Genuine Conversion Produces Righteous Living: James 2:14-26 Part 1
The first phase of our study will look at James main point in the big picture. There is overwhelming evidence in Scripture that genuine conversion produces spiritual fruit. Consider a few passages that describe the nature of conversion. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says that “if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature.” Becoming a new creature means that the man receives a new nature. Why do fish swim in rivers or lions hunt in the field? Why do they do the things that they do? They do them, because it is in their nature to do them. Why do natural men sin? They sin, because it is in their nature. When a man receives a new nature, that nature will produce new affection and receive divine enablement. The Spirit of God resides in the new creature, and the practical result of being a new creature, is a new way to approach life. New creatures think in a new way. Their character begins to change to reflect their new Father, and their way of life is radically changed. Biblically, being a new creature is a big deal.
We see the same idea in John 3:8. In this passage, Nicodemus asks Jesus to clarify the nature of the new birth, conversion. It was a concept that Nicodemus could not fully grasp, so Christ said in verse 8, “The wind blows wherever it wants…so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” Christ used an illustration that we can all understand. Can you see the wind? Of course not! Air is invisible, yet air is real and air can do some amazing things. When I was in college, Hurricane Ivan hit the Florida Gulf Coast, causing significant damage. During the storm a massive wave, which some estimated to be as high as thirty feet tall caused substantial damage to the I10 Bridge crossing Escambia Bay. The amazing thing about the damage is that the wave that destroyed the bridge was pushed by an invisible source of power, the wind. This is Jesus point. You cannot see the wind, but you can see what it does. You feel and see the effects of the wind; therefore, you know that the wind is present. This is the way the new birth works. You cannot see into the heart of a man. You cannot see God make the believer a new creature at conversion. You cannot see the Holy Spirit come and indwell a believer. These things are spiritual. They are invisible; however like the wind, the affects of the new birth cannot be hidden. We also see another aspect of this same concept in Ephesians 2:10. Paul says that at conversion and throughout our Christian experience, “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good work…” This means that the moment a man is converted, God goes to work on him. He is God’s workmanship. God is conforming the believer’s thinking, character, and conduct to the image of Christ. If God is really at work in a man’s life doing this sanctifying work, will that man’s neighbors, family, and friends be able to recognize the results of this work? The answer is absolutely yes. In 1 Peter 3:15, Peter exhorts believer to “always be ready to give an answer to every man who asks you a reason of the hope that is in you…” Peter’s point is that people will see the results of the new birth in your perspective and actions, specifically when you are under persecution. The point is that conversion produces spiritual fruit. We also see this same idea reflected in Paul’s prayer in Philippians 1:11 for the church of Philippi. Paul prayed that the church would be “filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ…” He also expressed in the same chapter that he was confident that God would complete in the church the work that he had started, sanctifying them as they were becoming progressively more like Christ. The point of these passages is not to teach that a man becomes a believer by his works, however, it is impossible to honestly think about these passages, understand what they are saying about the results of conversion, and walk away believing that conversions produces anything less than a radical change in a man. Genuine conversion produces righteous living.