James 2:17 So you see, faith by itself isn't enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.
To be honest I had to really think about this verse... it got me in my gut... made me a little afraid if you want to know the truth. I spent lots of time reading how Paul told the believers that your good works would not get you into heaven... it is by grace that we are saved. We could never be "good" enough without God's grace. Then I read this verse and it tells me that unless my faith produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. My heart started pounding and I started to feel afraid.
Then God reminded me of this verse... Philippians 2:13 says For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. God can not do that if I walk down the isle of the Church and ask Jesus in my heart then go about being the same person. It is my job to seek after God, it is my job to learn all I can about what God has planned for my life... I have to make an effort to have a relationship with God... when I make that effort God helps me grow. Philippians 2:13 says that God is working in me.... that means to me that it takes a while to get where I need to be. God gives me his grace to get better and better at doing what pleases him. God wants to look down and see that I am growing and learning. It is by faith we are saved.... by believing what God tells us... to believe what God tells us we have to know what God has told us. True faith in God will change us it will grow us into the people we need to be.
I asked Jesus in my heat when I was nine. When I was 47 I picked up my Bible and started getting to know God. All the years in between... I tried to be a good person.... I wanted to go to heaven, who doesn't? I went to church on and off.... I said I had faith. I thought I had faith. When I started seeking after God, truly seeking after God... I wanted more!! Was it slow at first? Yes it was... I am still growing and growing...but each day God puts a new desire in my heart and as I seek after that new desire God gives me the strength to do what he puts in my heart to do. The more I know God's promises for my life the more faith I have that God is taking care of me. The more faith I have that I can do what God sets in front of me to do... not because I am capable...but because I am learning to call on God's grace to make me strong enough.
I worked with a man once... oh he talked about loving God... he talked of all the good things he was going to do... all the good works we were going to do for the community... when I listened to him I was so impressed with how much he "loved" God. Then I was around him, he mistreated his employees, he stole from the company, not just stuff, but time and money. His "faith" did not produce good works...it just helped him make a good first impression.
The more I know God the more my life is changing... so much of me has changed. My mouth is better! I am kinder! I am less and less and less afraid! I recognize my sins much more quickly now and can actually stop myself in the middle of one! I am more careful about what goes in body through my eyes and ears! God is changing me little bits at a time... carving away the bad... sanding away the rough edges... We are God's life's work.... He will work on us for our whole lifetime... giving us new desires and new strengths... giving us his grace to do what he calls us to do. As Joyce Meyer says "I am not where I want to be, but thank God, I am not where I use to be." God is always working within me changing me...give me the desire and the power to do what pleases Him.
Now I read what James is saying and I believe James is telling us be careful not to have "faith" for appearances sake... God sees in our hearts... true faith in God makes us want to seek after him. True faith realizes the huge sacrifice that Jesus made so that we could be forgiven of our sins. True faith is about relationships not just words. James is saying to us if the desires of your heart are not changing, if you don't find yourself doing good, and being better, STOP and rethink, reassess your relationship with God. Don't fool yourselves into believing that you believe. Make sure that you see the fruits of the spirit, love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23) growing inside of you so that you know, that you know, that you know, that you are truly a child of God. James is telling us if we don't see those things we are in danger of having fooled ourselves into believing we have a relationship with God.
Will works save us? No, only Jesus could save us. But true faith will make us want to do good works it will make us want us to be better people....Good works out of love and kindness are what begins to grow from forth from us when God is working in our lives.