The necessity of action in faith

Today’s verse is James 1:22.

But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.

This is a hard one. It’s so easy to just listen to what God is saying in the Bible and not to act on it. I can go to church and sing the songs and listen to Pastor speak and nod and say Amen all I want, but what good does any of that do me if it stops there?

Faith in action is difficult.

Faith in action means that you not only have to know what the Bible says about finances but you also have to do it. You have to know what the Bible says about people and you have to do what it says. You have to know what the Bible says about life and you have to do it.

Otherwise, you’re a liar.

I think it’s in this same chapter where the Bible says that faith without works is dead. Doing good things isn’t what saves us. That much is clear. THere is no good thing we can do that will redeem our souls. The only action we can do that saves us is choosing to follow Christ. But if you say you follow Christ and don’t do the things He tells you to do, are you really a follower of Christ?

I can’t see another person’s heart just like someone else can’t see my heart. People can’t judge each other. But God can judge all He wants. And the Bible says that good works are the evidence of faith in Christ. To me that says a Christian who just sits on his blessed assurance needs to take a good long look at his heart.

Can you be a Christian and not do good works? Sure. But that just means that you’re lazy or selfish or that you’re allowing yourself to be ruled by fear. And none of those things come from God. So if you truly believe in Christ but you aren’t following Him, you need to take a good long look in the mirror . . . because the more you claim to be a Christian and the more you refuse to live like Christ, the greater the possibility that God is going to have to do something drastic to get your attention. I don’t want to be the hypocritical Christian who claims to believe God but never does what He says.

Can you do good works and not be a Christian? Absolutely. If you’re trusting in the good things that you’re doing to save you, you aren’t following Christ. You’re following culture. You’re following yourself, your own heart, if you will, and people are broken and flawed. We can’t save anyone. And if you think that all you have to do to get to heaven is be good enough, then how good is good enough? What is the standard?

All I’m saying this morning is that we need to stop beating around the bush. If you don’t believe God, that’s fine. That’s your choice completely. But if you say you believe Him and you don’t follow Him, you’re lying to yourself. Wouldn’t it be better then to say that you don’t follow Christ if you have no intentions of living like Him? At least then you could be honest with yourself and the people around you.

And we Christians need to get off our backsides and start working. There’s a lot of work to do. I go to an awesome church of 5,000 people, most of whom are new believers. And probably ten percent of that 5,000 are actively involved in ministry. That’s not good.

If we say we follow Christ but we aren’t doing good works, how can we show people that God makes a difference in our lives? If we aren’t willing to stand up and work and let God use us, how can we help anyone? Because I guarantee you can’t help anyone in our own strength.

Talking the talk is harder than it seems

Believing in Jesus is easy. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t find it difficult to believe in Jesus. I don’t find it difficult to believe in the Bible. I’ve witnessed too many miracles, too many supernatural things not to believe in God. And I can sit and talk to other believers about God all day long. But what I find the most challenging is talking to people who don’t believe.

Most of it is fear, and it’s irrational.

I’m a shameless people pleaser, after all, though I’m certainly a lot better than I used to be. And it’s my first response to hold conversations with people that won’t upset them. That will maintain our friendship. That won’t make them angry with me. And I get so afraid that people will get angry with me that most of the time I neglect to bring up my faith, even when I have a good opportunity.

Is that the right thing to do?

The verse for today made me think of this.

Romans 10:9-10

9 If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved.

I don’t know if churches still do this, but they used to have this time after a message called an altar call. Anyone who needed to pray could come to the front and pray at the altar at the front of the church. Anyone who needed to talk to the Pastor could come and talk to the Pastor. Anyone who had decided to accept Christ could walk forward and Pastor would have them pray with a deacon. Usually, everyone would sing all the verses to “Just As I Am” while they were waiting.

On Palm Sunday in 1990, I responded to the altar call at our church in Houston. I was 7 years old. And I might have been young, but I understood the concept that I was a sinner and that I needed someone to save me. But I’m here to tell you as a kid who sought to please everyone, stepping out in front of my parents and my friends and my teachers (they all went to the same church) and exclaiming to them that I wasn’t already saved was hard to do.

As an adult now, I understand how they felt. Happy. Joyful. Excited that I had made a decision. But at the time, I was afraid that letting everyone know that I wasn’t a Christian from an even younger age was really hard for me. It was silly, I know, an example of the unrealistic expectations I’ve always placed on myself.

Part of me misses the altar calls. I understand why we had to stop doing them, though, but I miss them. Because putting action behind what you believe is what Christianity is all about. Don’t misunderstand, of course. Christianity isn’t a works-based faith. It’s more like faith-based works. Because in James, the Bible tells us that faith without good works is dead. You can claim to be a Christian all day long, but if your life and your works don’t back it up, are you really? Becuase you’re not living like you believe.

Believing is easy. Making the decision to believe isn’t hard. It’s telling everyone that’s hard. It’s changing your life that’s hard. But if you decide to believe and you don’t tell anyone and your life doesn’t change, do you really believe?

I think that’s why I liked the altar calls, because they gave people the opportunity to act, to do something, to follow through with the internal decision they had made and tell the whole congregation that they had decided to believe in Jesus.

If someone comes out and asks me if I’m a Christian, I tell them yes. But that’s an easy answer to respond to because everyone calls themself a Christian anymore, and very few people know what it means. And refusing to explain what I believe because I’m afraid is wrong. Now, I do think there are times when we as believers need to back off and let God do the talking. Many times, God will speak through our silence more effectively than He will through our words.

But being afraid of people and what they think is foolish. And refusing to give an account of my faith just because I’m worried about how I will be perceived is damaging, not only to me but to the people around me. I’m still working on this. And I know the verse for today is generally used in leading people to faith in Christ, but I think it’s relevant for the rest of our lives too.

You can believe in Christ all day long, but until you start telling people what you believe, how else will anyone know?