Natural Expression of Genuine Faith
Belief leads to action. If someone believes there is a test on Monday and they want an honest high grade, they will study. If someone else believes that gravity is a thing and they don’t want to die, they will not jump off a cliff without a hang glider or parachute. There is no process that these people go through in order to make themselves act on their belief. If a belief is genuinely held, it leads to action naturally.
This is James’s point when he explains the role of works. In the same way that finding someone who is naked and hungry and telling them, “Hey! Eat good food and be clothed!” is useless, so is saying that you believe something when there is no evidence in the actual life (James 2:14–17). Because it’s impossible to believe something so radical as the gospel and not have it show up in one’s life.
The Abundant Life
Jesus said that He came so that His sheep can have life and have it more abundantly (John 10:10). Before Jesus took humanity’s place, there was no choice other than sin; humanity was hopelessly enslaved to it. But Christ’s death gave the freedom of choice: everyone can choose to follow God, to abide in Christ, and to work the works of righteousness (Rom. 6:11).
This choice enables people to live the abundant life through the grace and power of Christ. There is none happier on earth than the one who does not steal or commit adultery, does to others as he would have them do to himself, is forgiving and gracious, is generous to those who can’t pay him back, and so on. Trusting obedience means doing what God has asked and then leaving the results and consequences in His trustworthy hands. The Ten Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount, and similar instructions from God were not given as arbitrary guidelines; they are quite literally the blueprints and practical instructions on how to live the most fulfilling, meaningful, and happy life possible.
Witness to the World
Jesus instructed you to “let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). Few people will have their first impression of God come from Scripture; more often, they read the lives of those who claim to follow Him (2 Cor. 3:2).
God has shared the ministry of reconciliation. His children are ambassadors for Christ, through whom God is pleading for all to be reconciled to Himself (2 Cor. 5:18–20). When ambassadors represent their home country, how do they conduct themselves? It’s simple. They conduct themselves in a way to represent their home country accurately, with respect and dignity. Thus also a Christian’s works should testify of the God they represent, the One whose interests they have in mind. Again, this is not to earn a place as an ambassador or child of God: it is a result of being both.