Jas 2:17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
Jas 2:18 But someone will say, "You have faith and I have works." Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
Jas 2:19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe--and shudder!
Jas 2:20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?
Jas 2:21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar?
The following is an excerpt from last week's sermon:
We need to understand how this faith which is saving faith is different from the natural faith that all men have. There is a natural faith and a most unnatural faith. It is impossible for us to lead normal lives without faith. We trust people will keep our appointments, travel (you trust the pilot), buying a ticket shows you believe they will schedule it when they say, etc. Phobias are a result of not trusting people or things to do what they are supposed to do. There are so many phobias today because so few people know a sovereign God. Think about it, if you are afraid of leaving your house, will you be willing to die for Christ? Do you not fear some physical danger more than you fear and love God and want to serve him? But as we think about this natural faith it is clearly built on experience is it not?
As we see people stepping off a plane, we are convinced that the pilot and airplane will do what it promises. I see other long-term workers going about their jobs so I believe that I will get a paycheck at the end of the week if I get hired there. Faith is the most natural thing in the world and if we will believe men it is the most natural thing that we would believe God who cannot lie and can do all he promises.
But there is a big difference; natural faith is based on experience, saving faith is not. In human terms saving faith is quite unreasonable for it calls us to do what our experience has taught us cannot work. It calls us to quit trusting in all that this life has taught us to trust in and work for. Saving faith is not unreasonable of course, but it is not going to come naturally. It comes as God reveals himself to us spiritually. Not by doing physical acts to convince us or Israel would have believed. It comes as we see by faith in the Word a sovereign God who created and sustains all things and thus is able to do all that he says. Then it becomes the most rational thing in the world to believe on him. Of course, this happens only after he has broken our rebellion through regeneration.
I hope that this is the God you know for if it is then I know you will follow him. There is another who tries to get us to follow him and he uses experience to call us. He says, "God helps those that help themselves, your duty is to provide for yourself in this life anyway you can". Or he might be saying to you, “God will never do anything to you that hurts, he is too merciful for that”, and so you are unprepared for real life. He might tell you the Bible is a nice book but somewhat out of step with the times and cannot be taken literally.
It is deceivingly like Jesus’ words, “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest". One kind of faith is based on what we see with our eyes; the other is concerned with things as they really are. Saving faith then is a gift from God. Not that he imparts the ability to believe to us but reveals to us what in the flesh we cannot see; the glory of God. Naturally we have faith it is just directed at everything but God. You cannot believe in what you don’t understand. All hear, but few trust in who they hear about. So when God gives us the ability to believe, it is to cause us to stop trusting in things that can’t help and trust in the One who alone can save.
This is why we preach a sovereign God. How can faith grow unless we grow in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ? Abram’s life is not pie in the sky theology; it is a faithful account of saving faith. It begins and grows according to how big our God is in our hearts.