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Vital Signs of Faith

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980111AM James 2.14-26


JAMES 2:14-26

This morning our passage in James is all about genuine, reliable, life
changing and soul saving faith.
DISPLAYS itself in godly works is the thesis of this loving pastor’s
As he writes guided by the Holy Spirit his words are like the guidelines
posted in an emergency room or in a rescue vehicle.
Living Faith puts on Christ. Saving faith in action looks like Jesus in its
actions. The only proof of life according to James is lived out faith,
displayed in godly works.
This is the obligation of every believer: “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ,
and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts” (Rom.
13:14). The goal of the Christian life is Christ-likeness.
I wonder if you have read
1 that moving story of Jerome K. Jerome’s
called The Passing of the Third Floor Back? Roughly, the tale is of a
poor-class lodging house, where lived a heterogeneous company of
needy and seedy folk, and where there was a poor, ignorant little
servant-girl, a good deal of a slut, and ready to sell her virtue for a
worthless trinket.
Into the place there came one day a lodger who at once seemed to be
different, and who occupied the third floor back. He quickly revealed
himself to have a very kind heart and way. He always had a kindly
word for the little servant girl, usually so ignored and downtrodden.
1 Guy H. King, Crossing the Border, Fort Washington, Pa.: Christian Literature Crusade, 1974, pp. 92-93.
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She almost worshipped him.
As the weeks passed this quiet stranger impacted every one of the
tenants. Each of the other lodgers soon owed him much for his many
deeds of helpfulness.
He was always doing something for somebody, in his kindly,
sympathetic way.
At last the day came for him to move elsewhere. The little maid
watched him, open-eyed, as he walked with his bit of luggage to the
front door; and as he turned to her with a smile and a gentle pat on
the shoulder, she took her leave of him with the words, “Please kind
sir, are you ‘Im?”
She saw a living, walking, talking display of Jesus. Genuine faith
displays itself in godly works. When Peter introduced Cornelius to
Christ he described Him in Acts 10:38 “how God anointed Jesus of
Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing
good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was
with Him. NKJV
In our text this morning we see that as Believers, we should so clothe
themselves with Jesus Christ that when people look at us, they see
What did James write as the opening chapter of God’s New Covenant
people? Simply this, a clear and simple way of life that reflects A
As Christ was received by faith, so the way of life flowing from His
presence in a life would be reflected in the walk of faith.
So James gives 12 clear indicators of how the walk of faith is going.
You are headed toward Christian maturity when these areas are in
line: James: Twelve Tests of Spiritual Maturity (1:4)
James 1:4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be
perfect and complete, lacking nothing. NKJV
1. A Maturing Walk of Faith endures troubles 1:2-11
2. A Maturing Walk of Faith deals with temptation 1:12-16
3. A Maturing Walk of Faith obeys the Word 1:17-27
4. A Maturing Walk of Faith
ALLOWS no prejudice 2:1-13.
5. A Maturing Walk of Faith
DISPLAYS itself in godly works 2:14-26.
Before James lists the seven vital signs of living faith he notes there
are three kinds of faith, only one of which is true saving faith.
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DEAD FAITH (James 2:14–17)
DEMONIC FAITH (James 2:18–19)
DYNAMIC FAITH (James 2:20–26)
DEAD FAITH (James 2:14–17) As Jesus had warned, James was seeing
– counterfeit Christians. Even in the early church there were those who
claimed they had saving faith, yet did not possess salvation. Wherever
there is the true, you will find the counterfeit.
¾ Jesus warned, “Not every one that saith unto Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall
enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of My
Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21). Jesus said a sign of dead
faith is substituting words for deeds. Counterfeits know the correct
vocabulary for prayer and testimony, and can even quote the right
verses from the Bible; but their walk does not measure up to their
¾ Jesus and James warn, beware of a mere intellectual faith. No man
can come to Christ by faith and remain the same any more than he
can come into contact with a 220-volt wire and remain the same.
“He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of
God hath not life” (1 John 5:12). Saving faith is life changing faith.
Dead faith is not saving faith. Dead faith is counterfeit faith and
lulls the person into a false confidence of eternal life.
DEMONIC FAITH (James 2:18–19) How much can you believe and still
be lost? Too much. So much that it can scare you, make you shudder
and still not save your soul. James introduces Damning Demon Faith .
