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"Faith That Works" (James 2:14-26)

James  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  39:25
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Joyce Mayo brings the communion message and encourages us to surrender our lives before the Lord. Pastor Chase continues on in James 2:14-26 connecting the dots between Faith and Works. James doesn't pack any punches and today we don't either as we go through this Scripture together.

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(MAIN SLIDE) “Faith That Works.”

INTRO
There’s a song we used to sing growing up, being a pastor’s kid...
“If you’re saved and you know it, say Amen!” (3x)
“If you’re saved and you know it, then your life will surely show it, if you’re saved and you know it… say, Amen!”
It was just a song we sang that didn’t have the same meaning as it does today.
Today, singing that song is convicting.
There’s a saying, “faith is like calories; you can’t see them, but you can definitely see their results!”
James’ whole theme in this section of Scripture is all about results.
In fact this whole section is saying that “A genuine faith results in genuine works.”
Charles Swindoll says that “If you say you believe like you should, then why do you behave like you shouldn’t?”
Kids pick up on everything, don’t they?
They also learn what faith is from us, sometimes by our words but mostly by our actions.
Kids that sing that song that I mentioned early will believe it based on if their main role models act on it, otherwise it’s just a fun song to sing with an empty meaning.
James 2:14 NIV
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?
This is exactly what James is saying in 2:14.
Verses 1-13 in chapter 2 describe how to honor the poor, but in verses 14-26 James explains how we should share with them and serve them.
James expounds on serving and sharing with the poor in this way...
James 2:15–20 NIV
Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?
We often list good deeds like this as Christians; praying, reading the Bible, preaching, teaching, going to church, etc.
But we also forget that we are equally called to visit the sick, pay your bills on time, being honest in business, telling the truth, controlling our temper, being consistently kind and helpful, watching someone’s kids so they can go visit their sick family member, etc.
Works, we could, say are Christian love in action.
But here’s the catch.
Being a Christian is not just believing certain things are true, “because the Bible tells me so.”
Being a Christian involves 4 truths, as Chuck Swindoll lays out in his commentary on James:
1. Genuine faith isn’t indifferent, but involved.
The people James is referring to that are in need are other brothers and sisters in Christ who have genuine needs like food and clothing.
James 2:15 NIV
Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food.
1 John 3:17 NIV
If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?
A genuine love reaches out to others and genuine faith produces acts of compassion.
2. Genuine faith is not independent, but partnership.
James 2:17 NIV
In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
James reference to dead is meaning something that is useless or ineffective.
It is the opposite of effective or living.
3. Genuine faith is not invisible, but on display.
James brings up a hypothetical situation
James 2:18 NIV
But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.
What he is illustrating is a person that says “I keep my faith to myself.” “I don’t wear my beliefs on my sleeve.”
But James challenges those with a passive, ineffective faith by saying a genuine faith MUST display itself.
4. Genuine faith is not intellectual, but from the heart.
James 2:19–20 NIV
You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?
This is an interesting add in that James writes about, however very profound.
His audience, mostly all Jewish backgrounds would understand his context which would be,
Deuteronomy 6:4 NIV
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.
This verse was very well known to Jewish people.
It was known as “the Shema” and was recited as the first part of a prayer each day and also at the end of each day before bed.
It was taught to their children to signify and remember that they serve and worship only one God.
The issue is that just acknowledging who God is, is not enough.
Having knowledge all about the Bible is not enough.
This is a major downfall of many pastors.
They do well to teach but fail to live out that same faith.
See, as James says, even Satan and the demons know the facts of the gospel, they know the plan of salvation but they also know they can’t escape judgement.
James’ point is that it’s by what people say they are and how they live their life that we decide whether they have truly responded to the gospel or not.
There is a saying that Henry Jacobsen brought up in his commentary on James and it goes like this, “Measure people by their profession and measure yourself by your life.”
Simply put, God will judge the hypocrites, not you.
We’ll come back to how we can evaluate where we are at in a little bit.
Now in verse 21 James gives a couple examples of people who displayed genuine faith.
James 2:21–25 NIV
Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone. In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction?
Some people, even scholars have struggled with James’ writing in 2:14-16 in relation to faith and works.
