This passage is a very touchy one for me (LOL). I wrote a sermon in my Homiletics (how to preach class), in bible college, I think on this very passage or at least on this topic. And well let us just say that it did not go over well. I believe the word “heresy” was written in quotations and in large, capital, red letters on the margins. Yup, to this day I joke around with my hubby about what a heretic I am.
The problem was and what I was trying to not so eloquently express is this idea of faith without works thing. I want to declare right now…shout from the roof tops, that you are saved by faith alone! You cannot earn your salvation! Salvation is a free gift given by God and paid for by Christ death on the cross. I want that to be perfectly clear. Yet, when I say all that we must then also understand that there can be no dichotomy in you between your faith and your behavior.
Salvation is free to you through faith
However, the evidence of your faith is your behavior.
Maybe you have heard something along these lines, I can tell your character pretty quickly by how you spend your money and your time. I think this is true of any Christian. I can tell if you are truly a Christian by what you do or as in this James passage your “good works”. This free gift of salvation is given to us by our faith and then what we do with it is measured by how we handle that gift.
It is far easier to only lean on this first half of salvation. Hey, our human nature loves all that is lazy. We will take anything that is free. But to then have to work with it, allow it to work through our lives, and let it change us, whoa…that is a whole new ballgame. It is like winning a treadmill. I can say I have a free treadmill and still be fat; because I have not used the dusty thing. It was just easier to just accept the first part in hopes to someday be skinny.
Sadly, we treat Jesus much like the dusty treadmill. I believe in Jesus and that is it! I prayed the prayer. The rest of my life I will live like the rest of the world and still get into heaven because of my free gift. I’m sorry friends that attitude is like slapping my Jesus in the face over and over again. He didn’t die so you can continue to live in your sinful slumber. No, He died to save you from yourself. Wake up and let Him change you. And as He begins to infiltrate your life, He is going to come out in all that you are and all you do. Why? Because He loves you and you love Him back.
I married my husband 16 years ago. I can say I am married and I love him until I blue in the face. But what if I treat him like garbage day in and day out, ignore him constantly, don’t do anything with him, and don’t work at having a relationship with him…is it really a relationship or is it all a façade? Am I really who I say I am by my actions? Wow, that is the question now isn’t it? Now replace the object of my affections with the name “Jesus” in those questions, what are my answers?
James gives two examples of Faith, Abraham and Rahab! He could have used any number of examples; but yet I think he purposely choose these two. Remember who James is talking to? Scattered Jewish Christians! Abraham is considered the ultimate patriarch of the Jews. He is the one with whom the promise of the Messiah would come through, he would be the father of many nations, and he was honored by all. Man, any Jew would hold this guy with the utmost respect. He is the Jew of all Jews. He had so much faith that he would even offer his own son to God. Wow, this guy had faith. He was honorable. He was God fearing. He is the man of all men in Jewish history. Those are some hard shoes to follow for some; but inspiring to others.
But his faith made him a friend to God. I cherish the image God creates here. He shows us that we to can be friends with God. Abraham allowed the love of God, his faith, to permeate him inside and out, that even his actions declared the very glory of God in his life, his friendship with Almighty God! Not too many religions allow you to be friends with their gods. But Jesus, creator of the universe, longs to consider us friend. How cool is that?
Well, I can’t have faith like Abraham. I’m not that good. I have a bad past. God wouldn’t want me.
Remember the other example of great faith? Yeah, Rahab. Rahab the prostitute, she leaves us all without excuse. She gives hope to anyone who longs to have faith in God and that they can change who they are. God is always chasing after us. You can never be to far gone, to dirty, to smelly, to bad, to whatever…that His free gift of salvation cannot change you. All you have to do is reach out in faith and let Him begin the process of making you more like Him. It is a process, sometimes lengthy and difficult, but in the end if you allow Christ to change all of who you are from the inside out you can begin to have great faith with matching good works…just like beautiful Rahab who also became a friend of God just like Abraham.
I love the last verse, 26, at the end of James 2. I think it marries perfectly the idea of the free gift of salvation through faith and our good works.
just as the body is dead without breath, so also faith is dead without good works.
That is it plain and simple, clear and precise, and so easy for us all to understand as we breathe in and breathe out even as we read it.
May your faith be alive and goodness come out as easily
as you take in breath and release it.
I always thought that I was weird for taking these pictures. They are from a cemetery in Gladwin last winter. The snowy day was so perfect and as I was driving by, it just seemed to beautiful in there to not grab some pictures. They seem to fit with today's post.
Don't let your faith be dead and cold!