Summary: faith without works is dead

James 2:19-26

Show Me Your Faith.

I once heard a pastor say, “If you were on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” I believe that it was Augustine who said, “Faith alone saves, but the faith that saves is never alone.” Good works do not save, we are saved by grace through faith, but it is not enough to claim faith; there should be some evidence to prove your claim. I could tell you that I have children, and even if you were to come over to my house and not see my children, you will still see the evidence of them by their toys, sippy cups, and their clothes.

We can claim that we have faith all day long, but there should be some evidence to prove it. There should be some evidence to back up our claim.

This morning, we are going to look at James’ teaching that there should be something substantial in our lives to back up our claim that we have faith in Jesus Christ. Saving faith should produce actions of faith in our lives. If there are no actions, then according to James, our faith is dead, useless, and powerless. And if our faith is dead, useless, and powerless, then were still bound to our sins, and have fooled ourselves.

So let’s go up a few verses and lets look at verses 14-19 (read). We see in these verses that anyone can have a faith that simply believes the facts. It is the faith of the historian. He accepts the reality of what has happened in the past, but he doesn’t see how that action in the past affects his life today, so he doesn’t do anything about those facts. This kind of faith – a faith that simply believes the facts but never acts on them cannot . . .

Save, look at vs. 14 (read) – It is not the facts of the Gospel – the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus – that saves us. Those facts tell us who Jesus is, the sinless Son of God who died to pay for our sins. Then once we know who Jesus is and what He did for us, then we can place our faith in Him! That is what saves us. Let’s say you were drowning, and someone threw you a life preserver. Now if you didn’t know what a life preserver was then you wouldn’t know that it could save your life, but even if you did know what a life preserver was, if you didn’t believe that it could save your life, then you would never reach out to grab it. However, when you know what it is, and you have faith in what it can do, then you will have works, reaching out and grabbing onto the life preserver.

A faith that only believes the facts but doesn’t act on them can’t Satisfy (vs. 15-17) – Knowledge about Jesus will never satisfy. Only a relationship with Jesus can satisfy. Christianity is not religion, ritual, or rules, it’s a relationship with Jesus Christ.

And it can’t Show (vs. 18). Knowledge about Jesus can never change you on its own. But once you place your complete faith in Him, He changes you, which produces works in your life. By those works, people can see the reality of your faith.

The demons know all the facts about Jesus. They had seen Jesus do miracles, signs, and wonders. They knew His power and His character. Their knowledge of God makes them shake with fear, but it doesn’t save them. The most dangerous place that you can be in is to know all about God and know how to get saved, but never personally place your complete faith in Jesus Christ. And there are a lot of people in the world, who attend church, and know about Jesus but they aren’t saved. They don’t have eternal life, but instead have fooled themselves. In Matthew chapter 7 Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father in heaven (read Matt. 7:21-23). So the question is, “How do we know if our faith is genuine?” Well, James deals with that question; he gives us some characteristics or tests of true faith.

True faith will . . .

1) Lead you to repentance. Look at James chapter 1 vs. 21 (read). It will cause you to turn from your sins, and surrender your life to Christ. Now I’m not saying that a Christian will never sin, the Bible is clear that we as Christians will struggle with sin until the day we go to be with the Lord. But it also clearly teaches that Christians should not be dominated by sin, nor practicing sin, or living sinful lifestyles.

Today it’s hard to tell the Christian apart from the world. They’re doing the same things, talking the same way, and living the same lifestyles. Many in the church today haven’t stood for anything in so long that now they’ll fall for anything. They’ve become so open-minded that their brains have fallen out.

It seems like today we’re telling Jesus that we want Him to be our Savior, but not our Lord. Were saying, “Not Thy will, but my will be done.” Now no one would probably come out and say that, but our actions show it loud and clear. (If I’m not preaching to you that’s great, just nudge your neighbor and say, “he’s preaching to you, you know.”)

2) True faith will not only help you turn from your sins, it will help you be Obedient (vs. 22).

Be doers of the Word, and not just hearers only. We are given very specific commands in the Bible; one of them is the great commission. Go into all the world and make disciples. Jesus wasn’t just talking to Peter, James, and John. He wasn’t just talking to Paul, Silas, or Timothy. He was talking to all who believe in Him. You say, “Well I don’t know how to make disciples.” And that’s probably because you’ve never been discipled yourself. And that’s on us ministers. Pastors are not only supposed to preach the Gospel, but Ephesians tells us that we are to equip the saints for the works of ministry. And it’s obvious that a lot of preachers have dropped the ball. They weren’t doers of the Word.

