Alive Faith

I was commenting on a friends blog today about this scripture..
For just as a body without a spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead. -James 2:22
..and found myself saying:
Real faith changes the way that we act because we are truly changed on the inside.. our outer acts are a mere reflection of our inner change.
I think that we so often miss the point when we read the part of James that speaks of dead faith.. we sometimes miss the point that living faith (versus the dead variety) is alive because we are alive on the inside. Consider these thoughts from the first ten verses in the second chapter of Ephesians:
  • We "were dead in the trespasses and sins"..
  • God "made us alive together with Christ"..
  • We were "created in Christ Jesus for good works".
When our heart or innermost being was dead in sin we could not do "good works".. we lacked the capacity to do good because our old hearts were incapable of faith.. but things changed when our hearts were reborn.. we now have the ability to do good because our faith like our hearts our now alive.. and the fruit or works of the Spirit flow naturally from our new and alive hearts.


  1. Hi, Bob - I agree. Really, it's faith that makes us alive! Without it.... nada.

  2. Bob, I like you, and I know this post is supposed to encourage Christians, but while Christians do a lot of good, they hardly corner the market on "good works" and non-believers live just as wonderful and vibrant a life as Christians do.

  3. Good push back Mike. I agree that "good works" are not the exclusive property of people of faith.. I should have probably said that.

  4. Uh, Luke 11:11, guys?

    "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?"

    Doing good temporally is a sign of the law God "puts within us and writes on our hearts" (Jer 31), and of course non-believers can live a good and giving and happy life, but I would say that the most vibrancy and joy comes to those who live God's law, AND know it.

  5. Therese Z, that's all well and good for Christians, but for non-believers that's just an appeal to the authority of the Bible and is meaningless. There are, however, studies that I've seen that show that theists live happier, healthier lives and that is something a non-theist would respect if the studies were sound.

  6. Bob - I am truly grateful for the faith I have in Christ-through his finished work at the Cross. Wouldn't go "back to the old ways of sin and of woe". Satan is so real and attacks so mightily. He brings it right to my front door where I have to deal with it. My pain is secondary to the one to whom I have to pass along heartbreaking information. Pray for her especially (one who has loved God since she was 5 and has had the most incredible problems to deal with). I wish it could stop with me. This is off-topic, I know - but I feel I can trust you when I ask you to remember her in prayer. In Christ's Love - Dotty

  7. "Therese Z, that's all well and good for Christians, but for non-believers that's just an appeal to the authority of the Bible and is meaningless. There are, however, studies that I've seen that show that theists live happier, healthier lives and that is something a non-theist would respect if the studies were sound."

    Mike, that's not what I was trying to do - sorry if I was confusing the thread.

    I was using Scripture to point out what is obvious to anyone - our hearts DO contain a natural law, a law that looks and acts for good, not evil. The source of that law may be denied or dismissed by non-theists, but the plain fact is that only man has a law for good in him, a sense of good and evil, a sense for sacrifice.

    Our greed and pride obviously suppress that law and cause harm to self and others. That fact is also clear to the non-theist. We can attest to it with Scripture if wanted, as a way of recognition of original sin ("you will be as gods!")

    The difference is that believers know where the source is, and non-believers don't - yet.

  8. Thanks for the clarification, Therese Z.

    What is that natural law? Do you really see the Christian God's morals reflected throughout every society that has ever existed on this planet?

  9. Yes.

    Any competent person alive has the same capacity for morality. Everyone knows stealing is wrong, that murder is wrong, that children need protection to point of sacrifice. Everyone feels guilt when they act against these basic second-nature laws.

    What they do about it? At worst, mental illness or psychological damage removes their ability to connect to that urge, that sense of right and wrong. At best, they struggle with their own appetites and demand for comfort and acclamation and TRY and do right. That would be the majority of us.

    Biologists and ethicists (the fact that we even HAVE that job title says something) try and claim that the urge toward morality is a product of evolution. The fact that they take the trouble to find a source for the urge means that the urge is recognizable and universal.

  10. Thx for that last comment TZ.. I like the way that you worded it and agree with what you said.

    I think that a lot of the issues with acting morally having strong moral center (i.e. heart or innermost being). To me a part of the "Christian" life is about nourishing and strengthening that inner part of us that has the ability to direct us to "good works" and reject immoral desires.

    If the heart is not getting stronger then one has to wonder about the way that we are nourishing, exercising and strengthening it.

  11. Therese Z, thank you for the explanation of what you believe. I too believed those things at one time, but doesn't that view fly in the face of the doctrine of the depravity of humanity?

  12. Wow, no, not to me.

    To understand you, are you saying that the depravity of mankind, witnessed in murders, genocide, cruelty, things done personally to you or done in history, etc, etc, changed your mind about the quality of soul, or even the presence of a soul, in every man?

    Now there's a question: is a soul naturally good? Neutral? Can some souls be bad?

  13. To me, the whole, God wrote the law on our hearts thing looks like humanity's tendency is good. You are saying that all over the world people do these good things and have similar morality because God wrote it on their hearts, but the Bible also says that no man is good, only God is good.

    When I say depravity I am referring to this concept: Total Depravity

  14. And, no I don't believe in total depravity, I see people as basically good, whether they are Christian or not. People's general goodness has more to do with my atheism than the problem of evil.

