Dead Faith

James 1-5

I have enjoyed going through the first half of the book of Acts with all of you, as the book of Acts is one of my favorite books in the Bible.  I am fascinated with the history of the church after Jesus ascended to heaven, and there is no better source to take a look at than the book of Acts.  I hope you all enjoyed the first half of Acts as well.  Today, we cover the book of James, another real solid book (really all 66 books are real solid).  James is one of the first books of the Bible that I would have a new believer read, as it has a ton of applicable information.  The book provides great stepping stones to living a godly life.  If you haven’t read the book of James before, stop whatever you’re doing (Well, I guess that means stop reading this devotion), and read the book of James for yourself.  If you have read it before, I would still encourage you to revisit this piece of gold.

            James covers a wide range of topics throughout his book.  Today, we are going to spend most of our time covering two topics found in the book.  Before we do that though, I want to mention the other topics found in James.  If there is a topic that interests you, then go ahead and see what James himself has to say about it.  The main talking points in James that we won’t talk about are: hearing and doing the word, the sin of partiality, taming the tongue, wisdom from above, warning against worldliness, boasting about tomorrow, warning to the rich, patience in suffering, and the prayer of faith.  Much could be said about each of these different topics.  There is simply not enough time/space to mention all of these topics in our devotion.

            With that being said, we will talk about the testing of our faith and the relationship between faith and works.  I wanted to talk about the testing of our faith because it connects very well with what we have been talking about with the book of Acts.  In the first 14 chapters of Acts, we saw a handful of people suffer because of their faith in Jesus.  What does James have to say about this?  Well, James says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing,” (James 1:2-4).  In summary, James says to consider it a joy!

            I don’t know about you, but it is not my initial thought or feeling to consider a trial a joy.  I think a large reason is because it is not fun or enjoyable to go through a trial.  However, when we think about the effects of enduring through trials of various kinds, we can come away with an appreciation.  When we successfully endure through a trial, it can produce steadfastness, which enables us to be a more complete, well-rounded person. 

Every single time that someone goes through a trial, they either grow closer or they grow further away from God.  The heroes of our faith that we took a look at in Acts went through various trials, and it appears that they grew closer to God.

Our next main topic is the relationship between faith and works; they have an interesting relationship with one another.  They have caused a lot of discussion and even some disagreement in Christian circles.  According to James, “Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead,” (James 2:17).  That means that a faith that is not accompanied by any works is useless!  We need to remember though that it is by God’s grace that we are saved, and we accept that grace through our faith, not our works (Ephesians 2:8).  However, we can’t accept God’s grace with a dead faith; it must be a living and active faith that we have to accept God’s grace.  We already mentioned that a faith without any works is dead and useless.  That means that we must accept God’s grace through our faith, but we have to accompany our faith with our works.

At an initial glance, it can appear at times that James and Paul (in Ephesians) clash with one another.  However, that is not the case at all.  They both show how faith and works have a beautiful relationship with one another.  I remember being stumped over the relationship between faith and works for some time.  It took me awhile to see how they work together, and I hope this very short explanation can help clear up the confusion that any of you may have between faith and works.

Well, there we have it, folks.  This past week we got to spend time in Acts and James.  We have learned a handful of very valuable lessons from the likes of Paul, Peter, and James.  If you have read the devotions for this week, I hope you stick with it!  There is lots of great content ahead, as we get to explore the writings of Paul and others.  As always, there is also a great lineup of writers to help us all dig into God’s Word.  God bless!

-Kyle McClain

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – James 1-5

Tomorrow we read Acts 15-16.

Faith ____ Works

James 2

James 2 14 NIV

In Chapter two of James he continues to tell us that we need that Humble Pride and we are not to judge others in partiality. We must not look at others and decide that God isn’t going to use them because we don’t like the way they look. Just as we may turn away from a book when the cover is worn and frayed, we occasionally turn away from people when we see they are worn and frayed. The thing we must remember is sometimes the books, and people, that are worn the most are worn from use not from neglect. When we look at someone we should seek the potential that our LORD sees. When Samuel went to anoint the king he would have overlooked David but God was looking at David’s heart.

In the same way that we tend to judge by what we see on the surface James tells us that our faith is to be more than mere words.

When you look at Faith ______ Works, what would you place in that blank?

  • Faith or works
  • Faith VS. works
  • Faith and works

We know that we are cleansed of our sins by faith (not by works), so why would James ask in 2:14, “Can faith with no works save you?” Do Paul and James have a long-standing disagreement on this matter? No, they agree beautifully! James is not saying that we are saved by our works but that our works are evidence of our faith. In verses 15 and 16 he says that empty words mean nothing. For example, if I simply say I am feeding my dogs regularly, yet I give them no food; eventually they starve. They will not survive on my words or good intentions alone. The same is true of our faith. Luke just told us last week of that “great cloud of witnesses” in Hebrews 11 that were all shown to be faithful and that faith was made evident in the works they did for God.

James says if we have true faith it will be shown by our actions! He says in verse 19 that if all it took was a belief in the truth that God is one then even the demons would be okay, because they believe and shudder. Although they believe, their actions and their allegiance are not inline with God’s plan. They understand truth but choose to do their own thing. We need to understand truth AND let that truth move us to action for God!

James says that we need a Faith that Works!

If our faith is not causing us to work for God we must ask ourselves, “Do I truly have faith, or do I have empty words?”

-Bill Dunn

 

A Dead Faith

James 2 17 (1)

Happy Labor Day. This holiday was started to give praise to the American workforce for their contributions to our country. What does the Bible say about our work for God. Obviously we know the Bible says that works can’t save someone. Paul writes in Galatians that salvation is a gift of God through Jesus. This idea that work isn’t needed has kind of permeated our Christian culture.

We can’t be Blind to what the Old and New Testament says about our relationship to God and the work that produces. In Proverbs, Solomon gives us many verses like 6:6 where we are to consider the ant and how hard they work and 31:10 where the virtuous women is praised for her work. Solomon says work is good to keep us from poverty and this is both physical and spiritual.

In the New Testament, James tells us that our faith and works are married together and can’t be separated. All of the people of faith in Hebrews were commended for what they did. So on this Labor Day maybe we honor God with some work for what he has already done. We can’t earn salvation but we can say thank you by what we do.

-Joseph Partain