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December 07, 2008

in one ear and out the other

The book of James is presenting enormous challenges to me. The speaker I'm listening to* (as we study the controversial, important passage of James 2:14-26) suggested substituting the word faith with doctrine (as in "the faith", the objective body of doctrine of Christianity) and works with application, to aid understanding. Perhaps this gives a fresh look at this passage:
James 2:14, 17, 20
What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has doctrine but he has no application? Can that doctrine save him? ...doctrine, if it has no application, is dead, being by itself...doctrine without application is useless[.]
Above is a cartoon I drew in church a while back. The church I attend is known to be serious about Bible teaching (doctrine) and that is one reason I chose it. While so many churches trim down the amount of time spent studying the Bible, I've appreciated additional teaching that our church leadership chose to add to the service on Sunday mornings. We're briefly covering a variety of topics, such as Christology. It has been beneficial.

But beneficial has it really been to me? The point of Bible teaching is not just to get it in our heads, but live in in our lives. Am I applying the doctrine? I confess that too often I consume facts without stopping for personal reflection, application and confession. What good is it for me to have journals full of study notes and bookshelves lined with theology tomes if I am not daily, practically applying it?

Don't misunderstand; I am convinced that we should study the Bible more, not less. But with that studying there must be personal application. So that doctrine doesn't leak out of my ear onto my Sunday clothes. So that I can be saved from the terrible effects of sin in my life as a believer. So I can do those good works by which I am not justified before God (Eph 2:8-9) but for which I was created (Eph 2:10).

*If you've ever puzzled at how salvation is by faith/grace alone in Paul's writings but wondered how James can teach salvation by works, you could really benefit from Jeremy Thomas' studies in this area, all available for free right here [link].

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