Saturday, February 15, 2014

Live What You Believe

Scriptural Reading: James 2:14-26
Devotional Reading: Luke 7:1-10

Marketing agencies know they have to connect the dot between simple belief and desire to action. So they are consistent in creating belief and desire to action slogans. There used to be one used by the Yellow Pages that stated, “Let Your Fingers Do the Walking.” This way people can take a lot of hard work out of shopping, etc. beforehand. Other examples can be given in the marketplace and the world, especially during the Christmas season. What about a Biblical example as representative of the kingdom of God? In Luke 7:1-10 Jesus had just arrived at Capernaum when He was approached by some servants of a high ranking centurion. One of his valued servants was deathly ill. So the centurion sent other servants to get Jesus to come heal him. Meanwhile, while Jesus was on His way to the centurion’s home to heal the ill servant, He was met by a group of friends sent by the centurion carrying a message. He did not believe he deserved Jesus under his roof, but “that is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed.” (Luke 7:7 NKJV) The man had faith and had lived what he believed. He had faith to believe Jesus would be able to heal, and he had faith to believe Jesus did not have to be present to do so. He put his belief in words by simply requesting Jesus to “…say the word”. In response Jesus said at verse 9-10, “When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, ‘I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.’ Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well.” (NKJV) How great is your faith? Does it move to an action?

This quarter of study is entitled “Jesus and the Just Reign of God”. We are in Unit III – “Live Justly in the Reign of God” of the three units of the quarter. This is the third lesson of a four-lesson study. Believers are encouraged to show their faith by their works as recorded in James 2:14-26.

Many times we are confused between the teachings of Paul and James as to faith and works. In a nutshell, there is no contradiction between their teachings. The confusion is in our understanding. Paul taught justification in the sight of God, who justifies only those who believe in the Lord Jesus as our Savior and His redemptive works. (See Rom 3:24; 4:25; 5:1, 9; 8:33) James agrees with Paul’s teachings. However, he believes active faith in Christ Jesus will lead to works (action). (See James 2:24) Paul agreed with James in other epistles. (See 1 Th 1:3 and Ti 3:8) Grace is the principle upon which God justifies, faith is the means by which man receives it, blood is the price which the Savior had to pay, God is the active Agent in justification, power is the proof, and works is the result.

James did not believe in “lip service” Christians as he declared at James 2:14-17, “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.”(NKJV) Let us pull out our transaction register of life. Shall the LORD see it as a debit or a credit in judgment day if you simply profess to “love the LORD” or “He heard my cry”. Of what profit and accountability can you say you have toward the salvation or hindrance of your soul? The idea is not that you do not have faith; it is whether you have a working faith. James provided a hypothetical of two persons. One is without clothes and daily food. It is assumed that the other has the ability to take care of those needs in some manner. However, that person gives the one in need words instead of action. Will his or her words clothe or feed the person in need? The lip service technique does not meet the love ethic commanded by God under the royal law (Lev 19:15, 18) or Jesus Christ. “Love thy neighbor as thyself” (James 2:8 NKJV) is how the hypothetical person was to act? That person’s faith was dead and unacceptable to the LORD because it was without any actions.

In comparison with faith without works James introduced the discussion of faith with works at verses 18-24. He declared, “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.” (NKJV) If I were to boast, let my actions or deeds speak for me. Don’t let my faith speak for me; it is silent. It is good to believe in one God. Demons also believe in Him to the point of trembling. Belief is not enough. We must act on our belief for life. Father Abraham of the Jewish nation was justified by works in offering up Isaac on the altar in Gen 22. Abraham already had faith. He was justified by faith before God in Gen 15:6 when he believed in God and He counted it to him for righteousness. By his actions or works, Abraham’s faith was made complete or perfect and he was considered a friend of God.

James also chose to illustrate a Gentile harlot who risked her life because she became a genuine believer in the God of the Hebrews. He declared at verses 25-26, “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.” (NKJV) Rahab gave hospitality to God’s chosen people after she had decided to identify with their God (Josh 2). She believed Him to be the one true God, was pardoned, and was made an ancestor of Jesus Christ (Matt 1:5). Sometimes faith requires risking one’s life, and sometimes it is just a matter of trusting God through tough times. But there is always an action walk that must accompany your faith. The best works without faith is dead. Faith is the root, good works are the fruits, and we must have both. Neither is mutually exclusive.

To summarize, are you willing to be like Abraham in offering that which is the dearest thing to your heart to God? Are you willing to be a turncoat on all your friends, relatives, and the world like Rahab in order to be loyal to Christ? Keep in mind that you will probably be walking a narrow road.

Written by Deborah C Davis

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