But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without works, and I will show you faith from my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. The demons also believe – and they shudder. Foolish man! Are you willing to learn that faith without works is useless? James 2:18-20 HCSB
Many years ago, I met a mother who was grieving over her son. He was living with his girlfriend, involved in drugs, and had told her he wanted nothing to do with “that church stuff” anymore.
“But,” she sniffed, “I know he’s a Christian. He prayed the sinner’s prayer when he was 5, so I know he’s saved.”
I don’t remember exactly how I responded, but the first part of that conversation has stuck with me. It seems to me that the Bible is pretty clear that a person who has saving faith in Christ lives it out – that he’s useful for God’s kingdom. I ache for this mother. I understand why she would want to cling to that hope – but scripture just doesn’t justify her words, as heart-rending as they may be.
God intends for us to be useful. To be sure, He saves us from our sins by our faith through his grace. But repentance is a part of that equation. A life snatched from the pit of hell is a life saved for a purpose, given a task – the task of godly living. The evidence of saving faith is a life full of good works. Someone who prays a prayer and then lives the rest of his life thumbing his nose at God is – well, James says it pretty clearly. They have the same kind of “faith” the demons of hell have – head knowledge alone. And that kind of belief never saved anybody.
No Christian is perfect. I stumble and sin every day. But my heart’s desire is to please God. When I mess up, I feel the Holy Spirit’s conviction like fire. I run back to Him, sometimes multiple times over the same issue, but I always go back. There’s a big difference in trying to live a godly life and stumbling than in turning your back on God completely and saying “I believe you died on the cross for my sins, and that’s great, but I’m going to live ignoring your rules and your love completely.”
Praise God that our faith makes us useful! Praise Him that he gives us gifts to use for His glory. Praise Him that He gives us the strength to use the gifts.
I am useful – because of Him.