What is the goal of life, the thing most worth striving for? Most people would probably say, “Happiness.” My answer is a little different. I strive to know that when I sit in front of the throne of God, He will look at me and say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:21) My faith shows in the things I do. So does yours!
This doesn’t mean that I have a works mentality. I don’t believe my works will get me to heaven. Like Paul, I believe my faith will get me to heaven. (Romans 3:28)
But the works I perform are the result of the faithful life I try to live every day. You can boil my whole theology down to one concept: discipleship. I try to live a life of Jesus.
We don’t have to resolve the works/faith “issue,” because when we live the life of Jesus, there is no issue. That’s what you see in James. He said, “Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” (James 2:18)
Some people say that James and Paul were having a disagreement, but they weren’t. They were talking about two different things. When Paul said that you aren’t saved by works, he meant that works alone will not get you into heaven. Paul said, “Look, you’re not going to be able to just do good things and expect to get to heaven. You need to give up your soul.” And in my belief, that’s true. Paul and James agreed on this.
But while Paul was talking about giving up your soul and becoming a believer, James was talking to the believers, the ones that had already given up their souls to God. When James said, “I will show you my faith by my works,” he was talking about the lifestyle that you live when you’re a believer.
What lifestyle was James talking about? Just as Paul said, once you confess that Jesus died for your sins, you are saved. But then what? Do you now say, “Oh, I can just sit around and do whatever I want. My salvation is all about grace, so I can go ahead and live my life just the way I like.”
Paul and James and all the other disciples had one word for that: No! And the proof is in the lives they lived as disciples of Jesus. They lived lives of sacrifice, and they were persecuted for it. They were definitely not persecuted because they did whatever they felt like doing! They gave their lives to Jesus. They lived the lifestyle of Jesus. They showed us the life of a believer.
It was this lifestyle that got them in trouble. It was a lifestyle that got them crucified upside down. It was a lifestyle that got them thrown into prison. It was a lifestyle that got them stoned to death. The disciples were living a lifestyle that shook people up! They were going into pagan Greece and pagan Rome. They walked into the temples of a ton of different Gods. They walked into places where people were having orgies. They walked into these places and said, “No! No! This is not the lifestyle you are supposed to be living! It’s unfulfilling.”
The disciples showed us how to live. They challenged people’s worldviews. That was their lifestyle. And that’s what James is saying. You show me a believer that has a lifestyle of Jesus. That’s Christianity. But you show me a lifestyle that is without works, a lifestyle where you don’t do anything? You sit around? You accept Christ and then you just sit there and you don’t go out and live for Jesus? That’s not Christianity. You say you have faith, but who can see it? We’re called to so much more.
Of course, some people can really pervert the lifestyle. We’re not talking about just any works done in the name of Jesus. When we talk about discipleship, we’re not talking Westboro Baptist. We’re talking Matthew 25.
And when you show people your faith through your works, it might change you. More on this next time. See you Wednesday.