Barren Belief or Fruitful Faith?

Posted: February 25, 2013 in Spiritual Formation, Theology and Faith, Worship
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Will Willimon, a bishop in the United Methodist Church and a well-known pastor and theologian, once stated, “A recent survey showed that 93% of Americans and 100% of demons believe in God.”  This tongue-in-cheek humor has its basis in the letter of James.  The author of James instructs early believers that faith and good works are to be held together.

Martin Luther, the great Reformation leader, called James an “epistle of straw” because he thought that the letter promoted works-based righteousness.  That is to say, he thought James was saying that we were saved by what we did.  James is not saying this at all.  Rather, “good works” are the natural outflow of faith.  Good works are the fruit of faith’s seed.

James says it this way: “Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.  You believe that there is one God.  Good!  Even the demons believe that – and shudder” (James 2:18b-19).  In other words, if there is no fruit then the seed of faith must not have taken root in our lives.  John Wesley talked about faith and holiness as both personal and social, but never private.  It should impact our daily lives.  This should give us pause… I mean, we really should consider what James is telling us.  Faith not lived out in tangible ways is dead.

Yes, we have to be careful not to think that our good works make us more acceptable to God or somehow that we are made right because we do what is right.  Luther was right in saying that works do not save us.  But, that does not mean we should do nothing!  Remember, Jesus tells his disciples (and us) that part of what it means to be disciples is to learn everything that Jesus taught and live in obedience.  I like to think of it this way.  Our obedience is the thankful, grateful response to what God has done in and for us!  And… even our faith is a gift from God!

As we enter into this journey of Lent, a journey toward the Cross.  We reflect on the context and content of our lives.  What is the fruit of our lives?  What does the fruit of our lives suggest we have placed our faith in?  Do we reap the fruit of the Spirit?  Is it fruit of the Kingdom?  Is it good seed that dies and produces an abundant harvest in the lives of others?  What is the natural outflow of our faith?  More importantly, does it reflect Jesus to our world?


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