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James - Faith that Works  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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James 5:19-20 gives the Christian 2 responses to the reality of false believers within the church.


Please open your Bibles to James 5:19-20

This week we bring our time in James to a close, by looking at the last two verses.
Let’s read James’ conclusion of James together.
Read James 5:19-20.
His conclusion brings with it a sad truth, not everyone who attends church, and goes to church is actually a Christian.
The sad truth is that many of those who we see on a weekly basis, and think are Christians, when they die, they will find themselves in Hell.
Attending church does not make someone a Christian.
Growing up in a church does not make someone a Christian.
Even calling yourself a Christian does not make you a Christian.
So how do we respond to this?
James gives us 2 responses to the reality of false believers within the church.

The first response to false believers is know that there are false believers within the church.

We need to know that they are there.
When I first became the pastor of Southwest, I preached the Gospel hard, every week.
I had one person come up to me rather frustrated, and say, “You act as if you think that there are people here who aren’t Christians.”
And I said, “I know that there are people who aren’t Christians.”
About a year later, I had a leader in the church, standing and yelling at the top of his lungs, “I don’t want to hear the Gospel.”
All but confirming this reality to me.
This passage is not describing wayward Christians
It’s not describing people who have stumbled or gotten confused.
This passage is describing false Christians, fake Christians.
In fact, this has been one of the warnings that we have seen throughout James.
As he’s written this little book, he’s been addressing those who claim to have faith, but in reality do not.
He’s been addressing this problem all along.
Chapter 1 taught us that the false Christian is:
Double minded and unstable.
Is a hearer only, and not a doer.
Is angry.
Does not love.
Chapter 2 taught us that the false Christian:
Loves riches.
Condemns others.
Has a dead faith, that is proven by a lack of works.
Chapter 3 taught us that the false Christian:
Has an uncontrolled tongue.
Chapter 4 taught us that the false Christian:
Is ruled by his passions.
Refuses God’s sovereignty over the direction of his life.
The theme of James is Faith that Works.
Throughout this short book, he’s given different tests to prove if someone is a Christian or not.
These tests have proven if you have faith or not.
And coming to the end he makes this final appeal.
His final appeal is what to do to a person who claims to be a Christian, but in fact is not converted.
Someone may read this conclusion and wonder if this person is actually a false Christian?
Couldn’t it be a wayward Christian instead?
Couldn’t this be an actual Christian, who has just strayed?
And the answer is no.
James is not describing a backsliding Christian.
This is a person who is in the church, but is not a part of the church.
Let me show you why this isn’t a wayward saint, and why this is a nonbeliever, an unconverted person.
First, as we look at verses 19-20, you’ll notice James never calls this person a believer.
He is writing to the church, and is describing people within the church who have a dead faith.
He’s been describing people who claim to be Christians but in fact are not Christians.
He says, “My brothers ...”.
Who are the brothers?
True believers.
And he is telling his brothers, he’s telling the Christians, about people who are among them.
These are people within the church community, who are not believers.
This is a sad truth.
Sometimes I get asked, “Do I think that everyone who attends church, or goes to Southwest Christian Church, do I think that all of them are Christians?
And sadly, I can’t say yes.
I know that there are folks who are not Christians.
Our goal cannot be to just get people to go to church.
Or right now, our goal cannot be to see how many people watch the livestream.
We can’t see a person attending church, and pat ourselves on the back and say “Job well done.”
The sad truth, is that there are people, who, for various reasons, attend church, but are not converted.
This may catch us by surprise, but this is nothing new.
Ever since the first days of the church, there have been false Christians mingling with true saints within the true church.
I John 2:19, describes a time when a bunch of people were leaving the church.
It says, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.”
They left the church.
But they were never a part of the church.
They stopped showing up for church, but they were never saved to begin with, and therefore, they were never a part of the church to start with.
True Christians remain.
True Christians endure.
I Corinthians 11:19, Paul describes the reality of true and false Christians together within the Corinthian church.
“for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.”
He says that there were genuine Christians and counterfeit Christians there.
Jesus described this a number of times.
In Matthew 13, he described wheat and tares or wheat and the weeds.
Like a garden, there are the desired plants.
And what grows in between the plants that you want?
There they are right next to each other.
And one day, Christ will separate those two.
He will separate the wheat from the tares.
The sheep from the goats.
And many will be surprised at this reality.
Many will be shocked to find out that God sees through false religion.
He’s not pleased with church attendance, and singing songs, while there are hearts that are disobedient and unconverted.
