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Friday, October 19, 2007

Genuine Faith

The Biblical book of James has always been one of my favorites. Perhaps it's the in-your-face style with which James speaks. Then again, it may be the simple truth and bare-bones, practical applications that he makes. To be sure, brother James pulls no punches. You know precisely what he means. In Chapter 2, James talks about genuine faith. Christians are fond of talking about faith. They usually refer to it in terms of having more. I've never been really sure of what that means. If I don't have enough faith, how do I have more? It would seem that many Christians think if I just keep speaking it I can indeed have more. Oddly enough, James has a different view.

In James 2, we are presented with three (3) basic principles of faith. (a) Commitment is essential. You can not be a Christian simply by affirming the right doctrines or agreeing with Biblical facts (James 2:19). (b) Right actions are the natural by-products of true faith. A genuine Christian will live a changed life --- which looks starkly different than the world around him (James 2:18). (c) Faith that isn't evidenced by good deeds is useless. It isn't faith (James 2:14-17).

Now the traditional Christian will argue that we we are saved by faith alone, we aren't to judge each other, blah, blah, blah. They'll hold fast to the Apostle Paul's teachings in Romans that we are saved by faith and faith alone. What they're really arguing is against any evidence. They want to believe that one can be a Christian without there being any evidence. They are foolishly deceived. This is not possible.

You see, the Apostle Paul, and James (Jesus' half brother) are not arguing. James' teaching is consistent with Paul's teaching (that we receive salvation by faith alone). It's just that Paul emphasizes the purpose of faith --- to bring us salvation. James, on the other hand, emphasizes the results of faith --- a changed life.

I can hear it now, those wonderful souls who've been Christians "their whole life." They can't ever remember not being a Christian, so they pay little regard to what James has to say. How can one live a changed life when one has never ever been a heretical sinner? Again, one would be foolishly deceived to take such a position. Even if one became a Christian at five years old, they can still live "a changed life" --- by living a life that looks markedly different than the culture and world around them. You will know they are Christians. The evidence should be obvious. James tells us this is so.

When someone claims to have faith, what he or she may have is an intellectual agreement with a set of Christian teachings. As such, that would be incomplete faith. True faith, according to James 2:14, transforms our conduct as well as our thoughts. If our life remains unchanged, or looks like the lives of the non-believers around us, then we don't truly believe the truths that we claim to believe.

We cannot earn our salvation with our acts any more than we can by agreeing with Christian principles. But our actions are strong evidence of the truth about us. While it is true that our good deeds can never earn our salvation, true faith always results in good deeds and right living.

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