Discipleship, mentoring, and attending church services and Bible studies can teach one the knowledge of faith and the practice of faith, but only a personal encounter with the living Christ can authenticate one’s faith. And then, only if one accepts and embraces the invitation from Christ.
Accepting and embracing means following, obeying, and giving oneself over to his transforming work in her life. This, I believe, is the essence of James’ message: “Faith without works is dead.” James 2:26
The first work of faith is to move forward from belief to commitment and is evidenced:
- in baptism, like the eunuch with Philip
- in transformed minds, conformed hearts, and reformed character, like Matthew and Zaccheus
- in obeying God’s direction, like Annaias of Damascus with Saul of Tarsus
- in submission to authority, like Paul to the Apostles in Jerusalem
- in proclamation of the Word, like the Apostle John
- in hospitality, like Lydia
- in encouragement to others, like Barnabas with Mark
- in using one’s talents and gifts for those in need,like Dorcas
- in generosity, like Joseph of Arimathea
- in fervent prayer and missional support for the spread of the Kingdom of God, like the Jerusalem believers’ financial support of the new church plants
- in communion with God and God’s people, like the saints of Christ’s church
The “works” about which James speaks in James 2:26, “…..faith without works is dead”, are not those we do on behalf of others to give our lives meaning and purpose, to assuage our guilt, out of a sense of duty, to please people, or even to facilitate social reform or relieve human suffering. It is those we do out of love for and gratitude and obedience to Christ.
As scripture gives us instruction on “work”, many of us in contemporary times tend to think of these scripture references to “work” in terms of vocation or avocation activities. But I think actually, what is intended is something more broad and significant, going to the heart of one’s motivation for every action. Colossians 3:23-25 says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Ephesians 6:7-8 shares a similar concept: “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free.” We are commanded to put forth our best effort, to work from our heart and soul in all things, as an offering to Christ. Whatever one’s “work” in any moment – secular or sacred, menial or exalted, of one’s mind or hands, for employer or family or community, any day upon arising – flows out of gratefulness to Him. My story. My observation. My message.