Updated: Jul 16, 2021
Spring is one of my favorite times of the year. The new blooms are not only gorgeous, but remind me of the new life we have in Christ.
We have two flowering trees in our front yard. One is currently full of beautiful, pink blossoms. The other, sadly, is full of empty branches. This lack of blooms indicates to us that our tree is unfortunately dead.
So it is for the Christian life. When our faith is genuine, our lives will be full of the blooms of good works. When the Holy Spirit is at work in our hearts, we will see the blossoms of our faith. However, if, like my tree, our faith is dead, the blossoms, or good works will be absent from our lives.
James writes about this in chapter 2 of his epistle. He writes in verses 14-17,
“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and 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? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” He then goes on to clarify that our works do not save us, but that they are an indication of genuine faith in Christ. In a Bible study on James, John MacArthur writes, “James is not contrasting two methods of salvation (faith versus works); instead, he contrasts two kinds of faith: living faith that saves and dead faith that does not”. James says that even the demons believe and tremble! They tremble because they know the truth and they know that they will be defeated. The demons’ faith is like my dead tree. It’s a tree, just like the other one, but it is not living, not productive, not salvific.
I think James wrote this as a warning against “settling” for a faith that is merely intellectual, lacking trust in Christ’s saving grace. We may think we have genuine faith because we grew up in church, because our parents are believers, or some other reasons, but if our lives don’t exhibit new life-- good works-- then we don’t. We need to examine our hearts and lives to be sure that our faith in Christ is a genuine and living faith, keeping in mind that it is not our works, but only Jesus’ work on the cross, that saves us. Our works are just an indicator of life, just like the blossoms on the tree in my front yard.
Which tree are you? Do you believe in Christ, and have you placed your faith in His work on the cross? Does your life look like a flowering tree in bloom, or does it look more like my dead tree-- full of bare branches? (If you read those questions and thought, “I have no idea”, I would suggest asking a trusted Christian friend, pastor, or small group leader who knows you well for their opinion.) If it is the former, praise God for His work in your life! If it is the latter, confess that to Him and ask His Holy Spirit to change your heart and give you “blooming” faith!