Summary: Real faith leads to real action.
Real faith leads to real action.
When I was going to university I often came home to my hometown on holidays. During one Christmas break, a young man started attending the church. I recognized him. His name was Alan and he was in my grade in the local high school we attended together. My friends and I never treated him very well. He was socially awkward and he was always making up stories, bragging about his brother who, he said, was a professional baseball pitcher. No one really paid him any attention, but I was glad to see that he had come to Christ. In fact I remember during a New Year’s Eve service he stood up and gave a glowing testimony of how he came to believe in Jesus Christ and the change it made in his life. Well after the break, I went back to university and when I returned for the summer I noticed that Alan wasn’t around. When I asked about him I was told that a few church members had let him stay at their homes for extended periods, since Alan didn’t have anywhere to stay. After a few months Alan left town with no announcement or forwarding address. It ended up that each place where Alan stayed there were valuable items and money missing. I heard later that Alan was arrested for running some con schemes out west.
Was Alan really saved? I don’t want to judge. I can’t look into Alan’s heart, but I do know this. Faith, real faith is more than a matter of words. Real faith leads to real action. In fact, without this kind of faith we are not saved. That’s exactly what the passage says this morning. Let’s read James 2:14-26 (read verses).
Real faith leads to real action. That’s the theme of the book of James and we have been looking through this book over the last number of weeks. Next week we will be looking at James 3:1-12, so if you want to read ahead and be prepared for next week, that would be great. But today we’re focusing on James 2:14-26. What is saving faith? That is a crucial question that we have to get right. If we get it wrong, then our eternal destiny is in jeopardy. This passage answers that question: What is saving faith? We need to pay careful attention to God’s Word this morning.
What is saving faith? You know there many different kinds of faith, but there is only one kind of faith that saves. It’s like finding the right key to the door. You know I carry a lot of keys around with me. If I gave you this set of keys and told you to open the door of my house, you would probably spend quite a few minutes trying to figure out which one works. You see there are many keys, but only one opens the front door of my house. In the same way there are many types of faith, but only one kind of faith opens the gates of heaven. That’s saving faith.
The Bible passage we’ll be examining this morning describes two kinds of faith that don’t open the gate to heaven. Then we’ll see what real saving faith is through two biblical examples.
What is saving faith? It isn’t faith without deeds. Look at verse 14 (read verse). Faith without deeds cannot save us. What does faith without deeds look like? It’s a person who claims they are a Christian, but their life shows absolutely no difference to a non-believer. They may go to church and may have the Lord’s prayer memorized, but that’s about it. Often these are cultural Christians, people who have been raised in a Christian household. I remember before I came to a saving faith in Jesus Christ, if anyone asked me what religion I was, I would have told them I was a Christian. After all I wasn’t a Hindu or a Muslim or a Buddhist. I grew up attending church and was baptized as a baby and even later confirmed as a church member. But in my day to day life God really didn’t factor in at all.
These people may have even had spiritual experiences. They may have heard a preacher give an invitation and gone forward during the altar call. They may have seen Billy Graham on TV and followed the prayer he asked them to recite. They may even have been moved emotionally and broken down in tears. But none of that guarantees that you have saving faith. Saving faith isn’t having a spiritual experience. It isn’t saying a prayer or walking down the aisle of a church. None of those things by themselves will save you. You see, real faith, saving faith, must be accompanied by a change of life. If our behaviour doesn’t change, then according to this passage, that kind of faith can’t save us.