  15. I like this comment stream :)

    Judging from my own life I think that people are basically selfish and self-centered. I think that God's influence in my life has helped me to be more selfless and loving.

  16. If "no man is good, only God is good" then why are we invited to "be holy as [God] is holy?" We can start in Leviticus, work through Psalms, end up in 1st Peter, seeing that fact and invitation over and over, standing in tension but in fact right next to the truth that nobody is good except God alone.

    I have no problem with that. Discarding for the moment the idea of "holy" or "depraved" since those words seem to be automatically drop the ball into the religion gutter, aren't we unable to "do what we want to do, and instead do what we ought not?" (Good old irascible St. Paul!)

    For a period of time, sure, or when we're not tempted toward the action. But we have imperfect natures and wills.

    I'm really reluctant to approach the idea of utter depravity, the "snow on the dungheap" look at ourselves, because you and I have our knowledge from different Christian traditions and I don't do utter depravity. I do free will and original sin and I am NOT competent to tiptoe through no TULIPS! Maybe KBob can?

    But looking at your "agnostic atheist" profile, I am really interested - from that careful position, do you think people have souls?

    I had a bunch of cool models for "the soul" when I spent a lot of years out of faith during college (B.S. Biological Sciences), the same study that actually ended up bringing me back to faith, as I and my geeky science friends used to speculate on souls and energy being God (being neither created nor destroyed) and smoke millions of cigarettes and shout at each other and jab our fingers at each other trying to outthink each other. So maybe I was where you are now? I don't want to presume to know....

    Soul, please?

  17. "Judging from my own life I think that people are basically selfish and self-centered."

    I'm reminded of a story that I heard Wayne Dyer tell once. I will attempt to not butcher it too much. All apologies to Mr. Dyer.

    Wayne was walking along the beach one day when he met someone who had just moved into the area. The person asked him what people were like in the area and Wayne responded by asking the person what people were like where they came from. The person responded that the people were nasty, selfish, dreary and just all around mean people where they came from. Wayne responded, "Yeah, that's how people are around here too."

    Along his walk he met another person who was also new to the area who asked him the same question. He asked this person too what people were like where they came from. They replied that people were loving, caring, generous, and full of life where they came from. Wayne replied again, "Yeah, that's how people are around here too."

    Judging from my own life I think that people are basically loving, caring, and flawed to the point where they can sometimes act in bad ways.

  18. 'If "no man is good, only God is good" then why are we invited to "be holy as [God] is holy?"'

    Ask Jesus, he's the one that is supposed to have said it, not me.

    Matthew 19:17 (King James Version)

    "And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments."

    No, I don't currently believe in souls.

    Our bodies are full of energy and made of things that can produce energy, so in that sense we live on after death, but I doubt our personhood survives.

    Currently I believe in no supernatural phenomenas at all.

  19. Jesus said "There is no one good except God."

    BUT He also said "Be ye perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect." (Sermon on the Mount Matt5) So we have an apparent contradiction...

    If you say "no soul," what separates us from the animals? Imagination? Empathy? What makes us "Homo sapiens" and actually "Homo sapiens sapiens" (knowing that we know?)

    I could ask questions all day but that would be rude.

  20. I see where you are coming from Mike.. others appear "good" to us because they do "good" things.

    In my comment I was speaking about myself.. my selfishness and my self-centered-ness. How do you see this Mike? Do you not resonate with the struggle of being selfish and self-centered?

  21. Therese Z said..."If you say "no soul," what separates us from the animals?"

    Nothing. We are animals, just different than they are.

    Kansas Bob said..."Do you not resonate with the struggle of being selfish and self-centered?"

    Only in a superficial way, not when it counts.

    I like my "me time", and sometimes don't feel like doing things with other people, so I guess one could call that selfish. If one of my friends, or anyone I meet, is in need then I usually don't hesitate to help.

    I'm not saying I'm never selfish, just that it's not a problem for me.

  22. I guess I would only add to the end of this exchange that, like animals, we have appetites. There isn't an appetite that doesn't have its remedy: hunger=food, thirst=liquid, sexual need=sexual union, comfort=, safety=....

    But humans have another, higher appetite: to know the unknowable. We yearn for something superior and eternal. We look for an ultimate in wisdom or truth or love.

    That appetite separates us from the animals. From it we get imagination and poetry and art and altruism, as well as a sense of justice and mercy (animals do NOT possess the ability to mete out justice or mercy).

    And there must be a remedy for that appetite, too!

  23. "I'm not saying I'm never selfish, just that it's not a problem for me."

    Not really sure what that means Mike. When do you think selfishness and self-centered-ness becomes a problem for someone?

  24. "When do you think selfishness and self-centered-ness becomes a problem for someone?" When they make practice of only pleasing themselves and not helping others.

  25. Thx for the dialog Mike.. hope I am not getting annoying with the questions.. just trying to understand your point of view.

    Do you feel that self-centeredness and selfishness are pretty much par for the course and only becomes a problem when they are practiced in excess? Or do you think that most people are self-sacrificing individuals and selfishness is rare in your experience?

  26. The questions are not annoying at all.

    In my experience, and maybe I have just been fortunate, but most people tend to be very generous and self sacrificing. The selfish ones have been the exception.


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