October 25, 2007 - The Face of Works


The Faith of Works
By Jon Walker

“Dear brothers and sisters, what's the use of saying you have faith if you don't prove it by your actions? That kind of faith can't save anyone. … So you see, it isn't enough just to have faith. Faith that doesn't show itself by good deeds is no faith at all—it is dead and useless.” (James 2:14,17 NLT)

Consider this paraphrase of James 2:14,17 (based on the NLT):

Dear brothers and sisters, what's the use of saying you love your spouse if you don't prove it by the way you treat your spouse? That kind of impersonal love doesn’t make your relationship a marriage. … So you see, it isn't enough just to have an impersonal love. A theoretical love that doesn't show itself by intimate involvement in the life of your spouse is no love at all – it is dead and useless.

I use this example because it helps us see the holy union of faith and works. We can say we love our spouses, but without the “good works” of married life it’s hard to see the love. Yet we also can go through the motions of “good works” within a marriage without the presence of love.

Either way, we’ve missed the point and veered from God’s plain and simple plan. When it comes to faith and works, it basically works this way:

· We are saved by grace, through faith; this salvation is not from what we do, it is a gift from God; Salvation comes from faith and not by works, so that no one can boast about what they did to get to heaven. (Ephesians 2:7-10 NIV; Psalm 51:12 HCSB)

· God places the Holy Spirit within us, and we are energized by his spirit to do good works. (Colossians 1:29)

Paul says we’re compelled by love to do good works; it is possible, however, to fake faith by doing these good works. This may feel good bring us praise, but it will not earn salvation from God. It’s good works done in a faithless way – because they do not require faith, nor are they motivated by your faith.

James says it the other way around: You can claim faith all day long, but if your faith isn’t reflected in your actions, in the way you live your life, then you faith is dead. You’re living with a faith that has not been energized by the Spirit of God. It’s a theoretical faith that doesn’t compel you to pour your life into good and godly works.

Faith without works; works without faith – neither of these is God’s design. He designed us to live out a union of faith and works, so co-mingled that they reflect the very image of Christ.

What now?

· Work your faith – Let’s bring this lesson back down to an intimate level. Which takes more faith combined with works, for you to:

* Participate in a mission project in a foreign country?
* Treat your spouse with civility?
* Submit to a boss you don’t respect?

· God’s energy directs your work for him – “To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.” (Colossians 1:28-29 NIV) Perhaps you never thought you’d hear this from a pastor, but there may be some good things you’re doing that you can stop doing – because God never meant for them to be part of your purpose or the works you were created to do. This is not an excuse to sit on the sidelines. The question is: What is God energizing you to do for him?

· God’s love compels you to good works – “For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.” (2 Corinthians 5 NIV) God’s love is within you, compelling you to good works. What good and godly work are you consistently compelled to do?

© 2007 Jon Walker. All rights reserved.

Editor’s note: We received a few e-mails regarding the “Iron Man” devotional. In that study, I encouraged you to pray for Brett Favre because I think, too often, Christians forget that “celebrities” are just regular people in need of God's love and guidance.

Regrettably, I wrote the prayer request under the assumption that Brett is not a believer. When I'm in my right mind, I’m careful how I write such prayer suggestions because only God knows the heart. But I messed up on this one and regret my mistake.

As one reader explained: “I received this daily devotional today and am a little disturbed by the last sentence, ‘Finally, pray for Brett Favre, who appears to be a very good man, but still a man in need of a Savior.’

“I am a friend of Brett's wife and Brett. I don't think that is an accurate or fair statement. Deanna and Brett have been through a lot over the past few years, and are probably closer to their Savior now than they ever have been!”

Other readers sent this link http://www.guidepostsmag.com/WEEKLY_FEATURE.ASP?DATE=10/1/2007 from Guideposts magazine.

Gracious reader, I am an imperfect man serving a perfect God, and I am grateful for his patient love and your understanding. My assumption was false, but we can rejoice with God that he is at work in the Favres. – jw