This is our thirteenth and final day on the section in James 2 regarding faith and works. Here is James’ summary of the situation…
For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead. (James 2:26)
As we said two days ago, the writings of James and Paul complement each other on this topic. Paul focuses on Justification before God. James focuses on Justification before Men.
Paul teaches, You can’t work your way into Heaven, or else you’d brag about how you got there. Salvation is a free gift that cannot be earned, but God saves us so we will do good works.
James teaches, Salvation is by faith alone, but faith doesn’t just mean you believe God exists. If your faith is real, it will show in the way you live. True faith is a faith that works.
In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus describes four kinds of people that hear the Gospel. One type of person hears the Word and accepts it with joy at first, but it doesn’t properly take root in the person’s life, and so he/she soon falls away. They may have had an emotional, religious conversion experience without being Born Again spiritually.
In 2 Corinthians 13:5a Paul writes, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves.”
Is Paul saying that we can lose our salvation? No. He is saying we should look at our lives to see if we’ve ever really been saved.
How do you recognize an apple tree? You look for the apples. How do you recognize a Born Again Christian? You see the spiritual fruit that is growing in their life. So if we can’t see fruit in someone, does that mean the individual is not a Christian? The simple answer is, “I don’t know.”
Think about that apple tree that is not producing fruit. It might be dead, or it might be sick, or it might be in a climate where the growth will be slower. So what if I have a friend who claimes to be a Christian but isn’t living like one? He might not really be saved, or he may be going through a low point spiritually, or he may just be a slower grower, producing fruit that only God can see.
My job as a pastor is not to judge you; my job is to teach you, and help you to judge yourself. I am not trying to frighten you about your salvation. I just want to make sure that if you died today, you would be with the Lord. I encourage you to make sure that you are a Christian. Examine yourself to see if you are really in the faith. Are you growing spiritual fruit, or are you a dead apple tree?
If you are a Christian, there should be a difference in your life. You should be different from who you were before you met Jesus, or if you came to Christ early in life, different from who you would have become without Christ.
We are saved by faith – not by works. There is nothing you can do to earn your salvation, nor is there anything you can do to maintain it. It has all been done by Jesus by His perfect life and sacrificial death. But if your faith is real the evidence will be seen in the way you live. For that reason I am concerned about people who claim to be Christians but show no desire to put away their sin and live for Jesus.
Today’s Good News is that we are not saved by works, but by a faith that works.
Now, go share the Good News…
FAITH in ACTION!
If you are joining us part way through this Journey in James, you can access the devotionals you have missed in the archives. (The series started on June 1.)
Sleep well tonight, because tomorrow we begin Chapter 3, and a big discussion on learning to control the tongue!
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