What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says they have faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?… faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. – James 2:14
Sometimes I wonder about those around me, if they are truly saved or not. So many people go to church. So many people call themselves Christians. But are they really?
According to our title passage in the book of James, it is possible to believe in Jesus and to not be saved. James calls this dead faith.
We see this idea in other passages of the bible. Most notably in Matthew chapter 7:
Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. – Jesus (Matt 7:20)
In this passage, we see that there are people who believe in Jesus, even so much as to call Him Lord, and even so much as to do many wonders in His name, but ultimately Jesus says to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.” (v.21) This should be dreadfully frightening to us, who in our church culture emphasize the need to believe in Jesus, but not the need to deny ourselves, and to take up our crosses and follow Him. With the same fervency that we preach that people should believe in Jesus, we should also preach the necessity of being a doer of God’s word. Those who claim to believe, but are not doers of the Word, are deceiving themselves (James 1:22).
God is a very merciful God. All we must do is turn from our selfish ways, being truly sorry, and He will forgive us. But if we are deceived into thinking that we are ok when we are not, how can we turn to Him? It’s so important that we examine our faith. Is it a living faith or is it a dead faith? Do you know? How do you know the difference?
Take a moment to read James 2:14-26. In it, James is seeking to shake up his readers. He wants them to know that if they have faith, then they need to have works to show it. If they think they have faith, but their faith doesn’t do anything, it’s no good, it’s dead, and it won’t save anybody. It’s a useless faith that is just as good as a dead dog. Having a dog is great, but if it’s dead, then it’s not so great. A dead dog is not going to fetch the newspaper, he isn’t going to play with the kids, nor will he protect the house from a robber. All he’ll do is stink. It’s the same thing with faith.
Do you have a living faith or a dead faith? You may say, “I believe in God, I go to church.” So? The devil believes in God, and you can bet he goes to church. He goes to whisper into the ears of those who are gullible enough to hear him. And what does he say? He says, “See, you believe in God, and you go to church. You’re not as bad as so many others out there. Just relax and live your life the way you want to. God understands.”
Don’t be deceived. If you aren’t ready to forsake all sin and obey every command, then neither are you ready to enter heaven when you die. You stand in jeopardy at this very hour. Don’t delay to get down on your knees and cry out to God. Declare to Him your weaknesses, and ask for His help. He will help you.
For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. – Hebrews 4:15-16
The devil will try to tell you that this life of faith is too hard. He’ll tell you that, yes, others can do it, but for you, it is too hard. He’ll remind you of the sins that you love and how you could never live without them. It’s a lie! The truth is that they way of the sinner is hard (Pro 13:15). Jesus’ way, on the other hand, is easy and his burden is light (Mt 11:30). You’ve never experienced true freedom until you have experienced the freedom that Christ gives to all those that trust in Him. Give yourself completely to him, become His servant, and declare Him as your Master. No one will ever care for you like He does.
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3 thoughts on “Living Faith”
So we are saved by grace and maintain that grace by works which prove that we are standing in that grace? Its by grace or the law. It can’t be a combination of the two. Paul made that very clear. If that unmerrited favor has to be constantly reinforced by our perfection then Christ died for nothing and grace is not grace.
By grace we are instantly saved. Saved from what? Hell? Yes. But more specifically, sin. “He shall save His people from their sins” (Matt 1:21). What is sin? Sin is disobedience to God’s commands. So if we are ‘saved,’ but still in sin, how are we saved from sin? Grace is much more powerful than just giving you a ticket to heaven. It also enables you to live a holy life – a life in obedience to God. If you aren’t living a holy life it is evidence that you have not received grace. You have rejected grace to receive a gospel that is not a gospel.
Salvation by works is trying to work to obtain salvation.
Works by grace is the natural outcome of true faith and repentance.
“I (Paul) preached [everywhere I went] that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds.” – Acts 26:20
You need to be careful not to form your theology strictly from your understanding of Paul’s letters. Paul can be ‘hard to understand’ (2 Pet 3:16). And besides that, every word must be established by two or three witnesses. Not just the witness of Paul. Don’t get me wrong, Paul is right in what he says, it’s just that many people misinterpret it.
I do understand what you are trying to say. The examples of works that are spoken of in James are things that I think most Christians do. I guess the question that I would ask is what good works prove or complete a persons faith. Giving, forgiving, love, serving, etc and when is it enough. Its really all personal. I just don’t want people to try and please God or be justified by works. That is a bad mentality to get into. That is a work that Christ has already accomplished. We are suppose to rest in that finished work. Thou I do understand that our faith in Christ should shine. To each person that may look different though. Each person has their own part to play in the body.