Dead Dogs and Dead Faith

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Contributed by Chris Rhodenhizer, Lead Pastor of Image Church

My parents owned a golden retriever for several years.  All of their grandchildren loved this dog, especially my kids – they would hug it, wrestle with it, and even try to ride it like a horse. The dog tolerated all of this with complete patience.  One particular weekend, my nephew and niece [my sister’s kids] were staying with my parents and had been climbing all over the dog the entire time. The dog endured it, and even seemed more patient than usual. As a matter of fact, it just laid by the fireplace the entire time and allowed the kids to do whatever they wanted to do. At some point, my father noticed that the dog seemed exceptionally still and realized the dog had not moved the entire day.  The dog had laid there most of the weekend without making a sound;  it was as if he were asleep.  When my father approached the dog, he reached down and realized the dog was as stiff as a board, was not breathing, and was in fact DEAD.  The dog was lifeless! YES, my little niece and nephew had in fact been playing with a dead dog!!!

Last week, Mike Scott wrote a blog about living on Faith.  So this week, I would like to Biblically help us understand what that means by defining the opposite of faith.  Here is a little piece from our MILK to MEAT series we did last Fall…

James 2:14-26 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.  18But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! 20Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. 24You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead. [ESV]

James’ whole, entire point in this passage is that a person, who possesses true Faith from the One true God, will practice that faith in this life!  When James closes and says faith without works is dead, he is describing a person who knows the Gospel, and even agrees with it, but never lives it out – the person just doesn’t get it, and it is what it is…DEAD!!!  Read what some of our early church pastors/theologians/leaders preached concerning: faith; justification (the act of God deeming us righteous/innocent); and our good works.

Martin Luther and other early church reformers took a stand. They would say this, ― Justification is by faith alone, and what they were communicating was the truth that we see in James, as well as throughout the entire Bible.  The “alone” didn’t mean faith existed alone, but that we are justified on Christ’s merit alone.  If it was on Jesus’ merit alone, then our faith from Jesus would produce good works in our lives.  John Calvin put it this way: It is faith alone that justifies, but faith that justifies can never be alone. Calvin goes on to write this in his Institutes, and gives us a Biblical definition of the faith we see here in James: A firm and sure knowledge of the divine favor towards us, founded on the truth of a free promise of Christ, and revealed to our minds and sealed on our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

Church, when Jesus died on the cross, He shed His blood to redeem His church, men and women, from their sins. He paid the price by His death and released us from the bondage of sin and death through His resurrection. As He rose from the dead, so He raised our lives from our grave. If that is true, then when we experience the regenerative work of Jesus, which means our eyes are opened to the truth of Who He is and His Word, then we commit by faith to following Jesus. This faith brings us real life, for the first time in our lives. The natural overflow will be a life that lives for Jesus, strives to live like Jesus and no longer reflects self, but now reflects the Image of Jesus Christ!!! Genuine faith produces a life, which produces good works, for God‘s glory!

DEAD Faith is the opposite of a LIVING faith. LIVING faith is alive and active – unlike my parents dog, that was still, stiff, stagnant, and DEAD!!!

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