A TIME FOR LIVING FAITH
As we begin a New Year and a new time in the history of our nation it is a time for living faith. A living faith demands a deep relationship with God and with our brethren. These relationships must be controlled by love and come from a committed heart. This living faith reminds us that (1) God is in control (Daniel 4:17), (2) He is just (Isaiah 45:21), (3) He is at work in our world (John 5:17), (4) He works all things together for the good of His people (Romans 8:28-31), and (5) He keeps all of His promises. (2 Corinthians 1:20) This living faith is established in God’s word, nourished by prayer and nurtured in true worship.
A saving faith is always an active, living faith. Faith or belief means “trust, conviction based upon hearing, faithfulness, fidelity, assurance, a personal surrender to God, a conduct inspired by such surrender." Many fail to understand the truth that Scriptural belief requires good works to be a saving "faith." Scripture teaches neither faith only nor obedience only. Scriptures require a faith in God that will result in obedience from a heart totally surrendered to the Almighty. James said that faith only is a demonic type of faith and cannot save you. "Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?" (James 2:18-20) Have you read Hebrews 11 lately? Each section begins “By faith” this person did something! The most needed thing for the New Year is a living faith that will do something!
Any idea that just mental assent to the truth that Jesus is Savior would "save" a person is totally foreign to God and to His word. Salvation is not through faith alone, neither is it through works alone. Faith and works go hand in hand. They are inseparable, not opposed to one another! "The just shall live by his faith." (Habakkuk 2:4) The just person lives by belief in God or by his faithfulness to the Lord. The way of salvation is the same for all of every age. This is not saying that all of every age was required to do the same thing, but the principle of salvation was always the same. Salvation is by grace through faith or belief. Faith is a conviction that leads to obedience and faithfulness to God. Saving faith is the recognition of who God is and what He has done for us and these results in obedience to His word. We receive salvation from past sins by obedience to the gospel. But the truth is that salvation is a life-long process that requires a deep commitment to God.
Living faith transforms lives. I invite you to open your personal copy of the God's word to James 2:21-26. “Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also." Sadly from this text we learn that a person could have faith in God, faith in Christ, and faith in Scripture and still be lost. "Faith if it has not works is dead." Today I want to remind us again about the dangers of non-saving faith and to help us see the need of a living faith at this critical time in the history of our nation.
A faith that does not produce transformation of life in not living faith. Faith only or a dead faith is worthless and vain. Saving faith can only be shown in a changed life. Sadly many in the church of Christ seem to think that they have saving faith and that they are on their way to heaven when there has been no evident change of heart and no reformation of life. Hebrews 10:39 says that we must be of them that "believe to the saving of the soul." There is a belief that results in the salvation of the soul. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus warned, "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." (Matthew 7:21-23) What does the character of your life demonstrate about your faith?
The living faith of Abraham: James wrote, "Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only." (James 2:21-24) If our nation is to survive, if this congregation is to survive we must have changed lives. The need is not just to have people attending church services but lives changed by the Christ and His gospel. Abraham was the father of the Jewish nation from a fleshly standpoint. "What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?" (Romans 4:1) He is the father of the faithful from a spiritual perspective. "Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham." (Galatians 3:7) How was this great patriarch that was called the "friend of God" made righteous?
Abraham set the example of living, saving or transforming faith! He was a great man of faith that was "justified by works." The word justified means just as if you had never sinned or to be made right with God. But how does James chapter two harmonize with Romans four where the Bible says, "What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God." (Romans 4:1-2) James says Abraham was justified by works. But Paul says if Abraham was justified by works, he would have something to glory of but not before God. Both Paul and James quote the same text from Genesis 15:6. "And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness." Both writers refer to the same events. John 3:36 says, "He that believeth on the Son hath eternal life; but he that obeyeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him." (American Standard Version) In Scripture being a true believer and being obedient has reference to the same thing. No one is ever made righteous because of some self-righteous works that they might do. When a person responds in loving, believing, obedient faith to the grace of God that person is saved. While it is true that Abraham scarified his son to God in his heart he had long before sacrificed himself to God. The result was a transformed life. This transformed life is what living faith is all about and that is our great need today as we face new situations in life. Faith then reaches its goal in loving obedience.
The living faith of Rahab: James wrote, "Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?" (James 2:25) Rahab was a Gentile that had before been a harlot. God's honor roll of faith says of her, "By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace." (Hebrews 11:31) She was also honored by being listed in the genealogy of Jesus, "Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab, Boaz begot Obed by Ruth, Obed begot Jesse." (Matthew 1:5) Abraham was in that genealogy but so was Rahab the harlot. She was an evil woman but she developed living faith. She became a saved person. She was saved by living faith just as was Abraham.
Rahab was a harlot that lived in Jericho. (Joshua 2) Joshua had sent out two men to "spy secretly, saying, Go view the land, even Jericho. And they went, and came into an harlot's house, named Rahab, and lodged there." (Joshua 2:1) They stayed at Rahab's, not for some evil purpose, but only for lodging. Faith comes from hearing God's word. (Romans 10:17) Somehow Rahab had heard of what God had done and was doing. She said "unto the men, I know that the LORD hath given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you. For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red sea for you, when ye came out of Egypt; and what ye did unto the two kings of the Amorites, that were on the other side Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom ye utterly destroyed. And as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you: for the LORD your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath." (Joshua 2:9-11) Rahab's living faith was demonstrated when she ask the spies to save her family and she committed herself to help save their lives. She hid the spies from the soldiers that would have killed them. James said she, "received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?" She lied to save them. This was not right but in that we see her background of paganism mixed with the little truth and true faith that she had. No doubt later she would come to understand the value that God placed on truth. Living faith caused her to put her life on the line for God. Living faith is that you are so committed to God that you sacrifice your hopes and your dreams for His honor and glory. Jesus put it this way, “He that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me." (Matthew 10:38)
A living faith and a useless corpse: My first thoughts were to head this section "a living faith and a dead corpse." That would, of course, be a redundant statement. However that is the very idea of James. "For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also." (James 2:26) In the analogy that James sets forth the second part of both is death. If there is a body without the spirit there is physical death. If there is faith without works there is Spiritual death. A body without life is just a rotting corpse. It has no value. It must be buried. Faith without a living change of life is just as putrefying. It is just as dead and worthless.
The test of living faith is when decisions are to be made that we will humbly choose to honor God. There might be a cost. In fact it might cost you everything, but will you live by faith? Those that are saved now and those that will be saved in eternity have a living faith that humbly loves, obeys and serves. Are you willing to follow Jesus with living faith? He said, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me." (Luke 9:23) Nothing is more needed in this critical time than for living faith.
Do you have a living faith that Jesus Christ is the Son of God? If so it is time to become a Christian now! To become a Christian you must hear the gospel (Romans 10:17), believe in Jesus (John 8:24), repent of sins (Acts 17:30), confess Christ as Lord (Acts 8:37), and be baptized to be saved. (1 Peter 3:21) After baptism follow Jesus in faithfulness as He leads you home to heaven. (Revelation 2:10)
By Charles Box, Walnut Street Church of Christ, P.O. Box 551, Greenville, Alabama 36037 USA