James wanted to shock his complacent readers, so he used demons as
his illustration.Here is just a bit of what Satan and his demons believe:
1. They believe in a Literal Creation because they sang and
watched God do the work of fashioning the heavens and
the earth. Job 38:7 When the morning stars sang
together, And all the sons of God shouted for joy?NKJV
2. They believe in a literal Adam and Eve because Satan
himself tempted them in the garden. 2 Corinthians 11:3
But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by
his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the
simplicity that is in Christ.NKJV
3. They believe in a Global Flood believers because they tried
to mess up the human race and God destroyed the world
and started over with Noah. Jude 6 And the angels who
did not keep their proper domain, but left their own
abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under
darkness for the judgment of the great day;NKJV
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4. They believe in a literal Exodus miraculous plagues and all
because they witnessed the exodus as they were working
through the Egyptian magicians. Exodus 7:11 But Pharaoh
also called the wise men and the sorcerers; so the
magicians of Egypt, they also did in like manner with their
5. They believe in Job because they afflicted him. Job 2:7 So
Satan went out from the presence of the Lord, and struck
Job with painful boils from the sole of his foot to the crown
of his head.NKJV
6. They believe in Daniel because they filled the magicians
with envy and tried to destroy him. Daniel 5:11 “There is
a man in your kingdom in whom is the Spirit of the Holy
God. And in the days of your father, light and
understanding and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods,
were found in him; and King Nebuchadnezzar your
father—your father the king—made him chief of the
magicians, astrologers, Chaldeans, and soothsayers. NKJV
7. They certainly believe in Jesus Christ: His virgin birth,
life, ministry, deity and work on Calvary. At every step
they confessed Him:
¾ Mark 1:24 saying, “Let us alone! What have we to do
with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Did You come to destroy
us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!” NKJV
¾ Mark 3:11 And the unclean spirits, whenever they saw
Him, fell down before Him and cried out, saying, “You
are the Son of God.” NKJV
¾ Mark 5:7 And he cried out with a loud voice and said,
“What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most
High God? I implore You by God that You do not torment
me.” NKJV
¾ Acts 19:15 And the evil spirit answered and said, “Jesus
I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?” NKJV
First, James gives
THE DESCRIPTION of true saving faith. James
already explained in chapter 1 that dynamic or saving faith is
based on
the Word of God.
¾ We are born again through God’s Word (James 1:18).
¾ We receive the Word and this saves us (James 1:21).
Second, James gives
THE DETAILS of true saving faith. He explains
that it is based on God’s Word, and
it involves the whole man.
¾ Dead faith touches only the intellect; demonic faith involves both
the mind and the emotions; but living faith involves the will.
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¾ The whole person plays a part in true saving faith. The mind
understands the truth; the heart desires the truth; and the will
acts upon the truth.
Finally, James gives
THE DEMANDS of true saving faith leads to action.
¾ This obedience is not an isolated event: it continues throughout
the whole life. It leads to works.
¾ Abraham was not saved by obeying God’s difficult command. His
obedience proved that he already was saved. “You see that his
faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was
made complete by what he did” (James 2:22,
NIV). There is a
perfect relationship between faith and works. As someone has
expressed it, “Abraham was not saved by faith plus works, but
by a faith that works.”
Now lets listen as James describes and lists them in our passage:
1. LIVING FAITH CHANGES THE HEART: v. 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,
We are not saved by faith plus works; we are saved by a faith that
leads to works. Galatians 5:6, “The only thing that counts is faith
expressing itself through love” (
The priest and Levite in the Parable of the Good Samaritan each
had extensive biblical training, but neither of them paused to assist
the dying man at the side of the road (Luke 10:25–37). Each of
them would
defend his faith, yet neither demonstrated that faith in
loving works.
says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you
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do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what
does it profit?
“Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My
brethren, ye have done it unto Me” (Matt. 25:40). To help a person
in need is an expression of love, and faith works by love.
The Apostle John emphasized this aspect of good works. “If anyone
has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no
pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let
us not love with words or tongue but with actions and truth” (1
John 3:17–18,
3. LIVING FAITH PRODUCES FRUIT: v. 17 Thus also faith by itself,
if it does not have works, is dead.
