Actions Validate Real Faith
“Show me your faith without your works (actions), and I will show you my faith by my works.” James 2:18
The concept is very simple: if you have accepted and totally agree with and believe in a truth or principle, then you should align your behavior with that truth. It is not enough to have intellectual consent regarding the truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; there must also be an alignment of actions. In other words, we must walk the walk and not just talk the talk. The word integrity is defined as the adherence to moral or ethical principles. A person is thought to have integrity if they act according to their moral or ethical principle even when the situation causes them pain or discomfort to do so, like sticking to a promise even when it’s to their loss or hurt.
It is one of the greatest flaws of human nature to think that it is enough to associate ourselves with a philosophy or set of principles, but to not put those principles into practice. We use the term “hypocrite” to describe this behavior. The original use of the word was for a stage actor. Dictionary.com defines the word hypocrite as: “a person who pretends to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, principles, etc., that he or she does not actually possess, especially a person whose actions belie stated beliefs.” I believe there are some who are not pretending, but they actually think that they possess these beliefs, yet their actions are not in agreement or aligned with their beliefs.
In George Orwell’s famous book entitled “1984”, he coined a term “doublethink” to define a similar disconnect that occurs in people. His definition of doublethink: “a person has the power to hold two completely contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously and accept both of them.” As Christians, we need to sort out these contradictions and establish what is true, and then align our actions accordingly, using the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit as a guide.
We humans have the ability to lie to ourselves and deceive ourselves into thinking that we are something that we are not. We must be honest with ourselves and consider very seriously our actions. Are we truly living and walking in the truth that we have confessed and committed to?
The Scriptures clearly emphasize, and I have resounded, that as Christians we must first change the way that we think before we can change the way that we act. We cannot change our behavior through sheer determination or willpower, but rather we must allow a change to happen on the inside, in our hearts and minds, with the major change being that we consider ourselves dead to this world, focusing our attention on our future life in heaven.
As we focus on changing the way that we think, we must not lose sight of the fact that the change in thinking needs to result in a change to our actions. The ultimate goal is love, so our change in thinking must create in us the ability to act and behave in a loving way, aligning with the love nature of God. It is not enough to intellectually understand and agree with the truth; we must walk in the light of the truth.
Jesus gave this warning:
“Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you, depart from Me you who practice lawlessness.’ Therefore, whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock and the rain descended, the floods came and the winds blew and beat on that house, and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand, and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on the house, and it fell, and great was its fall.” Matthew 7:21-27
Fortunately for us, the promises of the New Covenant that were presented to us by the Lord Jesus Christ have made a way that we can have the laws of God “written on our hearts”, that is, that we can be changed on the inside so that we can do by nature what the law requires, recognizing that all the laws and requirements of God are summed up in the single requirement to love God and to love our neighbors.
Christians cannot think that because they have associated themselves with the truths of the Bible they can now rest in their acceptance by God. On the contrary, we must make sure that we have allowed our inner transformation to cause the appropriate changes in our behavior. Doing this is equivalent to a man building his house on a solid rock, according to the advice of Jesus, as opposed to building a house on the sand. Making the appropriate changes in our behavior secures us for the day that we must stand before the Lord, so that He won’t say to us “depart from Me you who practice lawlessness.”
In the book of James in the Bible, it is made clear that our faith is dead if it has not resulted in the appropriate actions when the need arises.
“What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works (the associated actions or deeds)? Can faith save him?” James 2:14
The implication is that there is no profit from this type of faith that is without resulting actions, and that this kind of faith cannot save a person.
James goes on to offer an example:
“If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,’ but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” James 2:15-17
Although we are not able to earn our salvation, and our acceptance into the kingdom of heaven as a result of our good deeds, righteous behavior and holy life, we are able to disqualify ourselves by showing that our faith is dead, and therefore we will not have the type of faith needed to be justified by God.
The remainder of the 2nd chapter of James describes this idea of dead works not being sufficient to justify a man. I opened this blog post with a quote from this chapter, verse 18, saying that a man can prove his faith by having the resulting deeds and actions that align with the truth. Here’s the remainder of the chapter:
“You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder. Do you want to be shown, you shallow man, that faith apart from works is barren? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by works, and the scripture was fulfilled which says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness’; and he was called the friend of God. You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the harlot justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead.” James 2:19-26
In summary, let’s not deceive ourselves into thinking that because we believe God’s word and are changing the way that we think, that it is enough. Let’s make sure that we are allowing the transformation of our mind to also cause a transformation of actions. Love should be the natural result of our inner changes, but our flesh is always battling our spirit, wanting to deceive us into making the wrong choices or thinking that our agreement or consent is enough. It’s not. When circumstances arise, we must react appropriately in love. If we don’t, let’s be honest with ourselves and allow the Holy Spirit to make the appropriate changes to give us the power to correct where we fall short.
“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10