Faith that Works

Scripture: Galatians 5:6, Matthew 5:40-41, Matthew 5:27-28
What does the Bible say about faith and works? How do our emotions and obedience relate to each other? Everyone has a measure of faith and we need to have the correct type of faith that works by love. Being motivated by fear does not produce good works.
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We have all heard a great deal about faith and works and how they operate in the Christian experience of an individual. One cannot be a successful Christian without having an abundance of faith and without also having a corresponding supply of works. Now, I must confess that generally speaking the works seem to be more hard to come by. It is not hard to convince people about the truth. The Bible is very logical and the gospel message is most reasonable. But to get people to act on their convictions and to actually obey the truth that they understand is much more difficult. I have always believed that it is better for a person never to hear the truth than to hear it and not do anything about it.

I ran across a statement by a famous psychologist the other day which makes me more sure that I am right in that belief. Here is what this psychologist said: "An emotion not expressed in action operates as a poison in the mental life with a deadly effect upon character." He goes on to say, "We feel deeply moved by a portrayal on the screen, or even by a sermon, but we do nothing about it. In that case, we are worse off than if we had never learned anything about it." He says that the disintegration of character comes about by this kind of action. You see, we get stirred up emotionally and want to do something very much. After all, any emotion usually should bring on a corresponding action. When a person is frightened usually he wants to run, if he is angry sometimes he wants to fight, if he is emotionally disturbed because an animal is in trouble or difficulty he wants to intervene and save the animal. And yet, if he doesn't do it, or is not able to do it, it works as a deadly toxin in the body and even upon the character itself. So you see, friends, obedience is actually necessary for our physical and emotional happiness.

Now obedience is based on faith. Somebody says, "Well, I don't have much faith, that is my problem." Listen, everybody has faith in something or somebody. Some folks put their faith in people, some people put it in science and gadgets, but remember this, the object of our faith determines the kind of faith we have.

Here is a wonderful text of the Bible in Galatians 5:6, "For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love." Oh yes, we must have a faith that works, but it must work by love. Some people have a faith that works by fear. Suppose a car comes up to an intersection, to a big stop sign. The car stops because the driver has faith in that sign, but that faith is based upon fear and the works which follow also. He is afraid that if he drives out into that intersection another car may smack into him or a police might be waiting around the corner and give him a ticket. So it's not from love of the police that he stops, but his faith worketh by fear and he stops.

In April, millions of people go rushing down to the post office to meet the deadline on their tax forms. Why do they do it, friends? Because they have faith in the government and in the law of the government, and so they work to obey that law; but it is a work which is based on fear. Let me tell you something. Those people will get by with just as little as possible. They will not go the second mile at all. They will not do anything extra. They simply try to fulfill the letter of the law to escape the penalty.

Now the faith that worketh by love will always raise the standard and will actually go the second mile. I heard of a mother who had three boys, and it was quite a struggle for her to teach those boys the laws of good grooming. Boys will be boys, and so she sometimes had to use some force even to get them to comb their hair, shine their shoes and keep their clothes tidy. They were always resisting these laws that she was trying to enforce on them. But then one day she noticed something very strange. Her oldest son in his early teens came in and he was all clean from top to bottom. His hair was combed, his shoes were shined and he was spic and span. She couldn't understand it. She waited another day to see if it could possibly be an illusion, but it was the same thing again the next day. Then she found out something. A new family had moved in down the street and there was a girl in that family. Now perhaps the girl had never seen Johnny, but Johnny had seen her and it had already made a tremendous difference in his life. He no longer had to be forced to keep clean and tidy. In fact the law of good grooming was now working in his life, and it was based on love instead of fear. He no longer feared his mother's long arm of enforcement, but he was doing it from a much deeper emotion. I am afraid that thousands of people, friends, have a faith that worketh by fear. Too many people have a fire-escape religion. They give only what is required. They will not go beyond the actual letter of the law. Jesus said this is not enough.

Matthew 5:40, 41: "And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain." Listen, love gives more than is demanded every time. In every state there is a law requiring the husband to support his family. A man can be put in jail if he doesn't provide for his family. But is that why a good father does it? Is that why you Christian fathers support your families? Of course not! You are hardly conscious of that law. You do it from love.

Yet there are many Christians who simply do what they know should be done because they are afraid of being thrown in the fire at the end. Their works are based upon fear of the law rather than upon love. The ten commandments, by the way, are just a minimum requirement for the Christian. We should go far beyond that, friends. That's why Jesus said: "Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a women to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart." Matthew 5:27, 28. He showed that the real Christian would go far beyond the mere requirement of the letter of that law. Love always raises the standard. There is no question of just getting by, there is no quibbling over whether it is right or wrong. It is not "What can I do and still make it into heaven." The question will be, "How much can I do to show my love for Christ?"

A mother had stepped out of her home to go down to the neighbors for a few moments and left her little baby asleep. Suddenly she heard the fire siren. She rushed down to see her home in flames. She ran desperately to her burning home and a fireman was standing in the door. He said, "You can't go in, lady. You will die if you do." She stopped. She obeyed that fireman because of her fear. But then suddenly a higher law began to operate as she remembered that little baby, and she dashed past that fireman into the house to save her child. Love took over, the higher law of love. That is what we need desperately. We need to have a faith that works by love. Not just because we are afraid of the punishment at the end of the road unless we do certain things.

Have you ever seen these long-faced, miserable Christians who are just forcing themselves to do good because they don't want to be burned up? It's an unhappy thing. Too many Christians give a lying impression of their religion. They drag out in the morning as though they are carrying some great heavy load upon their backs. Christians should be the happiest people in the world because love is motivating their service.

A missionary over in India saw a little girl carrying her baby brother on her back. The baby was almost as large as the little girl herself. So the missionary looked down upon the child in sympathy and said, "My, what a burden you have to carry." The little girl looked up perplexed and said, "This is no burden, this is my brother." Ah yes, friends, the service we render to God becomes a joy when we have love. There is a personal emotion involved.

The legless soldier had the same kind of faith that works by love. While he was in the hospital some unthinking person came along and said, "Oh, I'm so sorry you lost your leg." He said, "I didn't lose it, I gave it." That's it, friends. What we do for Christ we do from love. We give it to Him. It's not something that is extracted. It's not something that is forced. We should be joyful and happy just for the privilege of being Christians. Remember this, the object of our faith determines the kind of faith we have. The object of the Christian's faith is Christ. This means then that it ought to be the very best faith and ought to be a faith that works by love.

How does your faith operate? Are you serving God because you love Him? Is that the purpose of your obedience? Obedience from any other motive, dear friend, will be unacceptable.

In the last day some people are going to make their boast of doing their duty and of performing their works. They are going to say, "Lord, didn't we do this and didn't we do that?" You will read it in Matthew 7:22, 23. Jesus will say to them, "I never knew you: depart from me." Why? Because they had no love in their works. Yes, they did things, but they only did them to escape the fire. They only did them because they were afraid not to. God is looking for people who will love Him in His own right, and who will be glad to go the second mile, to engage in any Christian service and not consider it a great sacrifice to do it just because they love Him. May God bless you as you live this kind of Christian life for Him.

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