- August 12, 2020
We have reached the muggy stage of summer with long hot days, high humidity, and a daily chance of afternoon thunderstorms. I’m a big fan of thunderstorms. I very much enjoy sitting on the back deck, watching a good storm build, and then rolling through. The natural phenomena of lightning and thunder is a breath-taking
We have reached the muggy stage of summer with long hot days, high humidity, and a daily chance of afternoon thunderstorms. I’m a big fan of thunderstorms. I very much enjoy sitting on the back deck, watching a good storm build, and then rolling through. The natural phenomena of lightning and thunder is a breath-taking display of nature’s power. When a bolt strikes close enough to make the hair on your arms stand up and the thunder cracks immediately afterward, well, you know you were close to awesome power.
One lightning bolt can contain billions and billions of watts of electricity. Around the world, lightning strikes 100 times a second, 8 million times a day, and up to 3 billion times per year. We live on a supercharged planet!
Thunder happens when super-heated air (over 48,000 degrees Fahrenheit) expands explosively as lightning strikes. If we’re close enough, the shockwaves hit us with a loud crack followed by rumbling thunder as the sound from further away in the strike reaches our ears. All in all, an amazing display of nature’s fireworks.
In Ephesians 2:8-9, Paul writes, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.”
There is a lot of debate in Christianity over faith and works, and which of the two is effective at bringing about salvation. We shouldn’t be surprised. Even James struggled with the debate and wrote this in James 2:24, “You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.” To read James’ full argument, see James 2:14-26.
John also weighed-in on the topic. In 1 John 4:19-21, He said this, “We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.” It takes faith to love a God you haven’t seen, and it takes work to love a brother or sister you have seen. John was simply saying that if you have faith to claim you love God while not loving your brother and sister, well, it just doesn’t add up.
John and Paul and James were all describing the same thing while emphasizing different cautions. Are we saved by grace through faith alone? Or are we saved by grace displayed in good works? Well, maybe lightning and thunder can provide a metaphor to help us understand this important issue.
We have already established that lightning is powerful. A direct hit can cause severe structural damage to trees and buildings. If a person is hit, it can cause terrible burns, long-term disabilities, and even death.
Thunder may be very loud and intimidating, but thunder has no real power other than what is released as shockwaves into the air. It may hurt your ears, but thunder won’t injure or kill you. Thunder is noise, not power. No one has ever been struck by thunder.
All of the power is in the lightning, and all of the noise is in the thunder — and the two always go together. Always. Whenever lightning strikes, thunder follows.
My friends, faith releases the power of grace, and when grace strikes, transformation takes place. Grace brings salvation and justification and redemption and hope, and peace! Paul said, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here.” Bam! That’s the lightning of grace released by faith alone — and that grace is filled with incredible transformational power.
After the lightning of grace strikes, the thunder of good works follows. Always. Whenever grace strikes, good works follow.
James was cautioning us against hypocrisy. If you claim to have been struck by the lightning of God’s saving grace, but the thunder of good works is completely silent in your life, then you are saying one thing while being another. If that’s true, then it would be wise to make sure you got hit by the power of grace in the first place.
Paul was cautioning us against pride. No one can take credit for what God has done. His grace is the lightning that contains all the power of transformation. Our good works are the result of the strike of grace, not the other way around. Friends, anyone can do good works, but those good works will never save you. Like thunder, good works have no power. You can’t earn your way into God’s grace or heaven. So be careful, don’t let pride keep you from experiencing the lightning strike of God’s grace.
And John was cautioning us against neglect. If you claim to love God, but you are neglecting the needs of your brother or sister, well, John doesn’t mince words: You’re a liar. Faith and works always go together, just like lightning and thunder. So if we’re going to say we love God, we better make sure we’re loving each other.
So the next time you’re sitting on your back deck and listening to approaching thunder as a storm rolls into your neighborhood, remember that faith releases the transformational power of grace. The thunder of good works naturally follows and rolls on and on.1 comment