If real, genuine, authentic faith is not just something you say or think or feel or believe, what is real faith?
#5. REAL FAITH IS SOMETHING YOU DO
In the next couple of verses James gives two illustrations that say real faith is something you do. Faith is active. It’s not passive. It’s a commitment.
Two illustrations of two very different people, Abraham and Rahab — exact, opposite extremes. Abraham is a man. Rahab is a woman. Abraham is Jewish. Rahab is a Gentile. Abraham is a patriarch. Rahab is a prostitute. Abraham is a somebody. Rahab is a nobody. Abraham is a major character in the Bible. Rahab is a minor character. He uses these illustrations to say, it doesn’t matter who you are as long as you’ve got the important thing. They only had one thing in common — their faith in God. Their faith in God led them to an action.
v.20 “You foolish men. Do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar. His faith and his actions were working together. His faith was made complete by what he did. Scripture was fulfilled when it said, `Abraham believed God.'” How do we know it? We saw it. He behaved in a way that his belief came out visibly. “Abraham believed God and it was accredited to him as righteousness and he was called God’s friend.” You know the story. It’s the ultimate test where God asked Abraham to give up his own son. This has nothing to do with salvation. Abraham was already a believer. Twenty-five years earlier God had said, “You’re righteous.” He’s not talking about being saved by his works. He’s saying, that this just shows how much you believe. Abraham obeyed God. It was immediate. He followed Him. He took his son up. He did all those faith steps. He cut the wood, built the altar and was ready to sacrifice his own son. Abraham says to his son while walking up the mountain, “We [not I] will return”. He knew that God would provide somehow even if it meant raising him from the dead. The fact is God did raise him from the dead, figuratively speaking. Abraham was about to sacrifice him and God says, “I was just testing you to see what’s most important in your life.” It was an action. His works proved his faith. He held nothing back from God.
Then James talks about Rahab. The story is in Joshua 2. It’s the story how a prostitute helped a couple of spies when they were coming into Jericho. Rahab ends up in the family line of Jesus. She risks her life to save the spies.
Our faith is not determined by what we do, it is demonstrated by what we do. About 35 years ago there was a famous tightrope walker named George Blondin who, for a publicity stunt, decided he would walk across Niagara Falls on a tightrope. On the appointed day they stretched a tightrope from one side of Niagara Falls to the other. He got out there and there were crowds lining both the Canadian and American side. Thousands of people showed up to see this unbelievable feat. Blondin walked up to the edge of the tightrope, put one foot on the tightrope and put another foot out and began to walk across — inch-by-inch, step-by-step. He got out in the middle and everybody knew that if he’d make one mistake in balance he’d fall off the rope and into the Falls and obviously be killed. Blondin got to the other side and the crowd went wild, shouting and cheering. Blondin said, “I’m going to do it again.” He got to the other side and the crowds went crazy. Blondin said, “I’m going to do it again but this time I’m going to push a wheel barrow full of dirt.” He pushes the wheelbarrow across. He got to the other side. He did this nine or ten times. On about the tenth time, he pushed the wheelbarrow right in front of a tourist who said, “I believe you could do that all day.” Blondin dumped out the dirt and said, “Get into the wheelbarrow.”
In a very real sense that’s what God says to you. Talk is cheap. Put your money where your mouth is. “I believe in Jesus!” Prove it. Our faith is demonstrated by our actions. Actions speak louder than words. Our behavior shows what we really believe.
2 Corinthians 13:5 says, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith.” Test it. Check it out. See if you’re really a believer or not. A couple of questions:
Am I really a Christian after all? In the light of what James says, am I really a Christian? What changes can I point to in my life? Is my lifestyle any different at all from unbelievers? So many people think it doesn’t matter what you do as long as you believe. James says that’s not true. He’s not saying you work your way to heaven. He’s not saying works deliver salvation. He’s saying they demonstrate it. He’s saying, that if your faith doesn’t work, what good is it?
How do I know for sure? You settle it in your mind and heart. Maybe some of you have had doubts whether you’re really a believer or not. You’re a good person, you’ve gone to church, and maybe you’ve known about Christ, and you’ve read the Bible, and you’ve had religion and you’ve gone to classes. But are you absolutely sure that if you died tonight you’d go to heaven? The fact is you can be sure. You can settle it right now, today.
How do you do that? Ephesians 2:8-10 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, for a life of good works God has already prepared for us to do.” God’s grace. God reaches down. He says, “I want you to know Me. I want to have a relationship with you.” That’s grace. And you look up and say “I want to know You, Lord. I want to have a relationship with You.” When God’s hand of grace comes down and your hand of faith goes up, that’s called salvation. That’s what it means to be a believer. Saved by grace, through faith to do exactly what God made you to do in the first place. God has a plan for your life.