During this past month, I have been studying the book of James. His main theme is “faith without works is dead.” In essence, he said, “Actions speak louder than words.” The premise of this statement is that when a person becomes a Christian, a Jesus follower, he or she is renewed and is no longer led by his or her own desires (Titus 3:5). Because a person receives the indwelling of the Holy Spirit upon his or her profession of faith in Jesus Christ, the person has the desire of Christ within him or herself and the power to follow those godly desires. Jesus said in John 16:13, “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth, for He will not speak on His own initiative.” Before this, John recorded Jesus in John 14:16-17,
I will ask the Father and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. [NASB]
The Holy Spirit who comes to live in a Christian at the point of profession of faith creates a desire/will in the Christian to want what God wants and to do actions leading to godly living. These actions are the works that show the person’s faith in the world. They are the faith and works combination of which James spoke.
The godly desires within a believer, which come from the Holy Spirit, are characteristics of God like righteousness, love, kindness, goodness, love, peace, patience, and self-control (see more in Galatians 5:22-23). Believers act out these virtues or characteristics as love toward God and other people. Jesus taught that loving God and one’s neighbor as the two greatest commandments in Matthew 22:37-40. Faith acted out as love toward God and neighbor’s develops godly characteristics in a believer. Paul told the Philippian Christians in Philippians 2:13, “It is God who is at work in you both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” God puts the desires of His heart into the hearts of Christians to do good works through the Holy Spirit. Christians do good works because of the impelling of the Holy Spirit and out of love for God for providing salvation through Jesus Christ His Son. Just as Jesus taught His followers to love God and their neighbor, Paul taught the Corinthian Christians in 1 Corinthians 15:58, “Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord knowing your toil is not in vain in the Lord.” He meant keep showing God’s love in action by caring for the poor, widow, and orphan. Show compassion and give with a grateful heart. John said in 1 John 3:18 that a Christian should not just love with word and tongue, but in deed and truth. This is the heart of what James taught. The love God put into each believer should be visible and shared with other people as a testimony of the believer’s faith and love for God and their neighbors.
From these and many other Bible passages, Christians learn they are to follow Jesus by enacting His love toward other people. God’s love for us impels us to love Him and other people. His Holy Spirit within us convicts and empowers us to love people. Good deed for other people express this love towards them – taking care of the widow, orphan, and poor, clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, sheltering the homeless, and showing mercy to all people. Jesus taught that because we have done this for other people, we have done it for Him (Matthew 25:35-40). Paul instructed Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:17-19 to tell the believers, “Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, and to be generous and ready to share.” He said in Titus 3:14, “Our people must also learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs, so they will not be unfruitful.” God’s love does not stop or dry up after being shown once. He continues to have compassion, love, and mercy upon people. God expects that of His children, too.
Christians do good works for several reasons – to show the world God’s love, to obey God’s commandments of loving Him and our neighbors, because the Holy Spirit impels Christians to godliness, and because believers cannot help but love God because of what He did for us – saved us from death and our sins. The final reason we should do good works is that God will judge and reward us for our actions. God is righteous and His righteousness requires justice and judgment. He will judge every person, including His children, and He will mete out reward and punishment based on our actions, words, and thoughts. Hebrews 6:10 says, “For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints.” For those who have shown God’s love in action, word, and thought, God will give reward. These are the reasons we Christians love people and God, either in obedience or by impelling. Not to love leads to lack of growth in Christlikeness and leads to judgment.
So walk in the ways of Jesus Christ. God will give you all grace to abound in abundance for every good deed (1 Corinthians 9:8). What keeps you from becoming like Christ and performing godly deeds?
Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, take hold of that which is life indeed. 1 Timothy 6:18-19 [NASB]