James 2:17 NIV
In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
James 2:20 NIV
You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?
James 2:26 NIV
As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.
All these verses imply that faith without works is dead.
But Ephesians 2:8-10 says...
Ephesians 2:8–10 NIV
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
And then in our current Scripture...
James 2:21–23 NIV
Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend.
It says Abraham was justified by his works.
But in Romans 4:1-12 it seems to say something else...
READ Romans 4:1-12
And then in James 2:25 it says...
James 2:25 NIV
In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction?
James lists Rahab as an example of someone who was justified by her works.
But in Hebrews 11:31 it says...
Hebrews 11:31 NIV
By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.
It says she was saved by her faith.
So a few questions come up:
Does James 2 say we’re not saved by our faith?
Does James 2 say we’re saved by works?
Do other passages say faith is not accompanied by works?
To answer those questions and make sense of all the Scriptures we just read we need to understand the different definitions of Faith and Justification.
We should look at 2 definitions of faith first.
Faith
ONE: Belief something is true.
This admits that the gospel is true but stops there
Faith
TWO: Personal trust or commitment to a person or truth.
This definition admits the gospel is true AND commits themself to Christ and trusts Him for salvation.
Next we’ll look at 2 definitions of Justification
Justification
ONE: To declare righteous or just; to free from guilt. (Something God does)
a. This tells what God does for a person who trusts Christ as their sin bearer, Christ died for sins so God declares a believer righteous.
Justification
TWO: To vindicate oneself or prove oneself of righteous (Something man does)
a. This definition expresses what a believer does in front of others, that shows they have been justified or declared righteous by God.
By understanding the different definitions of both faith and justification it helps us understand that James does not deny Salvation by faith or that the other Scriptures deny good works (or vice versa).
There are no contradictions.
James’ writing more so compliment the other Scriptures.
So when we read James 2:21-25 we see that James uses two extremes.
Abraham was:
1. The father of Hebrews.
2. Man of power & respect
3. Recipient of God’s promises
Rahab was:
1. Gentile harlot
2. Woman with a bad reputation
3. Breaker of God’s moral laws
When we look at both people that James uses as examples we need to understand something.
Every believer will find themself somewhere in between Abraham and Rahab.
James’ message about faith and works applies to us all.
There are plenty of generous and good people, even religious people who claim to have faith in Jesus Christ.
Some would say that those people, no matter what their true beliefs are or lack thereof, are acceptable to God.
But this is not true.
Good works MUST be accompanied by a genuine faith.
Abraham’s, most likely, hardest time in his life was meant for his growth by God and it was accomplished.
Rahab’s works justified her in the eyes of men and showed her faith wasn’t just a vocal empty confession.
We should takeaway from James that a saving faith is a “faith that works.”
James 2:26 NIV
As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.
The physical body needs a spirit like faith needs works to make it live.
Chuck Swindoll says that where you find separation, you will find death.
Faith and works can not be separated.
But what is the process to get there?
Being a Christian is not just believing certain things are true but it is first a relationship between a person and God.
It starts by trusting Christ as your personal Savior and giving him your sin to enter into God’s family.
Once we have surrendered ourselves to Him, the Holy Spirit- the Spirit of truth, goodness, power, light and joy comes to permanently reside in us.
The Holy Spirit’s presence pushes the believer to do good works- not to be saved but because you have been saved and wants to do the will of God.
Two things are pursued:
Right living
Love and concern for others
When we are saved through Christ and have the Holy Spirit in us we are in right relationship with God.
Also we go from feeling like we have to do good works to wanting to do good works to please God.
This is the difference between a religious person and a Christian.
So we come back to thew question that was posed earlier.
How do we evaluate ourself now?
Simply, as Henry Jacobsen puts it, it breaks down to two types of people when there is an absence of good works in our lives as Christians:
1. You are a backslider.
A Christian out of fellowship with God.
REMEDY: Confess and leave the sin that’s come between you and the Lord.
2. You are not truly saved and lack essential faith, regardless of what you say about yourself.
REMEDY: Receive Christ as your Savior.
Ephesians 2:10 NIV
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
2 Corinthians 13:5 NIV
Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?
A genuine faith results in a faith that works to please God and to bring glory to His name.
The question left to ask is the from the same song that we started with, “If you’re saved and you know it, does your life surely show it?”
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