“For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”
When we think of empty faith, we typically think of this verse in James. Faith without works is dead, but faith that is misplaced is also dead. If we put our faith in our works, instead of our Christ, we can’t become who He made us to be. A picture of this is when Christians stay in their comfort zone, not believing that He can do greater things.
We can be great singers or great musicians or great speakers, but without Christ, we are impressive, but not powerful. We can’t be powerful, or see the fruit of our faith, until we understand that Jesus alone has justified us and given us right-standing. None of our works make us more or less righteous. When we spend our time trying to earn something we have already been given, all of our works are self-serving. We shouldn’t work for our righteousness, we should work from it.
Jesus told us in the New Testament, “whoever believes in Me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these”. How can we do “even greater works” than Jesus if we don’t see ourselves as clean, redeemed, and worthy? We have to have the faith to believe that we are who Jesus says we are first. Only then can we do what Jesus called us to do.
We can’t pick and choose. We can’t say I believe you died for my sins, but I’m also still guilty. We can’t say I believe you took my punishment, but I think I still deserve it. We can’t say I believe you are who you say you are, but I’m not sure I am who you say I am.
Jesus says we have His righteousness and His right standing. To believe you have or deserve anything less than that is to have empty faith.