Romans 14:23 tells us, “For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.”
That’s a pretty hefty statement in my opinion. However, in the scope of eternity and throughout the Truth that is God’s word(where that statement comes from), my opinion matters not.
Here is another passage from God’s word that illustrates what Paul meant in his letter to the Romans. This passage comes from his first letter to the church in Corinth:
“10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.” 1 Corinthians 3:10-15
From everything I have read, this is a pretty easy to understand concept. However, more often than not, things are easier said than done…
As a houseparent, my ministry is all-too-often a thankless labor or love. We love what we do, we love whom we minister to, and we totally understand the lack of instant-gratification in this society that thrives on that very instant-gratification. Sometimes it is discouraging, however, I think of a memory verse from my Yokefellows class at church, 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” And I am encouraged.
I also understand the depravity of the children we serve, and that almost all of them, if they were to die right now, would go to hell. I know that we need to expect the behaviors they show, for no one seeks good…for in Romans 3, Paul quoted David as he wrote Psalm 14: “The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good. The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.”(Psalm 14:1-3).
However, what is so difficult for me is one resident in particular. SInce I cannot name names, we shall call her Jane. Jane is a young lady whom, when she arrived here, was very rough around the edges for a preteen. And that description, in my view, is quite a generous one, to say the least. Part of our jobs is to, as much as we feasibly can, share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with our residents, whether in action, speech, or devotions. After being in our care for many months, we were at a Sunday night service at our church. After the service, she came up to us with our pastor and informed us that she was saved and wanted to be baptized. My wife and I were happy, Praising God, however, at the same time, we were keeping a healthy amount of skepticism. Why? Because this was the third or fourth time Jane was “saved” since she came into our care.
This time was different. Many times, generally after someone makes a so-called profession of faith, I ask them about it and we go over Galatians 5:19-23, bad fruit vs. good fruit, the fruit of the Spirit. And how Jesus stated that a good tree cannot bear bad fruit in Matthew 7:15-19. This time, Jane was bearing fruit. She was baptized a month or so later, and she was truly changing. She was(and still is) becoming a young woman after God. However, what is so difficult, is that she still struggle so very much with the flesh. God’s word tells us that, “I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving in a human way? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human?”(1 Corinthians 3:2-4). She still struggles so much, and sometimes causes so much frustration within me, however, I love Jane and will continue to pour into her. I must remember that whatever I do with her, I must do it out of faith. I cannot know if she is truly saved or not, however, she bears fruit in such a way that I believe she is saved by God. She’s young, both in age and in her walk with Christ, and, getting back to instant-gratification, I need to remember that sanctification is a process, not an immediate BAM! you’re done! I look back, and I see a lot of myself in how she acts. And I remember, just thinking of my testimony, “we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”(Romans 8:28).
Now, getting back to the foundations on which we build. There have been times in my ministry as a houseparent where I have been so tempted to just go through the motions, not out of faith, but out of a desire to get through the day and go to bed because I’m tired or angry or something else. However, I realize that, if I were to do that, my work would mean nothing. Not only would it mean nothing in the sense of eternity, it would be sin. I would not be working out of faith, but out of selfish desire to just get it done and have it look good on the outside. To look good to my boss. To look good to the young ladies that we minister to.
As Christians, saved by the grace of God, not by our choosing but His choosing, we must remember to do all things to the glory of God(1 Corinthians 10:31) because it requires faith to do it that way, and, we must remember, “For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.”(Romans 14:23).
Now, as a prayer request to the few of you that read my blog, please continue to pray for Jane and her walk with God. Pray for wisdom, guidance and strength in making the right decisions, and encouragement and comfort as she is often persecuted by other residents for being a Christian and making those decisions which she makes.
Soli Deo Gloria