Do You Believe In Jesus? Prove It!

Do You Believe in Jesus? Prove It!

The Book of James is a straight-forward, practical guide for Christian living. In the 2nd chapter the focus is on what constitutes real faith – authentic belief in God – true discipleship. In our current culture, God has been reduced to a situationally moral, kind-hearted being who exists only to make our lives comfortable and happy. We owe no true allegiance or devotion to our god, but we do expect him to show up and help us when we get in trouble. Faith consists of simply believing that he exists and it requires no devotion to him or anything he says.

God, through James, points out that true faith comes when we accept Christ, but that it doesn’t end there. Our faith is borne out in what we do in obedience to the Father. Faith without action is no faith at all – it is dead, empty, and useless. The things we do – the actions we take in the name of Christ – are the proof that we truly follow Christ and have truly accepted Him as Lord and Savior.

We like to point to scriptures like Ephesians 2:8-9 as proof that there are no strings attached to our salvation. (“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” – Eph 2:8-9 NKJV) And, while it is true, that salvation is a gift which we cannot earn by our own acts of kindness and goodness, our salvation is not the end of the story just as it is not the end of the totality of that passage of scripture. Verse 10 is the continuation of discussion of faith and good works.

An expanded rendering of Ephesians 2:8-10 might read as follows:

God saved us by his grace when we believed in Jesus and accepted Him as Savior and Lord. We can’t take credit for it –it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so we can’t brag about it. However, we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us as a brand new person in Christ Jesus – with a brand new design and brand new purpose and brand new way of thinking – so that we can and must do the good things He planned for us long ago. (Ephesians 2:8-10 BYT)

Do you believe in Jesus? Prove it by the way you live your life in loving obedience to your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Next week we will ask the same question – Do You Believe In Jesus? – but we will follow it with the imperative to Proclaim It!

This Bible study was presented to the Agape Life Bible Study Class of the First Baptist Church in Brenham, Texas, on Sunday, May 15, 2022. It is part of a series of Bible study sessions from The Gospel Project – a Bible study curriculum developed by Lifeway Christian Resources. Handouts with slide content can be requested at: fromthebackporchintexas@gmail.com

Website – FromTheBackPorch.org

Twitter – From the Back Porch @ nationalfast

Facebook – From the Back Porch in Texas

The Amazing Grace of the Righteous God

God is righteous. He is perfect in every way and His justice is perfect. He does not need to submit to the laws of man, because He alone is the law-giver.

People are sinful – unrighteous. While God is the perfect law-giver, humans are the imperfect law-breakers. Every one has sinned and fallen short of the perfection of the perfect law-givver.

Just as in physics, no two objects can occupy the same space at the same time, neither can righteousness and unrighteousness occupy the same space. Therefore we, the imperfect, are separated from the perfect God.

God loves us. Even in our deplorable condition as sinful law-breakers God loved us and offered us a way to return to Him – to live with Him and occupy the same space as Him for all eternity.

As a just judge, He had no choice to pronounce judgment on the sinful actions of humans. However, Jesus lived a sinless life and offered Himself up in our place to take our judgment. The precious gift of salvation was purchased with the blood of Christ Himself on our behalf.

The righteous God pronounced judgment on sinful man and gave him the death penalty.

The penalty of death was paid by Jesus on the Cross.

The gift of salvation from God’s wrath and the penalty of sin is offered to all.

And now the gift must be accepted by trusting the One Who paid the price and offers the gift.

May we accept the gift and lead others to know the truth of this gift, so that they, too, may be saved by God’s Amazing Grace.

Next week we will look at the beginning of the book of James to see the proof in pudding.

This Bible study was presented to the Agape Life Bible Study Class of the First Baptist Church in Brenham, Texas, on Sunday, May 8, 2022. It is part of a series of Bible study sessions from The Gospel Project – a Bible study curriculum developed by Lifeway Christian Resources. Handouts with slide content can be requested at: fromthebackporchintexas@gmail.com

Website – FromTheBackPorch.org

Twitter – From the Back Porch @ nationalfast

Facebook – From the Back Porch in Texas

Fast and Pray for America!

Tomorrow. the first Thursday of May, is the National Day of Prayer.

In 1952, Congress passed a bill stating that every president would proclaim a Day of National Prayer on a date of his/her choosing. The first Thursday of May was set as the National Day of Prayer in 1988, but days of fasting, humiliation, and prayer have been practiced since before our nation’s founding. John Adams, on March 23, 1798, issued the following proclamation.

“As the safety and prosperity of nations ultimately and essentially depend on the protection and the blessing of Almighty God, and the national acknowledgment of this truth is not only an indispensable duty which the people owe to Him, but a duty whose natural influence is favorable to the promotion of that morality and piety without which social happiness can not exist nor the blessings of a free government be enjoyed. . .

