Last week, we started our journey through the book of James. It is neat that this short letter written close to 2,000 years ago could be so relevant to 21 Century mankind. In the previous article, living faith vs. dead faith, we saw that James is an example of a person who has living faith by the fact that he is a bondservant of God and that Jesus Christ is his Lord. He takes advantage every opportunity to use his spiritual gift of teaching to teach those around him. We saw that the trials that come our way actually reveal to us if our faith is living or dead.
This lesson is a continuation of what we began learning last time. We are not born with living faith. We are not born with any kind of faith. We have to learn faith from an outside source. Most people learn faith from their parents. Again, we will even learn to have either living faith or dead faith. If the faith that we have comes from any other source other than the Word of God, the Bible, then that faith is dead. Living faith comes from the Lord.
The Gospel that has the power to transform us, revealing living faith to us, comes from the Lord. God teaches us what faith is and then requires us to put that living faith into practice. What are the origins of your faith? Where did you learn faith? From whom did you learn faith? If the Word of God is not the source, then you run the risk of having dead faith, but, as James teaches, you end up deceiving yourself believing that your faith is living, even though it is actually dead.
I. Living faith causes you to be born again
Let’s pick up in verse 18, where we see how living faith acts, or in other words, what it does to us and through us.
The Word of God teaches us about faith and as we believe the Word of God and put into practice what we learn, we are transformed. As Jesus teaches in John 3
, we are born again
. Has your faith caused you to be born again? Or, is your faith something else that you just added to your life? If your faith has not caused you to be born again then it is not living faith. It is what James calls dead or useless faith. It is just a claim and not a reality. The living faith of the Bible is the only faith that causes a person to be born again, or as the text could be translated in John, born from above. How does this happen. According to Christ in John 3, the Holy Spirit works with the Word of God to convict you of your sin and draw you to genuine faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The way that you think is changed and the way that you view life is altered. You trust in the Lord and lay your life in His hands. Jesus teaches in John 3 that you cannot physically see this new birth happen but you can see the effects of this new birth, like the wind. Living faith is transforming faith. What is transformed? Let’s see.
II. Living faith is transforming faith
The very first thing that changes in you is your attitude. You are now slow to anger and you are no longer controlled by your anger like you once were.
All of us deal with anger. Some wear it on their sleeves so to speak while others cover it up and play the mental fantasies. In God’s eyes, both are guilty. Living faith transforms us. Living faith removes anger’s power over us. We may still struggle with anger but we are no longer controlled by it like we once were. We can and will still be tempted to allow anger to control us but now we are able to control it. This is what is means to be born again, to be transformed by the power of living faith. The next change in our attitude is that we become humble. We are born proud and pride, like anger, dominates us until we are born again and transformed by living faith. Once again, some people wear their pride on their sleeves while others hide it and play the inward, mental pride fantasies. When we have been and are being transformed by living faith then we overcome pride and live in humbleness. How is this manifested? It is manifested in our attitude toward the Word of God. If we are proud, we trust ourselves more than the Word of God. If we are humble, we trust the Word of God more than ourselves. Who is the ultimate authority in your life, you or the Word of God? Have you been transformed from a prideful person to a humble person by living faith revealed in the Word of God?
The next change that we see take place is in our speech. As verse 19 teaches, we are much slower to speak because we are really listening to what others are saying. Later, in James 3, we are going to spend an entire chapter on the tongue and how living faith helps tame it. I just want to mention what is written in James 1.
If your faith does not help you bridle your tongue, then it is worthless, or as James 2 teaches, it is useless. It is dead faith and you might as well not have it. Again, James does not want us to be deceived. He wants us to see reality as it is. I remember after I was born again, two major things happened. The first was that I was no longer controlled by anger. I was one who was controlled inwardly by anger. I did not wear it on my sleeve but I played the anger fantasies in my mind. The next thing that changed was my speech. I was able to bridle my tongue for the first time in my life. I was able to stop cursing out loud and more importantly, in my mind.
The third transformation that we see that living faith brings about is a change in our actions. Because God has changed our attitudes, our actions now follow. We are not changed from the outside in but instead, we are changed from the inside out.
When you are born again and in the process of being transformed by living faith, you will manifest this by setting aside all filthiness and wickedness that is in your life. We are born with this filthiness and wickedness in us. When God causes us to be born again, we begin a process of being cleansed from these things. In the Greek, the word filthy means the things that defile you, that make you dirty spiritually, things that mar your character. The word wicked means ill will, bad nature, desire to injure. These things are in you and God wants to clean them out. Living faith will lead you on this journey of being cleansed. If this is not happening to you on a daily basis then the faith that you have is dead. The next action that we see is that you want to do what the Word of God teaches.
This motivates you to life transformation and it also motivates you to reach out to the people around you and serve them, extending God’s love to them the way that He extended it to you. Why do you do this? You do it because you want to connect with others so that you can help them connect with God who can teach them living faith and transform their lives too. This is the Word of God in action. This is discipleship made simple. This is God’s desire for each human being on this earth. Does your faith motivate you to live according to the Word of God by reaching out to the people around you in love and service so that you can connect with them and show them how to connect with God? If not, then the faith that you have is dead.
Which faith do you have based on what we learn here? Is it living faith that transforms you or, is it dead faith that leaves you like you found it? Are you controlled by anger or do you control your anger? Are you controlled by your tongue or are you able to control your tongue? Who is the ultimate authority in your life, you, or the Word of God? Are you being cleansed of filthiness and wickedness daily? Do you reach out to the people around you to serve and love them so that you can teach them how to connect with God? Do you need to be born again? What keeps you from being born again? May the Lord help us not be deceived and realize which kind of faith we really have, living or dead!