When I was younger, some parts of the New Testament, especially the book of Romans, confused me. It talked about how we were justified apart from legal observance of the Law, how it was a free gift from God; and then I saw all these admonitions to moral behaviour. Looked like more rules to me.

I gained a little more understanding by reading the book of James, which at first blush seems to contradict the wonderful teachings of Romans: “I will show you my faith by my works”. “Faith without works is dead”. What’s that? But then I  got to thinking. My life – how I live –  shows my faith. The works are a result of something.

And this ties nicely in with Jesus’ saying that we would be known by the fruit (works) of our lives. A life without faith doesn’t bear fruit worth eating. Like a branch that needs to be attached to a tree, we need to be connected to the source of nourishment, and the thing that connects us is our practical faith in Jesus. What did Jesus say? “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers” (John 15:5-6). The faith is what saves us; our lives show if we in fact have that faith.