As we've seen over the last few weeks, the book of James challenges us to honestly examine our lives and our faith. This week's passage is no different. We may claim to have faith in Jesus Christ, but if that faith is not accompanied by good works motivated by Christ's love, then according to James, our faith is "useless" or "dead." This Sunday we'll look at the difference between faith that is dead and faith that is alive.
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In this one incident of Jesus healing a young man (told in three Gospels), we hear three conversations about faith and doubt: Jesus' comments to religious leaders who had no faith, a brief but revealing dialogue between Jesus and the boy's father about faith and doubt, and Jesus' de-briefing instructions to his disciples about their need for more faith in prayer. Who will you relate to most?
God’s word for us this week shows that a huge battle rages within every Christian, and it exhorts us to obedience with a list of “do’s” and “don’ts.” Yet truthfully, it seems impossible to “keep in step with the Spirit” and live out the fruit of the Spirit all the time, or even some of the time! So how are we actually supposed to live a life of Gospel Character? The answer is that yes, it’s about the fruit, but it’s also about the root — the “desires” of our hearts.
The gospel is something altogether different than either religion or irreligion. It is free and free-ing! The gospel is free: we don’t have to earn salvation by our works. But the gospel is also freeing: it frees us to love and serve one another. Or, as the Apostle Paul puts it, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” That’s what the gospel is all about: Faith expressed through love.
Spiritual freedom and spiritual slavery dominate today's Scripture passage. The conclusion is, "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free" (5:1). So whatever way we understand this challenging passage, it needs to be interpreted so that we know what it is like to live in spiritual freedom with our Lord Jesus. Understanding this freedom is at the core of the gospel.