Tuesday, March 6, 2012

40 Days with James ~ Day 14 ~ Dead Faith, Part 1

Day 14 ~ Dead Faith, Part 1
James 2:14-17  What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?  Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food.  If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?  In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
Can a faith that has no deeds be a saving faith?  This is the question that will engage us for the next few days of our study.  We work very hard to teach that faith alone, apart from works, saves a Christian. We don't do enough to save ourselves, our sin is too great, so Christ comes purely and solely by God's grace to save us.  He does not look to see if we are holy enough or if we are worthy enough.  God saves sinners by grace alone through faith alone on account of Christ alone.  It is faith alone in Jesus, apart from works, that saves us (Ephesians 2:8-9).

James is not disagreeing with this truth today.   What He is saying, is that, though faith alone does save us, saving faith is never alone.  In other words, Jesus saves us, not our works.  But faith in Jesus is never without works of love for the neighbor.  Faith is always working, always loving.  The question is not, "Can a faith with no deeds be a saving faith?" rather, the question is, "Can a saving faith have no deeds?"

Martin Luther said it this way, "Faith is a divine [that is to say, God's] work in us and makes us to be born anew of God.  It kills the old 'Adam' and makes us altogether different people, in heart and spirit and mind and all powers; and it brings with it the Holy Spirit.  O, it is a living, busy, active, mighty thing, this faith.  It is impossible for it not to be doing good works incessantly...Thus, it is impossible to separate works from faith, quite as impossible as to separate heat and light from fire."

Faith is loving all the time.  Faith trusts God for all things and loves the neighbor with all things.  It is not this love that saves us, but it is love that comes from those who are saved by God's grace.  If such love is absent, the question becomes, does faith even exist?  

Consider Luther's illustration of the heat and light that come from fire.  If I took you into a cold dark room and said, "Look at how beautiful that fire is!  Isn't it magnificent?"  you would look at me like I was crazy.  The room is clearly without fire because there is not heat and no light which always come from fire.  So it is with faith.  James says that if we go about boasting of our great faith but are not loving our brothers and sisters in the church then we are boasting of a great fire in  a cold, dark room.  If there are those among us who are poor, hungry, and naked and we say, "I hope that works out for you.  Oh, I'll pray for you," and leave them poor, hungry, and naked our faith may be dead.  God has graciously saved us poor, wretched sinners out of the abundance of His mercy and grace.  Faith trusts this promise for salvation.  That faith saves.  But that faith also works, it loves just as God has loved us.  

Confession:  Gracious, heavenly Father, have mercy on me for the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ.  I confess how much I struggle to exercise my faith in love towards those around me.  I love my things and my comfort so much that I don't share with those in need.   You have given me faith in Jesus, now give me an active love for my neighbor.  AMEN

Challenge:  Next time you offer to pray for someone who is hurting, don't wait to pray.  Pray for them there on the spot.  Then, offer to help them with their problem in a real, concrete way.      

Pastor Bob

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Faith Lutheran Church • 123 Park Lane • Moorpark, CA 93021 • (805) 532 1049 • Send Email