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1-OUT OF BALANCE
When it comes to understanding the place that fruitfulness (Obedience to God and good works or deeds) has in a Christian's life, most Christians are out of balance or wrong about what they believe. Most Christians either believe that fruitfulness is a requirement for salvation which is a legalistic view, or they are so anti-legalistic that they don't think works have to be present at all.
I believe that salvation is by grace only (Jesus' substitutionary sacrifice on the cross) so I do not believe that fruitfulness is required however, I believe that if a person is destined for salvation then obedience and good works will result in time (season).
I believe the inability to distinguish between a requirement and a result has led Christians to ignoring scriptures that seemingly oppose their view on the place of works in a Christian's life, and has caused them to reject legitimate scriptures that don't conflict with each other.
Here is an example of two passages of scripture that seem to conflict with each other, that I believe are consistent with each other:
These passages are the primary proof texts for anti-legalistic and legalistic views.
To very anti-legalistic Christians (Like Baptists) since this passage from the Apostle Paul's letter to the Ephesians means that works have no part of salvation, they hold the extreme position that works don't have to exist at all.
To very legalistic Christians this passage in James indicates that works are part of salvation and that works keep faith alive.
I believe that works are a resulting product of faith and evidence of faith, but not what brings about faith because the Apostle Paul clearly stated that the faith we have is not from ourselves.
I think that if we begin to see that James was referring to works as an evidence and result of faith, and not what causes faith then we can begin to understand the difference between a result and a requirement.
Just because James emphasized the need for works being present doesn't mean that works save us or keep faith alive. Remember that the faith is not of ourselves.
Some Christians (Like the Assembly of God denomination) teach fruitfulness as a requirement which can lead to perfectionism.
If they teach that a person who dies with any unrepentant sin will be condemned, then they are teaching fruitfulness as a requirement and that would make works out to be the thing that saves you.
Often, they can't see themselves as perfectionists or legalists because they believe that a person can sin and be forgiven as long as they repent before death.
This kind of thinking is perfectionism at the point of death and because it is perfectionism then it is also legalism.
Most Christians either think that works are part of salvation or they make faith and the ministry of the Holy Spirit out to be powerless.
If I could reach a state in which I repent of all my sin and stop doing it by the time I die then I would have resolved it myself and what need would I have for Jesus' sacrifice?
This is a extremely hypothetical question because I know I will not come close to stopping all my sin before I die.
Legalistic thinking is discouraging because nobody could live up to trying to earn their salvation through obedience and good works.
We are all too self serving to be charitable and too wanting to be totally obedient.
The discouragement of doubting our salvation because we are not able to live up to a perfect or even reasonable standard would lead to giving up or not even trying.
Our own hypocracy would haunt us and our inability to draw the line on how much obedience is necessary would confound our thinking.
On the other hand, if we are so inti-legalistic that we don't believe that works have to be there at all then what would we have to guage our faith through which we receive grace?
No matter how firm we are on the belief that we are saved by grace only, we still know that not everyone who has went forward during a hymm of invitation will be saved.
We would not be able to trick ourselves into confidence in salvation if there are no works to indicate or evidence faith.
We need good works to result when the time is right.
Good works or fruitfulness comes after salvation as a result of faith and the Holy Spirit working on those who are predestined for God's kingdom.
The whole idea of being able to earn salvation conflicts with the predestinational teaching of the Bible, yet there are those who think they have to merit God's favor.
Do we really think we can reach a state that is pleasing to God outside of what the Holy Spirit does in us?
If the Holy Spirit is in us do we really think there will be no results?