Posted by: trbccoffeebreak | March 11, 2021

Work Because – Not To…

“But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” James 2:18

I wrote before about my three-decade effort to ensure my “good vs. bad” tally sheet was heavier on the “good” side so I would be destined for Heaven. Whether it was by choosing to do the right thing or taking action to “undo” all those wrong things, it was my job to determine my eternal future.

Many of us—believers in Jesus Christ and unbelievers alike—have this mindset. For those who have not accepted the free gift of grace through Jesus but believe there’s a heaven, the matter to them is settled: Being a “good person” (defined by their internal, subjective scale) will get them “in.” This is sad, because the Bible is clear on this matter: There is one way to heaven, and that is by the cross of Jesus Christ (John 14:6). But what is sadder are believers who think that salvation is through Jesus and what they do or don’t do—their works.

Some even point to the book of James in the Bible to make their case, specifically chapter 2, versus 24 and 26, which say, “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only,” and “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”

It seems like James is advocating for “faith plus works for salvation,” which is in total contradiction to the words of Paul and the other writers—not to mention Jesus Himself. But, when we study God’s Word, we need to understand context, including the audience to whom the letter was being written. In James’ case, he was writing believers who were already justified by faith—they had accepted the work of Jesus for their salvation. And our omniscient, omnipresent, all-powerful God knew that. Before God’s throne, they were, in fact, accepted as righteous—they were “in.”

The problem, he is saying, is that the people around us have no way of knowing we are saved by faith in Jesus unless we show them. We need to “justify” (validate, defend, support, substantiate) our faith outwardly and demonstrate our life in Christ. He’s saying that if we are saved, but our lives don’t give evidence of that amazing transformation, what impact can we have on this broken world? In verses 15 and 16, he writes, “If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,’ but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?”

Jesus came to live the life we couldn’t live and die to take the penalty we deserved—He saved us. But if our salvation is the end game, why doesn’t God scoop us up to heaven the moment we surrender our lives to Jesus? Because we have work to do! Sealed with the Holy Spirit, we are able to step ahead in love, showing joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control (often falling down, sometimes taking a few steps backwards)…becoming more like Jesus as we walk through this world. And, as we show others our faith, we are to share the Good News with them!

“Lord, help me show others the difference Jesus makes in my life by my words and actions—let me put my faith in action.”

For His Glory

Julianne Winkler Smith
TRBC Women’s Life

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