We Cannot Separate What We Believe From What We Do

From Awaiting a Savior:

We cannot separate what we believe from what we do. We may want to “act [our] way into a new way of thinking, not think [our] way into a new way of acting;” but Jesus has not given us that luxury. We may want to proclaim, “deeds, not creeds;” but Jesus has not given us that authority. We may want to separate Jesus’ ethics from His identity; but Jesus has not given us that right. William Wilberforce, the famous abolitionist, warned believers of the danger of divorcing our doctrine from our deeds. “Christianity calls on us,” he wrote, “not merely in general to be religious and moral, but especially to believe the doctrines, and imbibe the principles, and practice the precepts of Christ.”

For the Christian, Wilberforce wrote, it’s not enough to be a “good,” moral person. Our calling is much higher than that. We are called to believe the doctrines, drink deeply of the principles, and practice fully the precepts of Christ. What we do is the fruit of what we believe about Jesus. That’s what Wilberforce is telling us above. That’s what John the Baptizer taught in saying, “bear fruits in keeping with repentance.” And that is what Jesus is teaching throughout the Sermon on the Mount.

In the same way, it’s not enough that the Christian cares for the needs of the poor—you don’t have to be a Christian to want to help the unfortunate. As we seek to help in genuine, meaningful ways, through it all we have a greater goal: the glory of Jesus Christ.

The more I consider the question of why we should help the poor, the more I realize this is the answer. We are called to care for the poor because God is glorified in us doing so. We care for the poor because we know what it feels like to be on the receiving end of grace. We were the poor in spirit. We were lost and without hope. We were separated from God and enslaved to sin.

But “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Jesus lived a life of perfect obedience to the Father. Jesus took the punishment that we deserved by dying on the cross for our sins. Jesus took our sinfulness and gave us His righteousness so that we, on the Day of Judgment, can stand confidently before God and spend eternity with Him.

That is the grace He offers. That is the grace that frees us from guilt and shame over our sin. That is the grace that sustains us even in the midst of difficulty. That is the grace that enables us to consider others greater and more important than ourselves. And that is the grace that we share when we begin to invest in the lives of the poor.

Two of my favorite endorsements so far:

“While many books on eradicating poverty focus solely on statistics and need as motivating tactics, Awaiting a Savior moves beyond the stats, the great need, and excellently emphasizes addressing the root of poverty and what motivates us to adress the issue. The redemptive story of God highlighted in this book provides the grace-based motivation in the gospel necessary to provide the most holistic and sustainable response to the great need around us. Few books so astutely combine a comprehensive theological look at poverty with empowering, inspirational motivation.”

Logan Gentry, Pastor of Community & Justice, Apostles Church, New York City

Awaiting a Savior is a compelling and captivating book that looks at global poverty through the wide-angle lens of the gospel. Aaron Armstrong’s book will likely change the way you look at the problem of poverty in our world and how you think about addressing it. But what I love most about Awaiting a Savior is that it empowers us to care for the poor by making much of Jesus.”

Dan Cruver, author of Reclaiming Adoption, director of Together for Adoption

Posted by Aaron Armstrong

Aaron is the author of several books for adults and children, as well as multiple documentaries and Bible studies. His latest book, I'm a Christian—Now What?: A Guide to Your New Life with Christ is available now.

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3 Replies to “We Cannot Separate What We Believe From What We Do”

  1. […] An excerpt from Awaiting a Savior: “We Cannot Separate What We Believe From What We Do” […]

  2. I’m so excited to read this when it comes out! 

    This – “What we do is the fruit of what we believe about Jesus.” – is gold. 🙂

    1. Thanks Louis—I’m excited for you to read it, too!

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