It's commonly accepted that the best-known Christian scripture is John 3:16 ("For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life"). Important teachings can be mined here: it begins, as does all of our hope, in God's love; God's love is universal; God's love is unfathomably generous and self-sacrificing; God's gift includes the invitation to believe, that is to engage in a relationship with this Son; such a relationship leads to eternal life, which overcomes the power of death.
Eternal life is much, much more than "dying and going to heaven." It is living this life engaged with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is seeking the ways of the Kingdom of God here and now. It is knowing the words of our faith and putting them into practice (another oft-quoted scripture is James 1:22: But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers).
In both of our services yesterday we talked about how grace - freely given - demands response. We talk about this often because either, by itself, is insufficient. "Faith without works is dead," James 2:17 bluntly puts it. Works without the motivation of faith or the inspiration of discipleship can be hollow and are insufficient for salvation ("He saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy," Titus 3:5).
Our church always emphasizes both. We want everyone to know Jesus and be engaged in a life with him. We want you to believe and for these beliefs to matter and the evidence that they do is what you do with them, which is why I ended my sermon yesterday with three questions:
- What, according to how you spend your time, resources, and energy matters to you?
- What are you willing to be inconvenienced by?
- What, if someone watched a time-lapse video of your life and then summarized it on a family crest, what your crest say?
Give those questions some thought. We all say our faith matters to us. Answering these questions will indicate in what ways.
One way the United Methodist Church matters to our country and world is through the work of UMCOR. If you're not sure what UMCOR is or why you'd want to give, watch this video. If you want to read more about the impact UMCOR makes, click here. It's not too late to give to UMCOR. If you choose to do so, please put "UMCOR" on the memo line of your check or indicate it through your online giving.
Thank you for the many ways you help Central put our faith into action.