Brad Libolt speaking on James 2:14-17. He spoke about the importance of having a faith that causes us to do good works. Encouraging us to pause and ask ourselves if we are taking action or standing idle.
“14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?”
- James is asking a rhetorical question. He is saying is it good if someone has faith and no works? Can faith without works save someone?
- He is talking about someone who says they are a Christian but doesn’t do anything about it. Their life doesn’t display what they say. They know the right things and say the right things, but that doesn’t change their actions.
- This would be like me saying I am a basketball player. I talk like a basketball player and know everything about basketball, but I never actually play. In fact I do everything except basketball. People think I am a basketball player but in reality I never touch a basketball or step on a basketball court.
- Some of you might know people like this. They say they are a Christian and they talk like a Christian, they say the right things, but then their actions are the total opposite.
- Or some of you might be this kind of person. You say you’re a Christian, you “have faith”, you go to church and know all the right answers, but your actions and the things you do don’t match what you say.
- This is what it looks like to have faith but no works, and we are going to see at the end that this is incredibly dangerous.
“15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 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?”
- As James often does, he gives an example. If you see a fellow Christian who is poorly clothed and lacking daily food – pause right there for a second. Notice what he is saying. The person is poorly clothed NOW. They don’t have enough clothes to stay warm or protected right now, in this moment. They are also lacking food right NOW.
- It is fine to bless someone, tell them to go in peace and be warmed and filled but if you don’t actually give them clothes and food what good is that?
- It’s like the idea that you are the answer to someone’s prayer. God calls us to be active, not passive. If you see someone has a need right in front of you right away and you pray that God will fill that need, God is filling that need by sending you! The need is right in front of you and God has you there to do something. If we see that people have a need, our first reaction should be figuring out how we can fill that need ourselves.
- As Christians we need to be actively serving people. We need to look for needs and places we can give of our time, energy, money, our resources, and do so generously. Jesus was the perfect example of serving. He gave generously and served by pouring out to others. We can’t say that we believe in Jesus without then acting like Jesus. If we love and believe in Jesus, then we will act like him.
- So what does this look like for us? We have given a lot of examples about how you guys can be treating friends, family, classmates, and complete strangers. We have talked about not showing favoritism, speaking love and truth to them, and showing them Christ through your words and actions. We talked about caring for the poor and the less fortunate, and gave some ideas on how you can do that. So now the question is, are you doing it?
- Have you actually been applying the things we have been talking about or have you been leaving them at the door after you leave on Sunday? If you have been leaving them at the door on Sunday and not taking them with you into your week, then the next verse should scare you a little bit.
- James says…
“17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”
- If we say we believe in Christ and have faith but don’t do anything about it, then our faith is dead. If we say we are Christians but aren’t caring for the people in our lives that need care or if we aren’t applying these things to our lives, then our faith is dead.
- Because true faith produces works. If you truly believe in Jesus Christ and have true faith then your life is going to be changed. The gospel of Jesus Christ affects us at the deepest level, at our very core, and then changes everything else. True faith changes everything about us.
- I want to make this clear because there can be some confusion: James is not saying that we are saved by works. Don’t think that’s what he is saying. We are saved by our faith and faith alone. There is nothing we can do to earn our salvation. But what he is saying is that if you have faith but it’s not changing the way you live your life, then you don’t really have faith. Faith saves, works don’t, but a saving faith produces works. Salvation is by faith alone, there is nothing we can do to earn our salvation.
- So this puts us in an interesting position. It causes us to really evaluate our faith, and really evaluate what we believe. Does your belief in the gospel cause you to live like Jesus? Or is Christianity just a badge or title you wear, something you profess with your mouth but then don’t do anything about it?
- If that is where you’re at, if you say you have faith but your life doesn’t display this statement, then don’t “try” to make it work on your own to have more faith because that won’t do anything. Instead, we must ask God for a true saving faith, because He’s the only one who can change us. Repent and turn to God and really let the gospel sink down deep into your heart. Let the death and resurrection of Jesus change you from the inside out and make you a completely different person. One who cares for the poor, one who speaks truth to friends, one who loves enemies well, one who desires others to know Christ.
- The thing is though, we will never do this perfectly. Even with true faith and good works, we will never be perfect. We will still sin, we will still treat people wrongly, say the wrong things, do the wrong things, and even still, we will not ever be able to earn our salvation.
- We will always need Jesus, the one who did all of this perfectly. Jesus didn’t just have faith, he had works as well. He loved and cared for people well, he spoke truth and life, He never sinned, and lived a perfect life. He fulfilled what you and I never could. But instead of being rewarded for the good works that he did, he was killed and punished, while we got the reward.
- And in order to get that reward, all you and I have to do is believe. We just have to believe that Jesus died for our sins and rose again. The reward is that we get to experience eternity in heaven with our Creator. And the reward applies to us here on earth too. Now we can live like Jesus. The faith we have makes us new creations, and gives us the ability and desire to do good works. And doing those good works proves that we do in fact have true faith in Jesus Christ.
- But we need to recognize and remember that a work had to be done so we could have true faith. Jesus’ work on the cross provided the opportunity for you and I to have true faith. We cannot have true faith without Jesus’ good work on the cross.