Upon entering a new year, we are launching into a new preaching series at FBC in Palmer. We will be studying the book of James. I love to preach through a book of the Bible — because the burden is lifted off of me to choose a topic — when we take the Word one verse, one passage, or one chapter at a time, it is laid out for us.

The word does it’s own convicting — no one can blame the pastor of “picking on them.”

One of the main themes of James is “obedience.” I think A.W. Tozer, a pastor, author and magazine editor (1897-1963) summed up the theme of James very well:

“To escape the error of salvation by works; we have fallen into the opposite error of salvation without obedience. Obedience isn’t legalism: it’s a symptom of genuine salvation.

I’ve been persuaded, of late, that a person is not necessarily heaven-bound because they recited a prayer. Also, a person who has been genuinely saved, can’t help but demonstrate “good works.” Because a person who is genuinely saved is a person who has been supernaturally changed by the power of Christ.

I have always preached, and I have always heard it preached, that if we “confess with our mouths, the Lord Jesus, and believe in our hearts that God hath raised him from the dead, we would be saved.” I still believe that. I also believe that When Jesus comes into our hearts, changing our destination from hell to heaven, He also cleanses us, and gives us a desire to walk with Him in obedience.

That’s not to say we don’t veer off course occasionally — that’s because we still live in this flesh. The difference between a saved person and a lost person is how they struggle with that flesh. A genuinely saved person wrestles with and despises the effects of the flesh. When the flesh wins out over them, it leaves them with conviction, shame, and a desire to confess it to God. On the other hand, a lost person lives for the world with no conscience or remorse. I like what Adrain Rogers, long-time pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church of Memphis, Tenn. said on this subject.

He said: “A sinner leaps into sin and loves it - but a saint lapses into sin and loathes it.”

Far more than we pastors striving for numerical church growth, — building and property expansion, or expanded programs and activities — we should strive to help every member knows for sure they are going to heaven when they die or when Jesus returns.

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Paul Gauntt currently serves as the pastor of First Baptist Church of Palmer.