Lesson 4 - Growing Closer to God Through an Active Faith

Having faith is the foundation of the Christian life. However faith is just the beginning of that life. Without faith we can not be pleasing to God (Hebrews 6:11). Before we begin let's look at the word "faith" a little more deeply. What is faith? Many will say faith means believing in God. But there's more to it than that. Here are specific components of Christian faith worth noting:

-A belief in deity.
-A belief in, and understanding of the role of, God the Father.
-A belief in, and understanding of the role of, God the Son.
-A belief in, and understanding of the role of, God the Spirit.
-A belief that God the Word became man, lived a sin free life, died on the cross, rose from the dead, ascended into Heaven, and will return to gather the faithful.
-A belief that the Bible is the inspired Word of God and contains all we need to become acceptable to God.
-A belief in the eternal nature of the soul of mankind.
-A belief that man is guilty of sin and redemption can only be found through the sacrifice of God the Son.
-A belief that Christian must be evangelical in the manner of their life.

Notice that no doctrinal statements are in the list. This lesson is not going to cover those, however if a person has true biblical faith their doctrine will be formed purely and solely by that faith. Pure faith will result in a pure heart seeking pure doctrine.

Growing Closer to God Through an Active Faith
Many in the religious world claim that faith, alone, saves man from his sins. This doctrine has it's origin in ideas created by man in response to the Catholic churches insistence and emphasis on works. People began to see that things like priest confessionals, counting beads, and saying Hail Marys could not be found in scripture. Since these were works based ideas some wanted to flee as far from is practice as possible and the idea was born that faith cannot include any acts of work. Frankly, they swung too far from one extreme to the other. James clearly explains works are part of God's plan for man's salvation, but not to earn it, rather to allow it. There are works that are merely an act of obedience, like caring for the poor and widows, helping the sick, conducting our lives in a moral way, etc.

James 2:14-17
14 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 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? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

This passage explains it very plainly. Faith without works is of no profit. Faith cannot save. Faith, by itself, is dead. All of the things mentioned as examples are things we, as Christians, have been commanded to do. Thus they are not OUR works, they are GOD'S works through us. They do not work to EARN our salvation, we work as a RESULT of our salvation. However, not working means we are disobeying God and thus we put our souls in jeopardy.

James 2:18-19
18 But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works." Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! 20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?

It is impossible to demonstrate your faith absent works. Your labor in the kingdom brings reward to you and those who are served. This reward is both earthly and heavenly. When we are busy serving God and others we will find it difficult to find fault in others, complain about minor matters in the church, gossip, be busybodies, and the list goes on! Work occupies our minds as well as our hands.

Notice how the demons have faith! They believe all the things we do and even more. Their knowledge of spiritual things is higher than our by the very nature of being a spiritual being. However even with this intimate knowledge they are outside God's grace because of their lack of good works, and labor in evil. We, therefore, must learn from their mistake and work for the Lord in obedient servitude.

James 2:21-24
21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? 22 Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? 23 And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." And he was called the friend of God. 24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. 25 Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?