I am preparing to teach my staff the next lesson on James. This has been an eye opening experience for all of us as we examine ourselves and the faith that we claim to have in the light of the Word of God. James was written to people who claimed to have faith. James does not try to convince people to have faith. He wants the people who claim to have faith to examine their faith in the light of God’s Word. In our modern world, just like in the ancient world, there were many different faiths. As a result, people were confused about which one was correct. Like today, the motto was, “well, there must be nuggets of truth in all faiths so let’s just take what we like from each one and make up our own”. James, on the other hand, reveals that although we divide the world up into many different faiths, God’s economy is a little different. God teaches us that there only only two kinds of faith, living faith that transforms from the inside out and dead faith, which is useless or worthless. Upon studying James, you will know if your faith is living or dead because he uses real, life examples of how the two kinds of faith manifest themselves. Here are some of the previous articles.
- Living faith vs. Dead faith
- Living faith vs. Dead faith part II
- Trials and Temptations; what’s the difference?
- Genuine faith in action
In this article, I would like to examine the manifestation of dead faith vs. the manifestation of living faith. Our passage of study is going to be James 1:14-27. Take a moment to read the passage and then let’s see what we can discover about the two different faiths.
I. Birth to death
Let’s begin with dead faith. This faith does not change you. It does not stop you from walking down the spiraling staircase of sin that leads to destruction, both physical and eternal. The process is clear and the outcome is clear. James warning to us is not to deceive ourselves. If we examine ourselves, our daily actions and attitudes, we will see if we are on this path or not. Our natural tendency is not to examine ourselves so that we can be ignorant of reality. Our other natural tendency is to see the evidence and then just choose not to believe it. Our third natural tendency is to blame someone else or blame something else for our actions and try to excuse ourselves from reality. All of these are the result of our sin nature and dead faith is helpless to change that. Here is the process. It begins with an outside source that tempts us. When we are tempted, our sin nature is stimulated to respond. We give in to that sin nature and it draws us to the temptation. We end up getting carried away by our sin nature and it pulls us in deeper so that we no longer think rationally. Instead, we begin to rationalize. First, the action takes root in our minds before we ever act. That thought process leads to action. When the action is completed, this brings about the consequences. We choose the actions, but, God has already chosen the consequences. Once the action is completed, our sin nature kicks in and we attempt to cover up what we have done. When confronted, we try to blame others or the situation, anyone and anything, other than placing the blame where it rightfully belongs. For Biblical examples of this, please see Adam and Eve, Achan, and king David. Is you faith able to keep you from walking down the path of sin, the process that leads to destruction? If it is unable to help you then it is dead faith. The solution is not to try harder. The solution is to receive living faith from the Lord. This happens when we are born again from above. How does this happen? Let’s find out from James.
II. Birth to life
In the context of James, before looking at verse 18 to learn about the new birth that gives rise to living faith, we need to take a peak at verse 17. Living faith comes from God and it is His gift to us, a good gift that does not disappoint.
The process of the new birth begins with God and His Word. The new birth from above is the will of God for all of us. He desires to give this to us so that we will attain living faith that transforms us from the inside out and helps us overcome our sin nature moment by moment, day by day. For a reference to what being born again looks like, I have linked to an article on the subject. It is the story from John 3 when Jesus teaches Nicodemus about being born again. The apostles understood this truth and lived according to it. They had all been born again. Jesus taught them of the new birth through His Word. He sent them out to make disciples of all the nations by teaching them the Word of God. Let’s look at some cross references that exemplify this.
The Word of God is what leads us to being born again from above. The Word of God teaches us what living faith is. The Word of God is our connection to God. This is how He has chosen to communicate with us. The Word of God leads us to faith and keeps us in the faith. We must devote ourselves to It daily. Are you planted in the Word of God and is It implanted in you? There is only one way for that to happen. It is when you devote yourself to learning from It daily. What is the proof that I have been born again and received living faith? Let’s find out in the next section of James.
III. Manifestation of life
In verse 18, James tells us that there is fruit that is manifested when we are born again from above. Let’s take a look at that fruit, or, in other words, the manifestation of the new birth. There is a major transformation in the way that I deal with the people around me. Before being born again, my sin nature makes me slow to listen, quick to speak, and quick to anger. I do not listen to what others say because I am too busy thinking about what I want to say next, or, I hear what they say and let my anger take over. Once I have been born again, there is a change. I now actually listen to what others say, including what God has to say, and I do not get angry, even when offended. I am able to control my sin nature by the power of God. I see the righteousness of God being produced in my life. It is neat to see that there are things that God does and there are things that I do to manifest this transformation in me. He transforms me and makes it possible to live correct before Him and before others. I still have to choose to do my part. I will lay aside the sinful things in my life that corrupt me and feed my sin nature so that I no longer seek to harm others out of my selfishness. I now live in humility, accepting everything as coming from the hand of God. I bow my knee to the teachings of the Word of God. As a result, I am able to be obedient to the Word of God. I no longer delude myself. To delude means to cheat or swindle. Before being born again, I was an expert at deceiving myself by justifying and excusing my actions. I desire to be in the Word of God because I now understand what It is and what It does to me and through me. I am now satisfied with who I am, my position in society, the way that my life is going etc. because I have a relationship with the Lord and it has produced living faith in me. I now seek to serve the people around me. I actively get involved with their lives so that I can share the Word of God with them, the same Word that is continually transforming me.
My dear friend, have you been born again from above? Is your faith producing life transformation in you? Are you able to overcome your sin nature? Do you bow your knee to the teachings of the Word of God? Are you a disciplined student of the Word? Are you living by the truths that you learn from the Word? Have you ever considered your faith, if it is living or dead? May the Lord help us always examine ourselves so that we see reality as it is and we see ourselves as we really are so that we can be born again and live by the power of living faith.