“Even so faith, if it have not works, is dead in itself” (James 2:17).
We live in an age when faith, whatever that means, is deemed to be sufficient in itself. Yet if we peruse the New Testament, we will find that the faith of the early converts was demonstrated vividly by their works, even if those works were to lay down their lives and accept martyrdom.
The gospels portray the Lord Jesus Christ as a man “who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him” (Acts 10:38). He demonstrated the moral relationship between words and deeds, which was so obviously lacking in the religious practices of the Jews, a condition for which He berated their leaders (see Matthew 23). In speaking of the commandments, when delivering the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said that ”whoever shall do and teach the commandments of God, shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven”.
It is easy enough to focus on the believing and not the doing; our faith is directed towards the invisible, the immaterial, the irrational, so it is not unnatural for it to be persuaded into acceptance of the unreal. When a man prays, he is praying to the invisible, and it is natural enough that the fallen mind, obsessed with the here and now, with what can be seen and felt, will come to a place where what cannot be seen or touched will decline in significance, to the extent that it will cease to have any sense of reality. Welcome to religion!
From there, it is all froth and frolic, Hollywood style religious entertainment, cheap worldly values and philosophies, big business marketing and media hype. They put Jesus in the front window, but inside it is something else completely. As Peter warned, “In their greed they will exploit you with false words” (2 Peter 2:3).
This is where it ends, but it begins because faith occupies a place in the mind, where it can co-exist quite comfortably alongside the doctrines, values and philosophies of the world. We can pull out the philosophy we want to suit the occasion or the situation in which we find ourselves. But godliness demands that faith be lived, not talked about.