Q1: How do you know if you’re truly following God?

For years, I struggled with this topic–what does God want from me? Does he want perfection? Does he want faith, good deeds or something slightly different?

James 2:14 – 20 explains a lot about what it means to truly be following God.

14″What good is it dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? 15Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, 16and you say, “Good bye, and have a good day! Stay warm. Eat well” but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? 17So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, (your) faith is dead and useless. 18Now some may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds” but I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.” 19You say you have faith, for you believe there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe in this and they tremble in terror. 20How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless?”

James 2. My God, it can be painful, especially before you truly are following the Lord, but it hits home, and can make you realize how close you are with the Lord. James isn’t trying to hurt us or poke fun at us, but instead, he’s trying to instruct us and make us remember that we’re not as good as we think; maybe not as faithful to the Lord as we suppose. He’s teaching us this strong message: We cannot live by faith alone!

Figure this. If you’re actually living for Christ, there is a change in your life. You are able to love people through the Holy Spirit. You are not always living for yourself, but for Christ. You start to act on God’s will, instead of always acting on your own free will; you listen for the Lord’s call and love with his help. It’s a transition that comes after accepting Christ as your savior.

Any person can say they believe in God. That much is easy since there is so much evidence that God is real out there! Although people argue there’s no God–just a bunch of particles that “happened together so perfectly”–what are the chances of that? As slim as all of those particles. A God HAD to have created all that is out there in the universe, even though he’s not visible to the human eye. It’s easy to believe there’s a God. But true faith in the Lord means answering Lord’s call–doing his work for us.

This does not mean keeping his law perfectly.

“For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as breaking them all.”–James 2:10

We all break the law and we are all sinners at heart. It’s inevitable. So when God asks us to do his will, he doesn’t want us to keep his laws perfectly because that’s fairly impossible! Take a look deeper at John 8:1 – 9 and see some surprising facts about some people who studied the law regularly:

1Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, 2but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. 3As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd. 4″Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?” 6They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. 7They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” 8Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust. 9When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. 10Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them accuse you?” 11″No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”

I love love love this passage! I find it mildly amusing that these Pharisees are trying to one-up Jesus by saying, “Hey. We know the law perfectly, and we know this woman’s done bad things. What now Jesus? Aren’t you gonna punish her?” It’s so immature! These Pharisees are like the little sibling trying to get the older one in trouble to look good; the kid in class tattling to get on teacher’s good side. Remember that scene growing up?

Regardless of their remarks toward this woman who was found sinning, Christ forgives her. Lets her go free of charge. Shows the Pharisees that we’re all sinners, even when we try to keep the whole law because we’re simply human. It’s a beautiful thing!

So if we’re not to keep the whole law, not to live by works and deeds alone and not to live by faith alone, how does it work? Although we’re never going to be perfect, all God wants is for us to love him, listen to him and follow him. See 1 John 2:5-6 or examples of faith and actions together in James 2:21-26.

I have had to take my own steps of faith in life–a lot of the times, it’s not what I want to do nor what others in the world want me to do. Overcoming sexual addictions. Learning to love those whom I’m not fond of. Going places I know make me uncomfortable. To be honest, a lot of the things God wants us to do seem awkward at first because it’s not usually in our comfort zone. But if we have faith, God will help us to break that. Then, you know you are truly following God when you are trusting him with your life.

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