“Wasn’t our ancestor Abraham ‘made right with God by works’ when he placed his son Isaac on the sacrificial altar? Isn’t it obvious that faith and works are yoked partners, that faith expresses itself in works? That the works are ‘works of faith’? The full meaning of ‘believe’ in the Scripture sentence, ‘Abraham believed God and was set right with God,’ includes his action. It’s that mesh of believing and acting that got Abraham named ‘God’s friend.’ Is it not evident that a person is made right with God not by a barren faith but by faith fruitful in works?”
James 2:22-24 (The Message)
Like so much of Scripture, context is everything. On this particular topic, we need to begin with James 2:14. Here he gives an example of both true and empty faith. With reference to the latter, James warns that “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (v. 17). Simply stated, he argues that merely believing in Jesus is not enough. To underscore this fact, James draws a grim comparison: “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder” (v. 19). He acknowledges that demons have faith, but that their faith is useless because it’s only a mental acknowledgment of God's existence. Their faith bares no fruit.
James is warning us… if we profess that we are Christians, but have no “proof” (in the form of “works”), then our faith is false. We see this again in 1 John 2:4: "If you say you have come to know Him, yet you do not keep His commandments, then the truth is not in you and you are a liar." But, in reading this, I think many of us skip over the most important element of this Scripture… that the truth must be in us. Yes, we must believe in Jesus… but we must also trust Him. And, as so many of us know, trust is an issue of the heart. Trusting Jesus is about giving Him our hearts and allowing Him to transform them. This is what it means to have His truth in us. It’s about lives committed to the Gospel… 100% committed. It’s about giving Him everything. In the words of Saint Francis Assisi: “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.”
Recently, someone asked me to contemplate a very challenging question: How are you different from the people you work with, the people in your neighborhood, the people you know that aren’t Christians? Specifically… are you bearing fruit in your life that sets you apart? Do people look at you and see Jesus because you live a life that is radically different from the rest of the world?
Chew on that last paragraph for a while. We’re almost done… hang in there. God is definitely working. The stories I’m hearing from some of you are a HUGE testament to the power and goodness of our Savior. Thank you for your faithfulness to Him.
It’s come to my attention that we have a faithful following in Russia. We’d love to hear from you! Send us an email if you have a chance.