We want certainty with things that matter most in life, and considering we’re dead much longer than we’re alive, I think certainty in knowing what happens and where you go should be a top concern. We’re finishing our series In or Out? - which is all about finding certainty in your salvation. We’ve talked about how you can be certain that if you say and believe Jesus, in His death and resurrection, saves you from your sin, you are certainly saved (Romans 10:9). We’ve discussed how the Bible is clear that if you are saved, you are given the gift of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9, Ephesians 1:13-14) - there’s certainty in knowing the Spirit is working in your life. There’s another major certainty I’d like to explore, to make sure you truly have a genuine relationship with God now and into eternity.
The book of James is essentially a guide to proper Christian living. This gives us an honest look at what a genuine faith lived out looks like - dispelling the hypocritical all-talk, no-walk type of faith. We gain tremendous insight in James 2:14-17:
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
What good is faith with no actions? James seems to think it’s completely non-existent. Faith without good actions and deeds is a dead faith, and if we know that, we reverse this concept to see what a thriving faith looks like. A saving faith that is alive and well will certainly result in action.
How can you be certain of your salvation, that you’re in a relationship with God, and will ultimately be welcomed into Heaven? If your faith produces good works. We find certainty knowing we have a genuine faith, if we can reflect on our lives and notice the good works. What actions are we referring to? The fruits of the Spirit give an excellent idea of what good living looks like (Galatians 5:19-26). If our lives are dominated by love of God and love of others, joy in all circumstances, living in peace, consistently practicing patiences, etc… If our lives are full of these traits, surely good actions will inevitably result. Charles Spurgeon gives a great summary of good works, when he says they’re:
Works of obedience, works of love, works of faith, and acts of common life.
When we are obeying God’s Word, loving God and the people around us, relying on God’s promises, and glorying Him in all that we do - these are the good works that will be produced from a genuine faith.
So, here’s that time when you reflect on your own life... Is your life overflowing with these good actions, centered on the love of Jesus? Is your life dominated by peace, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, self-control? Or are you living just like the world - in your actions, speech, like someone totally unchanged by Jesus? In Matthew 7:17-20, Jesus says that His followers will be recognized by their actions (by their fruit).
Let me finish with a clarification of something you may be thinking: are we truly saved by faith alone, or does our salvation require these good works? James says faith without works is dead, so is there an element of earning salvation? Does this conflict with verses like Ephesians 2:8-9 and Romans 10:9, that are ultra clear we are not saved by works, and that all you need to do to be saved is have faith? Short answer: no, they are not contradictory, and they work perfectly together. We don’t do good things to impress God, earn His love, or earn salvation. We do good things because Jesus has completely changed our hearts. If you follow Jesus, you will live more righteous, godly, loving - good works will certainly play out in the life with Jesus in control. Following God’s Word - doing good things and avoiding sin - is not an obligation or religious duty. If you genuinely have Jesus in your life, you will begin to naturally do the unnatural - love your enemy, find joy in misery, strength in difficult circumstances, etc. Simply put: you cannot be saved by good works, but when you are saved, you will produce good works. Works are not the cause of salvation, they are the evidence of a genuine faith.
There you go, three major certainties in salvation that we’ve covered: 1. say and believe Jesus is Lord, you are saved, 2. if you have the Holy Spirit working in your life, you are saved, 3. if your faith is producing good works, that’s a good indication Jesus has transformed your heart.