I have therefore thought fit to recommend, and I do hereby recommend, that Wednesday, the 9th day of May next, be observed throughout the United States as a day of solemn humiliation, fasting, and prayer.”

Fast and Pray for America!

Pray!

Politicians can talk freely of what they will do to rebuild America — grand plans and designs, budget reforms and tax reforms, imports and exports, peace at home and peace abroad, safety and security. “Look here, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we are going to a  certain town and will stay there a year.   We will do  business there and make a profit.’   How do you know what your life will be like  tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a  little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, ‘If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.’ Otherwise you are  boasting about your own plans, and all such boasting is evil.” (James 4:13-16)

Now is the time to trust God instead of the plans of those who do nothing but boast of what they will do.

Trusting Christ in Life and Death

Christ is trustworthy in every aspect of life. He gives us power to live and grace to die when the time comes. No where in scripture is this more evident than in the life of Stephen, one of the first seven deacons in the early church. It was said of Stephen that he was “a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 6:8 offers this description of Stephen: “Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed amazing miracles and signs among the people.” This was a man who knew how to live.

He lived his life boldly in the power of the Spirit who filled him. And he spoke boldly, even in the face of extreme opposition. The evidence of the filling of the Spirit in the members of the early was that they “spoke the word of God boldly.” (Acts 4:31) When Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, spoke things happened – big things – explosive things – violent things – deadly things. He was stoned to death for his words spoken in the fullness and power of the Spirit.

And that’s when Stephen showed us how to die. In that moment when the storm was raging all around him, he looked up and saw heaven and Jesus ready to receive him. His death just a few moments later was met with peace and the calm assurance that he was releasing his very spirit into the hands of his Master, His Lord, His Savior.

Stephen knew that Jesus could be trusted in life and in death and lived his life boldly as the Spirit filled him and led him. And that same indwelling Holy Spirit gave him grace to die boldly. We are in a life and death situation every day. May we experience the same boldness in living and dying as we go forth “full of faith and the Holy Spirit.”

This Bible study was presented to the Agape Life Bible Study Class of the First Baptist Church in Brenham, Texas, on Sunday, May 1, 2022. It is part of a series of Bible study sessions from The Gospel Project – a Bible study curriculum developed by Lifeway Christian Resources. Handouts with slide content can be requested at: fromthebackporchintexas@gmail.com

Website – FromTheBackPorch.org

Twitter – From the Back Porch @ nationalfast

Facebook – From the Back Porch in Texas

Because God IS, We Can BE!

In 2 Peter we find Peter’s “last words” as indicated in 2 Peter 1:13-15: “As long as I live I will continue to awaken you with this reminder, since our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One, has clearly revealed that my departure is near. Indeed, I’m passionate to share these things with you so that you will always remember them after my exodus from this life.” So what did Peter, as inspired by the Lord, say to these people who were being persecuted and facing even more tortuous treatment in the future?

He said this – Because God IS you can BE. Everything we could ever need for life and godliness has already been deposited in us by his divine power. (2 Peter 1:3) Because of what Christ has done and because the Holy Spirit works in us in the process of sanctification and simply because God IS God, we can be an overall better person (v.5) and be more knowledgeable about God (v.5). Because God IS, we can be more disciplined (v.6) and be patiently determined to endure hardships (v.6) and be more godly (v.6). Because God IS, we can be kinder to the people around us (v.7) and we can be more loving with everyone (v.7). Because God IS we can BE.

The process of sanctification is ongoing throughout the life of the Christian. Spiritual growth is the sign of “zoe” life in the Christian. If we’re not growing in Christ – if we are not allowing the Spirit to sanctify us – there isn’t much point in calling ourselves Christians, because we have cut ourselves off from the vine and are useless. If you ain’t growin’ or producin’ what are you doin’ callin’ yourself a Christian?

Because God IS, we can BE.

Because God IS, we ARE.

Because HE IS, we can be sure of who WE ARE in Him, and we can confidently live and grow spiritually and share that assurance with those who need Him.


This Bible study was presented to the Agape Life Bible Study Class of the First Baptist Church in Brenham, Texas, on Sunday, April 10, 2022. It is part of a series of Bible study sessions from The Gospel Project – a Bible study curriculum developed by Lifeway Christian Resources. Handouts with slide content can be requested at: fromthebackporchintexas@gmail.com

Website – FromTheBackPorch.org
Twitter – From the Back Porch @ nationalfast
Facebook – From the Back Porch in Texas

The Decline of the Church

Photos by Roman Robroek

The link below will take you on an emotional journey through a reflective essay by Roman Robroek, a Netherlands-based urban exploration photographer. I found both the photos and Roberoek’s written reflections to be both disturbing and melancholic; interesting and depressing; beautiful and yet gut-wrenching.

