Dead or Genuine?

Tuesday, May 16, 2017, 8:33 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Have Thine Own Way, Lord.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read James 2:14-26 (ESV).

Dead Faith (vv. 14-17)

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

I believe there are two types of faith. One is human faith, and another is God-given faith. God-given faith, which is the kind necessary for salvation, is divinely persuaded as to God’s will for our lives, and if persuaded, and originating in God, it then conforms to God’s holiness and righteousness, because it is supernatural (of God), not natural (of human origin).

Many people today are presenting the gospel of salvation in such a way that the faith they describe as necessary for salvation is human faith, not God-given faith, because they teach that God requires no repentance, no obedience, and no submission to Christ and his cross. They are being taught that all they have to do is believe that Jesus took their place on a cross, that he died for their sins, and that he took their punishment for sin so that they could escape hell and have the promise of heaven when they die. But, they are not being taught that Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. The prayer they pray for salvation is more like just a thank you to Jesus for what he did, but without confession or repentance of sin, and without turning to God to walk in obedience to Christ and his Word.

And, this is what James is addressing here, I believe. If we say we have faith in Jesus Christ (in God), but our lifestyles speak the opposite, then do we truly have God-given faith? Or, is it human faith, which acknowledges only what Jesus did for us, but does not bow to Christ, nor does it feel it has to? If we say we believe in Jesus, and in his sacrificial death on a cross for our sins, then it should make a difference in our lives, shouldn’t it? If it doesn’t, then what good is the faith? James gives the illustration here of seeing someone truly in need and yet not lifting a finger to help. If all we do is tell them to go in peace, but we do nothing to help, what good is that? He says, then, that in the same way if our faith is not followed (accompanied) by works (not of the flesh, but of the Spirit), it is thus dead (useless) faith.

Genuine Faith (vv. 18-26)

But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

Hebrews 11 is considered the “faith” chapter of the Bible. In nearly every account in that chapter it describes someone’s faith much like this: By faith he (fill in the name) did (something). Abel offered a sacrifice acceptable to God, and Noah, in reverent fear, constructed an ark for the saving of his household, as God had commanded him to do. Abraham obeyed when he was called of God to go to a place he was to receive as an inheritance, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith Moses considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt; by faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, etc. And, by faith the people crossed the Red Sea on dry land, and the list goes on (See: Heb. 11).

And, by faith in Jesus Christ, and in what he did for us in dying on a cross for our sins, so that we could escape hell, be delivered from slavery to sin and have eternal life with God, we willingly die with Christ to sin. We are crucified with Christ in death to sin, and we are resurrected with Christ to newness of life, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. We leave our old lives of sin behind us, and we turn to follow Jesus Christ with our lives in obedience to him and to his Word. If we say we have fellowship with God, though, but we walk (in lifestyle) in darkness (sin), we lie, and we do not live by the truth (See: Lu. 9:23-25; Jn. 6:35-66; Acts 26:16-18; Ro. 6:1-23; Ro. 8:1-14; Gal. 2:20; Eph. 4:17-24; 1 Jn. 1:6).

So, God-given faith is inseparable from corresponding action (works of the Spirit). It is not enough to just believe with human or with intellectual or even with emotional faith generated in oneself. James said that even the demons believe in the existence of the ONE true God, and that they even shudder. And, that is because they know God exists because he created them, and because they used to be angels in heaven. But, that belief was not enough, because they still rebelled against God and became demons.

It is true that we can do nothing to earn or to deserve our own salvation, and it is only by God’s grace that we are saved, through faith, and this not of ourselves for it is a gift of God, not of works lest anyone should boast (Eph. 2:8-9). Yet, we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (v. 10). If we walk according to the flesh, we will die in our sins, but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live with Christ for eternity (Ro. 8:1-14; cf. Lu. 9:23-25). So, faith is active along with works (of the Spirit), and faith is completed by such works. So, as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

Have Thine Own Way, Lord
Adelaide A. Pollard / George C. Stebbins

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Thou art the potter, I am the clay.
Mold me and make me after Thy will,
While I am waiting, yielded and still.

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Search me and try me, Master, today!
Whiter than snow, Lord, wash me just now,
As in Thy presence humbly I bow.

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Wounded and weary, help me I pray!
Power, all power, surely is Thine!
Touch me and heal me, Savior divine!

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Hold o’er my being absolute sway.
Fill with Thy Spirit till all shall see
Christ only, always, living in me!

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