True Faith Philippians 2:1-13 James 2:14-19
Faith... We talk an awful lot about faith, don't we? Especially here at church.
We speak of having faith... of possessing faith... of gaining faith... of growing faith. Which are all legitimate ways of talking about faith, no doubt. But our use of the word sometimes leads us to think of faith as less than it is...
Because sometimes we express faith as being a thing... an object. Again: think of the way we speak... we speak of having faith, possessing faith, gaining faith, growing faith. The action is expressed in "having, possessing, gaining and growing." Faith is the subject of the "having, possessing, gaining and growing.” It’s a noun in much of our conversation. And a noun is a person, place or thing... right? Or, at least that's what they taught me in grade school!
And while faith can certainly be a noun, a thing... because, at times, it represents a set of beliefs or doctrines... as in you and I are people of Reformed Faith - and Reformed Faith is most definitely a thing. So in that sense, faith is something we have, or something we possess. It’s the subject... BUT faith is much more than that!
Of course, in the original language of the New Testament the word “faith” is often translated “faithed” - it implies action... but we don’t go around saying “I faithed” do we? So, in other words, even though a literal translation of Greek to English would sometimes read that way... we translate “I faithed” as “I believe.” So instead of saying “I faithed Jesus” we say “I believe Jesus.”
I’m telling you all this, in an effort to help you understand that our modern English doesn't always do justice in terms of expressing faith as action. Biblical faith’s not just something we obtain or own, it's something we carry-out. It must be lived. It's not passive; like pulpit, or pew, or window. It's active; like speaking, and singing, and worshiping! They're action words. Faith demonstrates action.
That’s what James is trying to help us understand in our scripture lesson today. “Faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.”
Faith without works has no life; it's no longer active.
We sometimes talk about faith and works as if they’re polar opposites. But that’s not true... Faith and works more like two sides of the same coin. You can't have one without the other.
Of course, someone will go out-of-their-way to remind me that works alone cannot save. And that’s absolutely true. You can't earn your salvation through works alone. Christ, and Christ ALONE has the power to save... it’s God’s gift of pure, unmerited grace for those who believe. But FAITH, true faith, always... ALWAYS... leads to works!
True Faith implies action. Faith and works are “hand in glove”... or, again, two sides of the same coin. You can't have the heads side without the tails can you? And so you can't truly have faith if it’s not lived out in your life.
Because, faith without action is nothing more than wishful thinking. Faith without action is meaningless... it useless... it’s pointless. It’s kinda like standing on a dock at the lake, claiming that you believe a boat will float and keep you from sinking... but you don’t trust the boat enough to get on board and float!
Or like claiming to believe in the physics behind flight... but refusing to board a plane. Or saying you believe a bridge will support your weight, but never trusting it by walking across it! Without trust, belief never becomes faith! Your belief doesn't become faith until you step on the bridge! Your belief doesn't become faith until you actually get in the boat and float... or get on the airplane and fly.
And the same can be said of our belief in Jesus. Our belief is not faith until we put it into action. Belief in Jesus is not faith until we actually live for Christ and trust Him!
That’s why James tells us, “Even the demons believe...” The Devil and all the demons know exactly who God is, and they know the power of God in Christ. But you’d never say the demons have faith because their actions are contrary to God’s will and purpose... they’re agents of death, and destruction, and hate, and lies.
And I’m not trying to be judgmental... but there are many self-proclaimed Christian in the same boat. They say they believe that Jesus is the Son of God, but their actions are to the contrary. They say that they believe that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life, but they clearly live for the world, not for Christ. Their belief has never progressed through trust, to true faith.
And I don’t know about you: but I encounter people all the time who say things like, “I believe in Jesus... I just don’t go to church.” -OR- “I believe in Jesus... I just don’t think sharing the Good News is necessary. After all faith is personal, it’s between me and God.” or “I believe in Jesus, I just don’t think it’s important to study God’s word, or to listen to the instruction of the church, because my opinion is as good as yours.”
And listen: before anyone says I’ve said something I didn’t say... “Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian anymore than being in a garage makes you a car!” BUT... neither does NOT going to church!
Faith, without works, is dead.
I think it fairly safe to say that all of us here today believe in Jesus... We believe that God loved us so much that he sent Christ to free us from our sins and offer us life that filled with grace and mercy and forgiveness.
Our challenge isn’t to believe... WE ALREADY BELIEVE! Our challenge is to trust Christ to the point of faith... true faith! Our challenge is to live-out our belief... in real, tangible ways... every single day... using our hands, our feet... our voices... to declare the Good News of Christ, to a world that desperately needs to hear it!
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