Photographer Captures the Decline of the Church in Italy

However, the eye-opening moment came when I realized that this is a picture of our life in Christ and our bodies as a living temple in which dwells His very Spirit. In his conclusion Robroek writes:

Today, abandoned churches in Italy and elsewhere offer a unique glimpse into the past. A source of reflection, perhaps, as they prompt us to think about the future. If a church, once the most important haven in the community, can become a pile of ruins, what does that say about what we hold certain today? These are the traces of the past of many communities, and if we follow them, we can see where we all came from and perhaps where we’re going.” ~ Roman Robroek

Many, if not most, of the churches were abandoned due to the influence of socioeconomic influences as well geopolitical forces. However, no matter the cause, these buildings did not suddenly decay – it took years of lack of use and neglect for them to devolve to this state. And so it could be with the temple of the Lord. “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

When we fail to glorify God in all we do and when we neglect our relationship with God, deterioration begins. It may not seem like much at first, but over time our lives can become spiritually empty and the worship of God a thing of the past. As we neglect the things that once brought us closer to God – things like Bible study, prayer, worship, and fellowship with other believers – our spiritual lives become empty shells left to fall to the natural forces of the world. What was once a person who was a shining beacon of the Truth of Jesus Christ in the community becomes a monument to the ineffectiveness of the gospel to stand up against the ravages of the society in which the Christian dwells.

By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.” 2 Peter 1:3-7.

“Because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises” and we must “make every effort to respond to God’s promises.” We do these things not to gain salvation nor to gain favor with God, but rather because of the life we have in Jesus. We do these things, not in our own power, but by the power of the Spirit Who dwells within us. We do these things in response to His great love. We do these things so that others will see Jesus in us. We do these things so that God’s Temple – the body of the believer – will be a walking and talking testament to the Truth of the Gospel. And that testimony is not of what once was, but for what is and what ever more shall be – the living and vibrant love of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord.

This World Is Not My Home

When the world is caving in around us and all seems lost, it is easy for us to lose our perspective. We begin to think that life is hopeless. No matter which way we turn we hit a dead end. Just when we seem to get our feet on the ground something comes along to undercut us and leave us writhing in pain or wallowing in self-pity. Our perspective is limited. We see only the problem, only the bleakness of our situation. In his first letter, Peter addresses the situations which can tear us apart and reminds us of where our focus should be. In other words, he brings things into proper perspective for proper living in an improper world.

This letter was written at a time when Christians were held in contempt by both Jews and Romans. And if this wasn’t bad enough, Nero – Emperor of Rome, blamed the Christians for burning down Rome which led to some 250 years of tortuous persecution of Christians all across the Roman Empire. 1 Peter was written in this time when Satan was doing all he could to snuff out the young church. 1 Peter offers excellent, practical advice on how to deal with such persecution but it also goes to the heart of the matter.

The fact is that we, as Christians, are aliens in this world. This world is not our home – heaven is. And since this world is not our home, we shouldn’t expect anyone to treat us as though we are one of them. Jesus said that in this world we would have tribulation. (John 16:33) That’s what we should expect. We have a different way of looking at things – a different perspective. And when we dare to express our perspective, we can expect people to laugh at us, look at us side-eyed, avoid us, ignore us, and treat us like the creepy neighbor who makes you shudder every time you see them. If we aren’t being treated differently, perhaps it is because we look and act so much like the rest of the world that they can’t tell we’re Christians. Ouch!

What we learn from 1 Peter is that our hope is held fast in heaven and our trials here on earth are but momentary interruptions on our way to glory. And those trials and tribulations actually make us stronger for the next trial. We keep looking ahead to Jesus and every step of the way on the bumpy road called life brings us one step closer to an eternity with Him. With that perspective we can endure the junk that Satan throws in our way and do so with joy – even laughing in his face. And it’s all because this world is not our home; we’re just a passing through. As we learn from 1 Peter 1:9 we are filled with joy in this world because we are receiving the goal of our faith, the salvation of our souls in the real world.

Next week we will look at 2 Peter 1 as we study the Pursuit of Godliness.

This Bible study was presented to the Agape Life Bible Study Class of the First Baptist Church in Brenham, Texas, on Sunday, April 3, 2022. It is part of a series of Bible study sessions from The Gospel Project – a Bible study curriculum developed by Lifeway Christian Resources. Handouts with slide content can be requested at: fromthebackporchintexas@gmail.com

Website – FromTheBackPorch.org
Twitter – From the Back Porch @ nationalfast
Facebook – From the Back Porch in Texas