Recently, I noticed that there was a light out in my bathroom. Changing light bulbs can be such a pesky chore, but the difference that changing the bulb makes is usually pretty significant. Like most people, my husband and I lived with the dead bulb for a while, and then we figured it was time to change it. Our bathroom, though still previously lit, now glowed with a greater gusto than it had before. Imagine instead if we had changed the bulb but never flipped the switch to turn it on? Seems like a waste when you consider that the change has been made, but the fruit of the change is never allowed to be seen. Isn’t this the way that some of us approach our faith? Our faith is like a light bulb in a way—we willingly accept Christ and our hearts are transformed, but our lives do not always reflect the fruit of that change. It’s like changing the light bulb and never letting it shine.
In the Bible, Paul and James are often thought to have contrasting points of view when it comes to our works. Do our works save us? Why do our works matter if we are saved by grace? Is it enough to just have faith? These questions are important theological questions to consider, especially when they have so much to do with our salvation.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”
“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”
These verses, from Ephesians 2:8-9 and James 2:14-17 respectively, are actually pointing at two very different truths. Paul is saying that salvation, or our deliverance from sin and its consequences, is a gift from God. We are saved by God’s grace extended to us through the death and resurrection of His son, Jesus Christ. Paul is emphasizing that we can do nothing to earn our own salvation. In order to be saved, we must believe and trust in God. On the other hand, James is emphasizing a very different statement. His point is not about salvation itself, but rather the fruit of our salvation. As changed people, we ought to be living in such a way that our works are evidence of our faith. Matthew Henry in his commentary puts it like this: “Paul speaks of works wrought in obedience to the law of Moses, and before men’s embracing the faith of the gospel; and he had to deal with those who valued themselves so highly upon those works that they rejected the gospel; but James speaks of works done in obedience to the gospel, and as the proper and necessary effects and fruits of sound believing in Christ Jesus.”
Recently, my Sunday School class has been studying the book of James. We discussed this idea of faith and works in great length just this past week, and it got me thinking. How am I living my life? Is there evidence in my life that I have a living relationship with Jesus Christ, instead of one that is dead, as James says? Have I changed the light bulb but never bothered to turn on the switch? I want to intentionally live so that my life is evidence of Jesus Christ. I want to lead others to Christ with my words and with my actions, and I want my actions to speak louder than my words!
Maybe you are in a season where you have grown complacent, accepting of Jesus Christ in faith, but unwilling to live like it. Or maybe you are on the other end of the spectrum where you are burned out. You have bitten off more than you can chew, and you have worked yourself to the point of exhaustion towards ministry and faith in general. Be encouraged that even in these seasons, God calls out to you. He is always willing to infuse you with new life and new enthusiasm. Our faith sets our lives in motion for the sake of the gospel. Be encouraged today to turn the light on, and reflect the fruit of the transformation that Christ has made in your life!