"What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone. In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead."
- James 2:14-26
The basic belief in Christendom is that FAITH in Jesus Christ is what saves us. It is also understood that we cannot work our way to heaven. So many of us rely on our faith in God to save us, because most of us know that we are not really very good...at being good.
So here we have these 2 concepts. That we are saved by faith alone and that we cannot work our way to God. But then we have this Scripture in James that says, "Faith without works is dead." This is easy enough to understand, that if our faith is true, then it will manifest in how we live out our lives. It will come out naturally. And if our lives reveal very little works, then perhaps it may be a red flag that our faith isn't what it should be.
There are a millions of Christians in the world today, but ask the average citizen if they can spot the Christians among them and they'll probably say that they can't tell exactly who is who. Are we acting and living in such a way that strangers can spot us or are we really just like everyone else?
Well, like everyone else, we dress the same, go to work, complain about annoyances, have the same concerns and problems and do our best with what we have. Some of us may drink and smoke and some like to dance. Most of us watch secular TV shows and movies and many of us are just as materialistic and worried about money as our non-believing neighbors. So really what's the difference?
All Christians have accepted Jesus Christ and our love and trust in Him is without question. We walk a fine balance between trusting the Lord in our heart and living our daily life in the world. Some believe that if we strive to live a perfect life with church attendance, regular prayer and Bible study, abstaining from impure thoughts, forsaking vanity and materialism and trying to be good...then we are probably doing OK. But because of this way of trying to keep ourselves holy, we may stay away from people outside of our Christian circle to keep ourselves pure and not affected by bad influences.
Is this how faithful Christians are supposed to live?
Well, it isn't just about studying the Bible, abstaining from vices or staying 100 percent pure that determines if we are good Christians. It whether our faith manifests into LOVE and DEEDS.
Jesus points out the flaws of the Pharisees' way of self-centered purity that superseded everything and everyone else!
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! - Matthew 23:23-24
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation.” - Matthew 23: 14
No matter how BIG we think our faith is, unless we SHOW GOD'S LOVE to people around us, our faith is lacking, because LOVE is the requirement. I say requirement because Jesus said that the greatest commandments are to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind and love your neighbor as yourself. Loving is what the commandments are all about.
"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 'This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." -Matthew 22: 36-40
In the Scripture, James uses the example that if we see a brother or sister without clothes or food, what good is it if we do nothing to help them? He clearly shows that the works of our faith are those that directly affect people. Jesus uses the same examples when He speaks of what separates the Sheep from the Goats when He says it is the ones who feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, visit the sick and those in prison...who will be saved.
Why is it so hard for us as Christians to follow His commandments to Love? Many of us have NO trouble doing the first commandment - Loving and trusting God with all of our heart, soul and mind. But His second Commandment to Love our neighbors is what we struggle with because to love our neighbor requires ACTION and that means giving up our time, energy and money to tend to someone else. In essence sacrificing one's self to take on someone else's problems. Yet, isn't that what Jesus did for us?
According to James, faith and action go hand in hand and are INSEPARABLE.
And John declares that those who do not love may not even know God at all! "The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love." - 1 John 4:8
If we truly love the Lord, then we must believe in Him and everything He stands for. And our faith must be such that He becomes a part of who we are and we know that God is Love.
Our faith must beckon us to live as Jesus lived. To Love God with all of our heart, soul, and mind is to become ONE with Him and everything He loves. Following His commandments is the fruit of a heart touched by God. We love because He first loved us. When we are in fellowship with Him, His love fills us and naturally flows out to others. So we must love the same way He loves.
It is NOT enough to say with our lips that we love people, because that is the easy way out. It's easy to love someone you don't really know, never have to deal with, care for or get involved with. It is easy to say a prayer for someone in need, yet do nothing whatsoever to help them. It is as the priest who walked by the side of the road running away from the man who was beaten up in Jesus' parable of the Good Samaritan.
So many Christians study the Bible; yet barely practice any of it.
We must practice deeds of love by greeting, welcoming, talking, listening, sharing, encouraging, having compassion, teaching, taking care of, forgiving, helping, lending, donating, volunteering, and bringing love to the people in our lives...our neighbors.
God asks us to get out of our self and be a part of the community of people whom He cares about because this is how God reaches out to others...through us. We are God's hands and feet. We are the ones who must deliver God's love to the world and we can't love anyone until we are involved in their lives.
So many of us live as if we don't know God. When there are things to do be done, we step away. When there are things that need to be said, we say nothing, when problems arise instead of pitching in we let others deal with it.
There are so many times that we THINK about reaching out, THINK about getting involved, THINK about volunteering, THINK about helping...but then never do. We make excuses because of our time or money, but in the end, nothing ever gets done. We really are like the tree that bears no fruit or the servant who buried His Master's treasure in the ground.
So NO, how we dress is not a problem or what movies we watch is not a problem, but whether or not we step out of our self to touch someone's life in a way to heal, love, help, feed, teach, nourish, care for...is what matters most to God.
Though none of us are perfect Christians, love is what lifts us out of the darkness of the world and into His light. "Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins." - 1 Peter 4:8
So how can the average citizen spot the Christians around them? By the acts love that the people of God shine out to those around them. "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." - John 13: 35
"Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." - Matthew 5:16
This is LIVING FAITH!
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