Isaiah 29:13 says, “And the Lord said: “Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men,”
God is not deceived by empty words.
God is not deceived by half-hearted religion.
Matthew 7:21-23 describes the shock of those who think that because they were religious, they will be given a free pass into eternity.
Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”
This is heartbreaking.
You can be in a church.
You can be in a good church.
You can make a confession of faith.
You can tell people that you believe in Jesus.
You can be baptized.
You can even serve within the church.
And yet … not actually be converted.
The second reason why James is describing false Christians is because of the disobedient life of this individual.
James says, “My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth ...”
Believers don’t wander.
The word from wandering is plana’o, it’s similar to the word planet.
Plana’o - planet.
Planets don’t have a fixed location in the sky or in space.
Planets wander through space.
They rotate through space.
They drift through space.
James says that if there is someone among you who wanders from truth.
This means that his life is aimless.
He has no foundation.
He is not established in Christ.
He is not standing firm.
And since he has no basis of truth that his life is built on, then his life wanders.
He continues to live in sin.
So he claims to be a Christian, but rejects truth.
Meaning he rejects the truth of the Bible.
Truth that God has revealed.
It will eventually become known.
I knew a man, who claimed to be a Christian for most of his life.
Yet, he rejected truth.
He rejected the Bible.
He rejected the truth of the Bible.
His foundation in life were whatever he saw on National Geographic or the History Channel.
He wandered through life.
And finally, at an old age, the reality of his conversion, rather unconversion became clear.
He was never a Christian.
If you reject truth, and wander, you have no foundation and eventually, your sin will reveal itself in life.
The third reason why the person at the end of James is not a Christian is because Jesus does not lose those who belong to Him.
There is security in Christ.
Jesus has promised to never lose those He’s saved.
John 6:39 - "And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.”
Jesus is never going to wake up and say, “Where’d that Christian go? I could have sworn he was here, but he’s wandered off.”
That’s not how it works.
The sovereign will of God, the decree of God the Father, is that Jesus will lose none of those who belong to Him.
Not only will never lose those He has saved, but He protects them from harm.
John 10:28-29 - “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.”
There are dangers in this life, but the Lord protects us.
Remember the All-State commercials?
“Your in good hands with All-State.”
That’s us in the hands of God.
Those that Jesus died for are in His hands.
And no one can snatch us.
No one can take us.
You are in good hands.
There’s no wandering out of those hands.
We will never wander away from Christ.
Listen to how secure we are.
Romans 8:38-39 - “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
I love that verse because it describes all of creation.
And it makes clear that nothing in all creation will be able to separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
I’m a part of creation.
That includes myself.
Even I cannot separate myself from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
And why is that?
Because the Holy Spirit dwells within the heart of the believer.
He replaces that old heart.
That old heart that loved sin.
That old heart that loved to wander.
It’s gone.
It’s been replaced.
Ezekiel 36:26-27 says, “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.”
Gone is the wandering.
The fourth reason why this person isn’t a Christian is because if you are in Christ, you have life now.
James describes this wandering person as having a soul that is dead.
If you are in Christ, you have already been saved from death.
John 17:3 says, “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”
If you know Jesus Christ, life is yours … now.
Romans 6:22, “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.”
You’ve been set free from sin.
You have eternal life right now.
And the fifth reason, why this person is not a Christian is because if you are in Christ, your sins are already forgiven.
You are not hoping to have a multitude of sins covered, like it says at the end of verse 20.
You’ve already had a multitude of sins covered.
Your sins were forgiven when Jesus died.
That is a historical event that has already happened.
Knowing the historical event of Jesus dying means that according to Hebrews 10:19 we have confidence now because of the blood of Jesus.
I don’t hope to one day have my sins forgiven.
I don’t hope to have peace with God.
I don’t hope to avoid the wrath of God.
I have that now.
Because Jesus already died.
The payment has already been made.
The payment has already been applied to those who are in Jesus Christ.
Romans 8:30, known as the golden chain of salvation, “And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”
All in past tense.
Something already done.
We don’t hope to have sins forgiven.
Ephesians 1:7 says, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,”
Redemption was accomplished at the Cross, through the blood of Jesus Christ.
We have forgiveness now.
All that to say, that James is writing to Christians to let them know first, that there are nonChristians mixed in with true believers, with the saints, within the church.
These non-Christians are wandering.
They are not built on truth.
They are spiritually dead.
They need their sins covered.
That’s what he’s describing.

