community again before we do that. We so desperately need it!

Hi Friends! We are super excited about this online adoption art auction! It’s our last major fundraiser, and we are hoping it will get us to our goal of having enough to accept a referral from S.Korea by September. We have over 20 amazing artists and makers that have taken their time and skill to […]