3) True faith will also make you Acceptable to God. The apostle Paul says in the book of Romans “Man is justified by faith apart from the law.” (Rom. 3:28)

Now some will say, “Wait a minute, that’s not what James is saying in James chapter 2:21-24.” And I would say, “Oh yes it is.” We have to keep in mind that the focus of this passage is proving a persons claim to have true faith. That’s why he says what he says in vs. 14, but you go on down to vs. 18 and James clarifies it. Your faith, and only your faith justifies you, or makes you acceptable to God, but the works of your faith prove its genuineness. They don’t prove it to God, He already knows if it’s genuine, but our works prove it to ourselves and to men.

In our courts of law, sometimes innocent people have been accused of crimes. They and God knew that they were innocent, but that wasn’t enough. They needed to convince a jury that they were innocent. The evidence had to brought forth in such a way that the jury could see where that person stood.

When Paul said, “man is justified by faith apart from the law”, he was speaking against those who try to be saved by deeds instead of true faith. When James says that men are justified by works, he is speaking of those who confuse mere intellectual acknowledgment of the facts with true faith.

As a pastor, James had seen a lot of shallow faith. In the beginning of the church, the faith of the people had been genuine. He had watched as people gave up all their possessions in order to help take care of the needs of other people within the church. He had seen people die rather than deny their faith in Jesus Christ. But now, near the end of his life, James saw others who claimed to have a relationship with Jesus, but never showed any fruit as a result of that relationship.

It is faith apart from works that saves you and makes you acceptable to God, but it is faith producing works that proves that you are righteous before God.

True faith is not chanting some mantra over and over again hoping that you will get healed or blessed. It’s not following a bunch of rules and rituals. True faith is fully trusting and totally trusting in Jesus Christ. It’s believing in Him and in what He has said, and then acting upon your beliefs.

True faith will save you from your sins. It will satisfy your longing to be in a right relationship with God. And it will show the world you are His child. True faith will lead you to repentance. It will help you to be obedient, and it will make you acceptable to God. And true faith will always be demonstrated by works.

Let me tell you a little story to give you an example. A man was hiking in the mountains when suddenly he slipped down a slope and slid right off the side of a steep cliff. Luckily he managed to catch onto a small tree root that was coming out of the side of the cliff. Now keep in mind that this cliff was straight down and it was about a 100-ft. drop. So the man began yelling for help, “Help! Help!” Finally someone called up to him and said, “I see you and I’ve got a net. Go ahead and let go, I’ll catch you.” The hiker said, “But I can’t see you.” The voice from below him said, “But I can see you, go ahead and drop.” The hiker held on and held on and didn’t let go. So after a few minutes the person on the ground called up again and said, “Don’t you believe that I can see you?” The hiker said, “Yes.” And the rescuer said, “Don’t you believe that I could catch you?” And again the hiker said, “Yes.” But he still didn’t drop. See that’s kind of how we can be, we know all about Jesus, and we believe that He can catch us, but we won’t let go and trust Him to do it. See even though the hiker believed that the rescuer saw him, and could catch him, he still wasn’t saved. He would rather hang on to that tree root of sin than fall into the arms of his rescuer.

The person who thinks that he or she can get saved and go live that same lifestyle that they were living before they got saved is a fool. James says that they are deceiving themselves. It would be the same as a person who continued to live in poverty even after they won a million dollars. Their new standing will cause them to take action and leave their past behind. They’re going to go out and spend money!

No one has to change their life before they come to Jesus, in fact, you can’t change your life without coming to Jesus, but once you do come to Him, then He will change your life and cause you to leave their past behind.

In Luke chapter 18 verse 8 Jesus says, “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” He was talking about true Biblical faith. Saving faith, not mental assent, not what a lot of people think faith is, but real faith, the kind that James was talking about.

So the question for everyone here today is; have you let go and completely trusted in Jesus Christ? If so, what evidence can you see in your own life that you have true faith? What evidence can others see? If there isn’t any, then why isn’t there?

1. If you examine yourself and find that there is no true faith, then come forward this morning, and place your whole weight on Jesus. Take Him as your savior. Place your complete faith in Him.

2. If you examine yourself and find that there is true faith, but it is not evidencing itself, then I would challenge you to come and seek God’s forgiveness, and give over total control of your life to Him.

Jesus said, “If you confess Me before men then I will confess you before My Father in heaven.” He went to the cross publicly for you, and one of the best evidence of true faith is kneeling before the cross publicly for Him, so as we sing, wont you come this morning.