“But someone will say, â€˜You have faith; I have deeds.’ Show me your faith without deeds, and I’ll show you my faith by what I do.” (James 2:18)
Last week we talked about responding to God. Really that’s all we can do. We can’t act on God first, that He may respond to us. He acted first. You and everything you see around you – the universe itself – is a result of God acting. He’s what philosophers call the First Cause. God was ultimately proactive in speaking the universe into existence. God is the first cause; we cannot act on Him, we can only respond.
That’s what faith is – a response to God. But a lot of folks think that faith is a belief or an idea that’s held in one’s head. Â Who’s right? Is faith a response or a belief? Let’s take a little closer look.
“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1) That sounds like faith is an idea or a belief in something; not a response.
Jesus told Nicodemus, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,ï»¿ that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) We all know that verse. It may be the only one we know – but we know that verse. “Whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” That’s all we’ve got to do, right? Believe in him? That’s what the Bible says.
Jesus went onto say, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) There’s no other way to come to God than through Jesus. And, according Jesus, whoever believes in him will have eternal life. That means all we have to do is believe, right? And believing is having faith, right? And we’re saved by faith – by believing in Jesus, right? We don’t have to do anything to be saved, just believe.
The Bible says, “For it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9)
So we’re saved by grace (a free gift) through what we believe, not by what we do, right? It says it right there in Ephesians. That’s true. There’s not a thing you can do that will buy God’s grace. It’s a free gift – one that we could never afford. All we’ve got to do is believe it.
But what does that mean really? To believe? Are we sure we don’t have to do something? I believe the sun will come up tomorrow. It came up today, it came up yesterday; I believe it will come up tomorrow. I don’t have to do anything about it; it just comes up. In fact, it’ll come up tomorrow, whether I believe it or not. Is this the same kind of belief Jesus was talking about when he said, “… whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”?
The Bible also says, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder.” (James 2:9) So if demons believe, that is, hold the reality of God in their minds as a fact, there’s got to be more than mere belief (holding the reality of God in your mind as a fact) on our part to escape perishing and attain eternal life.
But that’s what too many people who call themselves Christians do, they hold in their minds the concept of God as a reality and call it belief.
What do the words reality and belief really mean to you? Do you believe in God? Do you believe in his Son Jesus Christ and that he came to earth and died to pay the price for your sin and then was raised to life again and now sits at the right hand of God the Father and will return to earth one day (maybe not too far away) to set things right in his kingdom? Do you believe that? Is it a reality you hold in your mind as fact?
Imagine you’re standing on the street waiting for a bus. You haven’t seen the bus, but you believe it’s coming. There a bus stop sign on the side walk, there a bench, and you’ve got a schedule in your pocket that says the bus will stop here. So you wait for the bus.
A guy sitting on the bench, also waiting for the bus, says, “Hey buddy, you’d better get out of the street. The bus stops right there; you’ll get hit if you’re not up here on the curb.”
You’ve never seen the bus. All the signs say a bus will come, but there’s no guarantee. You’ve never met this guy before; you have no idea whether he’s telling you the truth or not. What do you do? Instantly, you jump up on the curb and thank the guy for warning you. You believe in the bus. Your belief prompts you to action.
Do you believe in a God you’ve never seen as much as you believe in a bus you’ve never seen? If you say you believe in God and that belief hasn’t prompted you into action, you’d better go back and check your belief. It’s not the kind that’s going to save you.
Belief, faith in God, is only made real by what you do. Don’t get me wrong, what you do doesn’t save you; Jesus Christ already did that – it’s a gift and you couldn’t pay for it anyway. All you’ve got to do is believe in him and accept the gift. But believing isn’t real unless you act on it.
Here’s what I mean. You say you believe in Jesus as God’s Son and you believe that he left his estate as God in heaven to come to earth, to be born human, to live, to die as the only sacrifice sufficient to pay your debt of sin, that he rose again and now sits at the right hand of his Father in heaven and that he’s returning to earth one day to judge the living and the dead – and you personally are going to fall into one of those two categories when he comes back. You believe that right?
Then how come you’re not doing what he said for you to do?
Let’s review Ephesians 2:8-9: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.”
But that’s not the end of the passage; that’s just where everybody stops reading. Do you know the last part of it? “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10)
We’re created “to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” That’s why we’re saved by grace. That’s why God gave us the gift of his Son. That’s the difference between a faith that is real and some vague concept floating around in our heads. That’s “believing in him,” John 3:16 style. Don’t believe me? Read the rest of that passage.
“This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”ï»¿ (John 3:19 – 21)
Better check your deeds; your faith depends on them.
Next week I’m going to share a little about a man I know. He’s a man whose faith has been proven by his deeds over the last twenty-six years. It’s a pretty amazing story.
Until then, believe in Him,