This week I’m preaching on the topic of faith and works. We are in the middle of a series on “Paradoxology”—a made up word used to describe the seemingly paradoxes that we see and believe in the Bible: Jesus’ deity and humanity, election and free will, grace and wrath…
In studying for this I’ve been reminded how important it is to see the expectations and responsibilities we have as children of God. We’ve been saved through faith and by grace alone, but that doesn’t exempt us from following His commands.
We must give of ourselves in worship.
A while back my wife and I had the privilege of traveling to the Holy Land. It was amazing walking through the places we read about in the Bible. I was one of thousands to pick up a stone out of the dried up river bed in the Valley of Elah where David picked up 5 stones to kill Goliath. I saw where Jesus drove out the demons that went into the herd of pigs, I swam in the Sea of Galilee; it was truly incredible.
One of the highlight of the trip was visiting the Dead Sea. I’d heard stories and even seen pictures of the Dead Sea and, as a water lover, was always intrigued by that. Well the experience was one I’ll never forget. The water, if you can call it that, was like a mixture of baby oil and battery acid. It had the texture of baby oil—silky smooth and almost mesmerizing, but if it got into your mouth (and of course it did) it was like sticking a straw into your car battery and taking a big gulp.
I’m sure you’ve heard the stats, but the Dead Sea is the lowest elevation on the planet—over 1300 feet below sea level. It is over 1200 feet deep—making it the deepest “hypersaline” lake in the world. And it is one of the saltiest lakes in the world with over 33% salinity (compare that to the Atlantic Ocean—the saltiest of the major oceans—at about 3.5% salinity). You can literally float on top of the water because the salt makes you so buoyant.
So what makes the Dead Sea so salty? Again, I’m sure you’ve heard—but the reason is that the Dead Sea only has water inlets and no outlets. Since it is the lowest place on earth water only runs to the Dead Sea and not out of it. The only way water leaves the Dead Sea is through evaporation—and then only the water evaporates and leaves the salt behind.
I was again reminded that our lives can become like the Dad Sea. We continually take in nourishment, blessings, and grace from God, but if we don’t give it right back out to others we become death itself.
Jude, verses 12 and 13 says this:
These men are…shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted—twice dead. They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever.
As I read this again I couldn’t help but picture that selfish shepherd who saves the food, shelter and protection only for himself. I picture that cloud unwilling to give up its needed raid, and that fruit tree failing to produce fruit.
The challenge for us is quite simple. Does our life only have the appearance of bringing goodness, grace, mercy, love and blessing from God? Do we hoard the gifts, talents, and blessings from God? In our endless pursuit of knowing God better; Bible study, prayer and devotions, do we fail to give of ourselves to others and thus become like the Dead Sea—the appearance of refreshing water—yet really only death?
The shepherd, by definition shares with his sheep—puts their needs even above his own.
A cloud brings rain—that’s what it does—it can’t help but pour it forth.
A fruit tree bears fruit—it has no other choice.
A Christ follower can’t really call themselves disciples unless we have a continual outpouring of ourselves. We can’t call ourselves lovers of Jesus if we don’t give of ourselves.
James 2 is so correct: faith without works is dead…literally dead…just like the Dead Sea.
by Aaron Welch
Instructor of Worship Technology, Worship Arts Conservatory
Associate Pastor, Solid Rock Bible Church