James 2:19-20 - You believe that God is One. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow that faith without works is useless?
We've been studying what true faith looks like in the book of James.
Here are some of my notes: :-)
I was working on how faith without works is dead when my son Dylan awoke about 45 minutes early from his nap. I had just finished reading the Shema, (Deut 6:4-9) which says we are to impress the command to love the Lord on the hearts of our children, so though I was reluctant, I set down my notebook thinking that my time for Bible Study was over and put him in my lap instead. He asked me to read his favorite Bible story, the story of Jericho. So, I turned to the book of Joshua and began to read. Well, lo and behold, it was the story of Rahab! I read aloud to my son how Jericho was utterly destroyed by the Israelites. (We tend to forget that don't we?)
Who's side are we on? I also noticed that in the encounter between Joshua and the Angel of the Lord, that when Joshua asks if the Angel is, "For us or for our enemies?", the Angel promptly replies, "Neither, but as commander of the army of the Lord, I have now come." What a beautiful picture of how God considers himself regarding all that is going on around us. He is not a respecter of persons, but only pursues His good and perfect will, which is to show Himself faithful to all who are willing to recognize Him, regardless of who's 'side' we are on.
In our study of James, we read of Rahab's faith, but forget its results outside of her faithful response. According to the account in the book of Joshua, Rahab risked her life to save the spies of Israel from the king of Jericho, who already knew the spies were at her home. She declared that the Lord was the God of heaven above and of the earth below. She had heard of His greatness and feared Him enough to risk her life. She aligned her life in accordance with God's plans. Also, with the deal she made with the spies for saving their lives, she managed to get a promise that covered not only herself, but her mother, her father, her sisters and brothers and all that belonged to them. But, in order to ensure their safety during the imminent destruction of Jericho, she had to have told her entire family of the spies and their promise to her. (I'm sure that watching Rahab prepare her home for waiting out the battle was the final convincing straw.) Finally, her family had to trust her, and separate themselves from the people of Jericho before and during the attack to ensure that they were not killed in the massacre that ensued after the walls of Jericho fell. Once everyone in Jericho was killed, Rahab and her family were released from her home and allowed to live with the Israelites, outside of the camp. This is considerable when all the Gentile people of Canaan were destined to be destroyed. Also, when you read the lineage of Christ, Rahab, the Gentile harlot, is included - a woman who was the daughter of Abraham according to her faith. Out of all of the women among the Israelites, God chose this one, who stayed outside the camp. This spoke volumes to me concerning our loved ones, who we pray for each day. We are to tell them of the promise concerning the coming destruction and invite them to come and abide with us while we prepare and wait for the salvation of the Lord.
My son, Dylan, asked me why we have sign language. I explained to him that it was because some people can't hear. So, in order to communicate with them, we have to use our expressions and our hands to show them what we were trying to say. They can see what we are doing, but they can't make sense of what's coming out of our mouths. So in order for them to understand what we are trying to communicate to them, we have to use a language they can understand, our actions. Well, this just spoke volumes to me concerning the unsaved and what they can and can not grasp. Even those who refuse to listen to any words that I speak concerning Christ, they are very receptive to love, humility and respect. These are the things that they desire to know more of. I thought it was interesting that a dead, dry, brittle faith can save no one - not even yourself. But a vibrant, living, fruit-producing faith will save not only you, but those you love, according to the love you live in Christ. Now that's talking! :-)
Finally, the account of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice Isaac records how Abraham was able to look past the death of his son to the Lord's provision of life, already believing that Isaac would return with him back down from the mountain. This is also the story of when the Lord was recognized as Jehovah Jireh - the Lord will provide. That in itself is a beautiful testimony to how the Lord supplies the for the lives of those who love Him above themselves.
Here's the definition and revelation from Vine's Dictionary - that which is produced by the inherent energy of a living organism; the visible expression of power working inwardly and invisibly; the character of the fruit being evidence of the character of the power producing it; the outward effect of divine chastening; as the expression of the union of the Christian with God; of advantage, profit, consisting of sanctification through deliverance from a life of sin and through service to God; to come into being; metaphorically of conduct or that which takes affect in conduct.
Remember, when Jesus says, "I never knew you", the word "knew" in Matthew 7:13-29 indicates a relationship! These people were acting according to their own desires. Their actions did not save themselves because they weren't done in accordance with God's will. It wasn't done in obedience.
I looked up the Greek word for greedy and found that it means lucre, which is directly translated, filthy, or gain. Then I remembered that we are to "Lay aside all filthiness (or greediness, all dissatisfaction), and all wickedness (or selfishness and pride) and in humility, receive the Word engrafted, which is able to save our souls." Now, gain had both a positive and negative definition, the negative definition for gain was: to gain things is said of getting injury and loss; to claim unduly; to overreach - which is exactly what we are doing when our heart isn't satisfied, or greedy for more. Then the definition went on to say that true gain is "of so practically appropriating Christ to oneself that He becomes the dominating power in and over one's whole being and circumstances", (Philippians 3:8).
Again from Vine's, and the Lord - to deem to be right; to show to be right or righteous; to declare to be righteous, to pronounce righteousness;
"Justification" being the legal and formal acquittal from guilt by God as judge; cleared of all charges; the pronouncement of the sinner as righteous who believes in Jesus Christ. It is synonymous with the OT term for righteousness which was used sparsely in the OT, mostly in the book of Job! Job, whose ultimate hope was in God's declaration of his justification. The OT is in agreement with this hope of righteousness.
Faith results in acceptance with God, and is therefore bound to manifest itself in our lives.
The Law of Freedom:
James 2:12-13 - So speak and so act as those who are going to be judged by the law of Liberty. For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment!
It's like Dylan riding his little bicycle with training wheels. Before we knew Christ, we were like the rear wheel. Fixed, bound, unable to change our own course, reliant on training wheels to keep us up. But once we came to know Him, we are now like the front wheel, able to steer and go in any direction, free from the dependency of outside stabilizers. We can now stand on our own! Balanced from the one who now steers our course. We must be sure that Christ is steering now that we have so much freedom to turn this way and that! For if Christ isn't sitting in the driver's seat, determining our path, who is?
Thanks for listening. Praise God from whom all wisdom comes!