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24. Test 5: The Works Test – Part 1

James 2:14-26

14 What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? 15 Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, 16 and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? 17 So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. 18 Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.” 19 You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. 20 How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless? 21 Don’t you remember that our ancestor Abraham was shown to be right with God by his actions when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete. 23 And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” He was even called the friend of God. 24 So you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone. 25 Rahab the prostitute is another example. She was shown to be right with God by her actions when she hid those messengers and sent them safely away by a different road. 26 Just as the body is dead without breath, so also faith is dead without good works.

As we continue in the series “The Litmus Test for Life” James walks us through the fifth test, the works test where we shift from talking about our prejudice with people to the proof that our faith is real and not a fake. Because when it comes to faith, we either have the real deal or a dead deal. James starts by stating a powerful point that we desperately need to pay attention to today, that faith without works is dead. But he doesn’t just make the point, he restates it no less than six times in these 13 verses. His point is simply but profound, that faith without fruit is a farce. Genuine faith is evidenced not in what we say but in what we do, in our walk not just our talk. James is reiterating what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7:15-20,  “Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. 16 You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. 18 A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. 19 So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. 20 Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.”

This is the question that James is asking, can a faith that doesn’t bear fruit be considered a saving faith? And then he answers his own question. No, its a dead faith because faith without fruit is a fraud. Now if that’s the only kind of faith you have, then it means you’re dead too, dead in your sins. And the only cure for being dead in your sins is to come to the Savior and accept His sacrifice for your sin. In his typical teacher preacher style, James lays out four arguments, and supports them with illustrations to prove his point. Now this brings up a very controversial and confusing subject that has divided the church for centuries. Few passages have caused more problems than the one we are looking at today. Because it’s here that some people erroneously teach that we are called to work for our salvation. But it’s not the verse that causes the problems, it’s the way people have mishandled and misinterpreted the verse that has caused the problems. When we look at it in the correct context, as a series of tests to determine whether or not our faith is real, we see it not as working for our salvation but works that show our salvation. James is as clear as Jesus, and the rest of the New Testament, that salvation is by faith. It’s the result of Christs work on the cross not ours, therefore we don’t work for our faith we work as a result of our faith. Let me make it absolutely crystal clear, we are not working to gain or maintain salvation. There are many today who are trying to work their way into heaven, because they have fallen for a false belief system. One that teaches them that if our good outweighs the bad we will get in. But salvation is based on Christs and His work on the cross not ours. God doesn’t grade on a curve, he grades on the cross. Works based salvation is from Satan, who wants you to waste your life working for a forgiveness that is not only free but can set you free. Now let me address the other half of my statement because there are some of you who while you may not be working to gain salvation are trying to work to try and maintain your salvation. When Jesus said it is finished he meant it. Why do we believe the lie that we have to maintain God’s greatest miracle? And who do we think we are to believe that we can? When we do we are deceived by the devil, so that our faith becomes motivated by fear or arrogance. You’re not maintaining your salvation, you’re maintaining your pride. Instead of enjoying salvation we sacrifice our time and our talents on the altar of ego, relying on self instead of resting in the Savior. Look works-based salvation doesn’t promote salvation it promotes self, as we trade trusting for trying. It’s one of the devils destructive doctrines, because it points to self-effort not the Savior. It points people to our work not His. Genuine grace points people to God but works based salvation points people to trying to be good. Is the way you are living your life pointing people to Jesus and His grace or to you and trying to be good? Are you pointing people to marvel at the miracle of Salvation or to the misery of trying to maintain it? Do you have a peace-based salvation or a performance-based salvation? If your salvation is based on the Lord, then you can’t lose it. But if you think you can lose it then it was built on a lie not the Lord. Why won’t we just accept the freedom of forgiveness that comes from genuine faith and stop trying to work to maintain salvation? Because we are afraid people will come to Jesus for salvation and then go right back to a life of selfishness and sin. But that’s not real salvation its fire insurance not assurance. Which do you have “Assurance” or “Insurance”? Both words sound very similar and have similar meanings. One of the definitions of both is a guaranty. Assurance is a guaranty of your word and Insurance is a guaranty of payment. The same, yet different. I have assurance that if certain people tell me that they will do something that I don’t have to worry about it. Their word is all I need. And I have insurance, lot’s of insurance, life, vehicle, home owners and health just to name a few. They guaranty me compensation if anything were to happen. But the one big difference is that assurance is not based on anything I do where Insurance has everything to do with what I do. Several years ago I got a “Final Notice” from my insurance company saying that I owed them money. I was sure the bill had been paid and after checking discovered that there was a glitch and I was indeed paid up. But the point was that my insurance was only as good as long as I paid my premiums. If you don’t pay your bill, then your insurance will be cancelled and you have nothing. So back to the question at hand: Do you have “Assurance” or “Insurance”? Do you have assurance that if you died today that you would end up in Heaven with our Lord or do you have insurance, thinking that as long as you do the right things that you will end up in Heaven. Are you basing it on God’s Word or your work? I don’t want anyone to believe the lie that they can work for their salvation, but, I do want everyone to live in such a way that you show your salvation by your works. In order to do that, over the next few weeks we’re going to look at four kinds of works that will show evidence of true faith. So that you know that you have assurance of salvation instead of insurance.