The great theologian, John Calvin, wrote, “It is faith alone that
justifies, but faith that justifies can never be alone.” True saving
faith can never be by itself: it always brings life, and life produces
good works. Remember our Lord’s image of the mustard seed? A
seed is a picture of life and growth. The mustard seed is very small,
but it has life in it and, therefore, it can grow and produce fruit
(Mark 4:30–32). If our faith is a
living faith (James 2:14–26), it will
grow and enable us to obey God’s commands.
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.
The person who claims to be one of God’s elect, but whose life has
not changed, is only fooling himself.
Those whom God chooses, He
This does not mean they are perfect, but they are
possessors of a new life that cannot be hidden.
It has been said, “We are not saved by faith plus works, but by a
faith that works.” If the Thessalonians had continued to worship
their dead idols while professing faith in the living God, it would
have proved that they were not among God’s elect.
changes the life.
How did Paul know that these Thessalonians were
elected of God? He saw a change in their lives. If you put 1
Thessalonians 1:3 next to 1 Thessalonians 1:9–10, you can get the
picture: your work of faith – you turned to God form idols; your
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labor of love – to serve the living and true God; and patience of
hope – to wait for His Son from Heaven.
5. LIVING FAITH BELIEVES GOD: v. 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?
One night, God showed His servant the stars and gave him a
promise, “So shall thy seed [descendants] be!” How did Abraham
respond? “And he believed in the Lord, and He [the Lord] counted it
to him for righteousness” (Gen. 15:5–6). The word
counted is a
legal or financial term; it means “to put to one’s account.”
All of us are sinners. Like Abraham, our spiritual bankbook was
empty. We are all born spiritually bankrupt! But he trusted God,
and God put
righteous on Abraham’s account. Abraham did not
work for this righteousness; he received it as a gift from God. He
was declared righteous by faith. He was justified by faith (read
Rom. 4).
6. LIVING FAITH OBEYS GOD: v. 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?
Justification is an important doctrine in the Bible. Justification is the
act of God whereby He declares the believing sinner righteous on
the basis of Christ’s finished work on the cross. It is not a process;
it is an act. It is not something the sinner does; it is something God
does for the sinner when he trusts Christ. It is a once-for-all event.
It never changes. How can you tell if a person is justified by faith if
this transaction takes place between the sinner and God privately?
Abraham’s example answers that important question: the justified
person has a changed life and obeys God’s will. His faith is
demonstrated by his works.
7. LIVING FAITH LOVES GOD: v. 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
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received the messengers and sent them out another way?26 For as
the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead
also. NKJV
Rahab heard the Word and knew that her city was condemned. This
truth affected her and her fellow citizens so that their hearts melted
within them (Josh. 2:11). Rahab responded with her mind and her
emotions; but she also responded with her will:
she did something
about it.
She risked her own life to protect the Jewish spies, and
she further risked her life by sharing the good news of deliverance
with the members of her family.
It is important that each professing Christian examine his own heart
and life and make sure that he possesses true saving faith, dynamic
faith. “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your
own selves” (2 Cor. 13:5a). Satan is the great deceiver; one of his
devices is imitation. If he can convince a person that counterfeit
faith is true faith, he has that person in his power. Here are some
questions we can ask ourselves as we examine our hearts:
1. Was there a time when I honestly realized I was a sinner
and admitted this to myself and to God?
2. Was there a time when my heart stirred me to flee from
the wrath to come? Have I ever seriously been exercised
over my sins?
3. Do I truly understand the Gospel, that Christ died for my
sins and arose again? Do I understand and confess that I
cannot save myself?
4. Did I sincerely repent of my sins and turn from them? Or
do I secretly love sin and want to enjoy it?
5. Have I trusted Christ and Christ alone for my salvation? Do
I enjoy a living relationship with Him through the Word
and in the Spirit?
6. Has there been a change in my life? Do I maintain good
works, or are my works occasional and weak? Do I seek to
grow in the things of the Lord? Can others tell that I have
been with Jesus?
7. Do I have a desire to share Christ with others? Or am I
ashamed of Him?
8. Do I enjoy the fellowship of God’s people? Is worship a
delight to me?
9. Am I ready for the Lord’s return? Or will I be ashamed
when He comes for me?
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“Search me, O Lord, and know my heart: try me, and know my
thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in
the way everlasting” (Ps. 139:23–24). 2
2 Wiersbe, Warren W., The Bible Exposition Commentary, (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books) 1997.
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