Faith... Dead

Friday, November 14, 2014, 7:00 a.m. – the Lord Jesus put in mind the song, “Oh, To Be Like Thee.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read James 2:14-26 (ESV).

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

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. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

What is Faith?

We learn in scripture that we are saved by God’s grace through faith. Our salvation is a gift from God, and this not of ourselves; not of works lest anyone of us should boast that we earned our own salvation in our own merit (See: Eph. 2:8-10). And, yet, salvation is not absent of works, for verse 10 says this: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” So, although our salvation was provided for us by God via Jesus’ shed blood on the cross, and we can do nothing to earn or to deserve our own salvation, and that even the faith to believe is a gift from God, still God had planned in advance for us to do good works, not in our own flesh, but as his workmanship, i.e. in the power and working of the Spirit within us as we cooperate fully with that work. This is part of our salvation. If you read verse 10 aloud and emphasize “His” and “In Christ Jesus” and “God,” it is obvious that these are the works of the Spirit of God which are to accompany our salvation, in which we are to walk.

So, how does this work exactly? I believe it all comes down to surrender. When we accept God’s invitation to his great salvation, by his grace and through faith, we die with Christ to our old lives of living in sin and for self, we are transformed in heart and mind of the Spirit of God away from sin and to God, and we are given new lives in Christ to be lived out in surrender to his will for our lives. We are created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness, not just positionally but experientially, too, as we walk by faith in the Spirit day by day (See: Eph. 4:17-24). Our old self was crucified with Christ so that we would no longer be slaves to sin, but we would be slaves of righteousness. We should no longer let sin reign (have control) in our bodies, but we should offer ourselves to God as instruments of his righteousness. When we were slaves to sin, we were free from the control of righteousness (See Ro. 6).

So, what are the key words here? – Death to self and sin – alive to God – no longer slaves of sin – now slaves of righteousness – sin no longer our master – Christ our master – no longer offer our bodies to sin – offer ourselves to God. This is true faith!

You see, true faith means we choose to relinquish control over our own lives, and we now yield to God and to his righteousness. The works we now do are not done in our own flesh, nor are they done to try to earn salvation or to gain points or acceptance, because we are not in charge anymore over our own lives. God is! And, he is the one calling the shots. If we have truly died with Christ, then we yield to his Lordship in our lives, and we cooperate with his work of grace in our lives in humble surrender and obedience to his will for our lives. So, the works we do should not be the works of the flesh, but they should be the works God created us to do under his authority, in his perfect will, and in his power, strength and wisdom within us. This is true faith!

What’s the Problem?

So many people today are teaching salvation absent of the cross of Christ in people’s lives; absent of true surrender and obedience; absent of repentance and submission to Christ. They are teaching a false grace gospel that does not “slay” the sinner, but that “redirects” him, as Tozer said in his writing, “The Old Cross and The New.” And, yet we read in Ro. 8:

By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you… So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.

What are the key words here? – He condemned sin in the flesh – the righteous requirements – fulfilled in those of us who walk not in the flesh but in the Spirit – who live not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Our minds set on the flesh are hostile toward God – they do not submit to God – they cannot please God – the result is death. Yet, our minds set on the Spirit result in life and peace - by the Spirit we put to death the deeds of the flesh – we live – we are sons of God by faith. The works of the Spirit in our lives are what God had planned in advance for us to do. We must yield to that work.

And, yet so many today scream “works-based salvation” when you try to teach Ro. 6-8 or Eph. 4:17-24, and the like (See also: Ac. 26:16-18; 2 Co. 5:15; Gal. 2:20; Tit. 2:11-14; and 1 Jn. 1-5). They want you to believe that salvation makes no demands on us at all, but that all we have to do is “believe,” although what that means is not really explained. As well, they give the impression that we can continue living in sin while even claiming who we are in Christ in order to cover over the guilt of our sin. I read a recent list of “Who we are in Christ” that had little scriptural basis and yet was taught as fact, and which teaches people that when they are in the depths of sin that they can go to this list, name it and claim it, and that they can know that they, even while sinning, are smiled upon, enjoyed, comforted, bragged on, never frowned at, praised, pure, delighted in, honored, strengthened, and never punished. The teaching says that God is never displeased with us, but he is completely pleased with us at all times, even when we are willfully and continually sinning.

Where does it say that in scripture? They write off the book of 1 John as irrelevant and say that God did not confront Adam and Eve with their sin, and that God did not punish them for their sin, but they just suffered the natural consequences of their bad choices. Wow!

What’s the Truth?

Well, these passages of scripture referenced above make it quite clear that we must die to sin and self, that we must walk in the Spirit and not in the flesh, and that if we continue living willful and sinful lifestyles after we say we have believed in Jesus, that we are not truly saved. I am not saying here that we will be sinless, i.e. that we will never sin again. We will. But the mark of a true believer is one who walks (lives) according to the Spirit and not according to the flesh (in lifestyle). So, if you have been told that you can be saved and that you do not have to repent of your sin, and that you can still walk according to the flesh and yet be saved, then you have been lied to. Read again these passages of scripture. True faith requires that we live what we say we believe, not in absolute perfection, and not without fault or failure; yet not in the flesh, but in the Spirit of God as we yield to his Lordship over our lives. If we walk according to the flesh, we will die (See: Ro. 6-8).

So, is God pleased with us all the time, even when we continue in willful sin against him? The Word says: “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Ro. 8:8). “So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him” (2 Co. 5:9). “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord” (Col. 3:20). “…but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts” (1 Thess. 2:4). “Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more” (1 Thess. 4:1). “No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him” (2 Tim. 2:4). “…and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him” (1 Jn. 3:22). “…for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord” (Eph. 5:8-10).

Is God truly never displeased and/or never upset with us? And, will he never punish or discipline us? The Word says: “…not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life” (1 Thess. 4:5-7). “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son” (Heb. 12:5b-6). “As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. For he says, ‘In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you’” (2 Co. 6:1-2). “I am afraid that when I come again my God will humble me before you, and I will be grieved over many who have sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual sin and debauchery in which they have indulged” (2 Co. 12:21). “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Eph. 4:30).

Obviously God is not pleased with us when we refuse his voice and we continue in willful sin. What loving father would watch his son or daughter doing what is sinful and disobedient and would stand there and smile and would find pleasure and enjoyment in the child’s sin? A loving parent would not stop loving, nurturing or caring for his child, but he would grieve over their sin, and he would have to rebuke and correct the child in order to bring the child to obedience, which is what is truly best for the child. Oh, that we would get this! We cannot claim faith, and still walk (in lifestyles) in sin. Faith without God’s works is Dead!

Oh, to Be Like Thee, Blessed Redeemer / Thomas O. Chisholm / W. J. Kirkpatrick

Oh, to be like Thee! blessèd Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.

Oh, to be like Thee! full of compassion,
Loving, forgiving, tender and kind,
Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
Seeking the wandering sinner to find.

O to be like Thee! while I am pleading,
Pour out Thy Spirit, fill with Thy love;
Make me a temple meet for Thy dwelling,
Fit me for life and Heaven above.

Oh, to be like Thee! Oh, to be like Thee,
Blessèd Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.

“The Old Cross and The New” by A. W. Tozer: