Friday, May 30, 2008

James on authentic faith

James has long been one of my favorite books. Whenever a new believer asks
me what books to start with in the bible I often point first to John then James and then 1 John.

My family has a history steeped in Catholicism and growing up in Simi Valley I had many opportunities to speak with Mormons both as my neighbors and as missionaries. Both faiths use James 2 as an example of scripture pointing to a works based salvation. And one can easily see why they came to that conclusion based on this chapter alone. In numerous places it says that we are justified by works and faith alone. But when read objectively, taking into account the rest of the book we see a clear picture. James is not even close to being antithetical to the message of Paul in his epistle to the Romans. In fact, when understood correctly it is a perfect complement.

Faith necessarily produces good works. Faith = Works.
The equation cannot be reversed.
Good works produce nothing in and of themselves.

A true authentic faith will be manifested through works.
Faith without works is then indeed dead because it is not a true and saving faith. It is a false hope. It is a mere intellectual assent to certain truths about God but it never makes that proverbial leap from the mind to the heart.

As pastors, teachers and preachers we must never preach the Gospel and then say, “Ok, you’re good to go. See you later.” The call is to make disciples not merely “converts”. And a disciple is one who follows in the footsteps of their teacher meaning that their works, actions, thoughts, mirror that of their teacher. In our case, our teacher is the God of the universe. We are a mirror reflecting his image and we must reflect well. Sin came and shattered that mirror. Christ came and sent the Holy Spirit to live in us and begin the process of rebuilding that mirror until that day when we meet Christ face to face and that mirror will be made whole. Imago dei.

All praise and honor be to God.