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About a year ago, I wrote an in-depth online, in-your-place-at-your-pace Bible study on the book of James. After I finished writing it, I posted it as a dropbox file for readers to download to their computers. I quickly learned that most of my readers use their phones or tablets to access the blog, not a computer. The Dropbox file was an epic fail.
Doing what I should’ve done to start with
I tried converting to a series of six blog files, as well as a print version, but neither worked well. Recently, I decided to do what I should’ve done all along. Make an e-book.
As part of the preparation for uploading the file, I spent days reworking my document endnotes (“footnotes” placed at the end of the book instead of the bottom of the page). I went through every link to be sure it worked and reread the text several times to check for errors. I studied James and was kicked in the repenter again.
Once all that was done, I signed in to Amazon’s easy create-a-book site and went to work. I designed a lovely cover, uploaded the photos and file, corrected formatting, and was almost ready to hit “publish” when I noticed something odd. No mention of e-books was on the web page. I fretted with this for an absurdly long time before I realized one critical fact. It was the site to publish print books, not e-books.
Arriving at the wrong destination
I went to the wrong website and was seconds away from a book I didn’t want. Where I meant to go was not where I’d arrived.
I backed out of the print site and went to the e-book prep site. An entirely different bit of formatting needed to be done. Because I work on a MAC, the e-book Table of Contents and internal links all had to be done by hand. It was way past bedtime when I finished.
The problem of arriving where I didn’t intend to go was quickly solved by opening a new tab on my web browser. The problem of an eternal destination error is not as easily solved, however. Just as I had two publication options (print or e-book), we have two eternal destinations. Heaven or hell. We choose our destination in advance and, unlike publication options, once arrived, the choice cannot be undone.
As James, the half-brother of Jesus, wrote, our faith is revealed by our works. Faith that isn’t manifested by works is dead. In other words, if our faith doesn’t change us and make us more like Jesus, we need to consider whether we have saving faith or not.
Those are hard words, but they come straight from Scripture. I’d soften them a bit and wrap them in flowery prose. James does not. He’d rather offend and save a soul than cushion someone in comfortable words that usher them straight to hell.
James urged those to whom he wrote to examine their faith. We’d be wise to do the same. To what kind of faith do our works give evidence? Is Christ clearly seen in our words, our actions, our deeds?
If all we do is sit on a pew once a week, can we, realistically, expect that kind of faith to take us to heaven? According to James, it’s life-altering, behavior-changing faith that assures our eternity with Jesus, not attendance at a series of meetings, no matter how well-intended.
If we want to spend eternity in heaven, let’s be sure that’s where we’re headed. None of us can enter God’s home on our goodness alone. We’re all sinners. It takes faith, covered by the grace of God, to enter Heaven.
How to make heaven your home
The Bible gives a few simple but life-changing steps we must follow:
Address our sin
If we break the laws of our government, we must pay the government-determined penalty for that error. In that same way, if we break God’s laws we must pay the penalty He specifies. Sin is the “church word” for breaking God’s law. The Bible says all of us have sinned (Romans 3:23) and the penalty for that is death. (Romans 6:23) It’s not enough to admit we’ve done wrong. We must also repent. That’s another “church word” that means to be sincerely sorry enough for what we’ve done wrong that we don’t want to do it again. When we repent, we tell God we’re sorry enough for what we’ve done that we want to stop doing it. Forever. We also ask Him to forgive us.
Jesus came to earth as a man, fully God and fully human. He lived a sinless life so that He could be a perfect sacrifice, or payment, for our sin. He died and rose again. His death paid for our sin penalty. His resurrection (coming back to life) proved He had defeated sin and death and has the power to make us new people who are in right standing with God. (Romans 4:25) It’s easy to console ourselves by saying, “I’m a good person” or “I’ve done a lot more good than bad.” Those things may be true but they aren’t enough to satisfy God’s requirements. We don’t go to heaven because we’re good, but because we’re forgiven.
The Christian life is not a once-and-we’re-done decision. If we accept Jesus’ payment for our sin, we must also accept His authority in our lives. (John 14:15) It sounds harder than it is. Read the Bible to know what God expects of us and do what it says. It’s that simple. It’s not always easy to do what God expects, but Jesus also gives us the power to do whatever He asks. (1 Corinthians 4:20)
“For the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; it is living by God’s power.” 1 Corinthians 4:20
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9 niv
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If you want to know more about how to live the Christian life, you might enjoy the online Bible study mentioned above.
It’s an in-depth study of the book of James. Here’s an affiliate link that will take you to the book. (That means I might earn a few cents if you make a purchase, but it won’t change what you pay in any way.)
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