The second response to false believers in the church is that you evangelize false believers.

First recognize the truth about others, that there are false believers.
And once you know that, then pursue them.
James is addressing Christians at the end of this little book.
He says, “My brothers ...”
He’s addressing Christians.
He tells Christians there are unbelieving people among you.
Then he gives them a mission, to bring them back.
To help them see the need for the Gospel.
Our goal is not just to know that there are false Christians among our ranks.
And our goal is not just to identify them.
Our goal is to turn them to Christ.
Verse 19 says, “and someone brings him back”.
I know that in your English Bibles it says, “brings him back” implying that he once was in the truth.
To go back to something means you once were somewhere.
The word there means to turn, not turn back, but to turn.
For example, Paul uses that same word in I Thessalonians 1:9 to describe their repentance.
“For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God,”
The Thessalonians turned to God from worshipping idols.
They didn’t turn back to God.
They began worshipping idols, and then turned to God.
That’s what we are talking about here.
These false Christians, are in the church, but they have not turned to Christ.
Jesus Christ has enlisted His church in the work of evangelizing the lost.
Matthew 28, the great commission, we are commanded to evangelize.
Jesus commands His church to go and make disciples of all nations.
Jesus gave the command, James gives some practical reasons to evangelize the lost, or in this instance to evangelize false brothers.
And these motivations are based on love.
I’ve been reminded lately, that the Gospel is the most loving thing that you can share with others.
Scripture tells us that the most loving thing you can do is share the Gospel.
While, we’ve been locked in our homes, and frustrated with Covid-19, there are still people suffering and dying.
This past week, I’ve spoken to many of you, who have people in your livces that you are concerned about.
People are dying.
People are suffering.
People who have cancer.
People who are sick.
Covid-19 is not the only fear in the world.
Life is continuing, and people still need the Gospel.
Why do they need the Gospel?
James gives us 2 reasons why people need the Gospel, and why they need to turn to Christ.
1. When people turn to Christ, they’re saved from death.
The death that is mentioned here is Hell.
We must remember that Hell is real.
Revelation 20:10 speaks of Hell as a lake of fire and sulfur where those who are there are “tormented day and night forever and ever.”
What does that teach us?
First, Hell is eternal.
It will continue forever.
That verse says, “day and night forever and ever.”
There’s no break.
It’s not a 20 year sentence, with release because of good behavior.
It’s an eternal sentence.
Second, that those who are in Hell are conscious.
I’ve had a few surgeries in my life.
It’s a weird thing.
You get rolled into the operating room.
They give you an IV in your arm.
They tell you to count backwards from 100.
100 … 99 … 98 ...
That’s as far as I get.
Next thing I know, I’m in a recovery room.
And in that time, I was sliced open.
I was bleeding.
And my insides were exposed.
But I felt nothing.
Having my neck slit open would have been torture, but I didn’t feel it, because I wasn’t conscious.
That is not how Hell is.
It’s eternal.
You are aware.
It’s described as a place of torment.
Where your thirst is never quenched.
This is the just response from a just God.
God is not punishing the sinner because God had a bad day.
God is punishing the sinner because the sinner broke an infinitely holy God’s laws.
God does not condemn good people.
He condemns the sinner.
And if you have sinned even once, this is the sin that you deserve.
Romans 6:23 - The wages of sin is death.
It’s shocking, but there are those who attend church, who grow up in church, and when they die, instead of instantly being in the presence of the Lord for salvation, instead will find themselves condemned and in judgment.
These are people that you know.
If you have any compassion, and love, then you will be concerned about those who claim to know truth, but haven’t been converted.
2. The second reason James gives to evangelize is that when a false brother turns to Christ, there is a covering of a multitude of sins.
All people have a sin problem.
Romans says that the wages of sin is death, Hell.
Some have perpetuated the lie that going to church, taking communion, being baptized are how your sins are removed.
And so, you have false converts, who self-righteously go through the religious motions, while never knowing Christ, and being ignorant to what truly saves.
When you evangelize, and share the Gospel with others, and they turn to Christ, and place their trust in Him, there is forgiveness of sins.
There is the imputation of righteousness.
Not only is there forgiveness of sins, but the sinner, is granted the righteousness of Christ.
He is seen as good just as Jesus is good.
Don’t be satisfied with only church attendance.
Be satisfied when you see people turning from sin, trusting in Christ, and following Him.
The reality of this means that we need to always hear the Gospel, because there are people in our midst who do not know it.
The Gospel needs to be a frequent point of conversation.
It must shape our conversations.
It must shape our relationships.
It must shape our marriages.
It must shape our families.
The Gospel is not only for when you do evangelism out on the streets.
The Gospel is what we are about all the time.
Do you know where one of the clearest gospel presentations in the Bible is?
I Corinthians 15.
By the time I Corinthians 15 was written, Paul had already spent a number of years ministering in Corinth.
His time there was spent preaching Jesus Christ and him crucified.
And by the time you get to I Corinthians 15, he had already written 14 chapters.
But in the 15th chapter, he reminds them that Gospel is of “first importance”.
And goes on to state the Gospel clearly and concisely to a people who had already heard it from him.
There were people in the Corinthian Church who were not converted, so they needed to hear the Gospel.
Even false brothers need the Gospel.
Don’t assume just because someone goes to church that he knows the truth.
Don’t assume just because someone’s heard the truth that he knows the truth.
A person might have heard the gospel 1000 times, you never know if that 1001st time will be the one that the Lord uses.

When you speak the truth:

You are calling people to repent.
You are telling them of Jesus Christ.
It’s one thing to have heard of Jesus.
But it’s even better to know Jesus.
Because when they know Christ, they are saved from death, and their sins are covered.
This is a personal text, because it describes myself.
I grew up in the church.
I went to church my whole life.
I went to a Christian college.
I looked the part.
But the truth was, that I was never a Christian.
I was only looking like a Christian.
And it wasn’t until one night at a Bible study, where I heard the Gospel clearly, that I finally knew the Gospel.
I grew up in church.
I knew about the death of Jesus.
But it wasn’t true in my life.
It wasn’t until a random night at Bible study that all that change.
After that night, my life was transformed.
I was born again.
I went from death to life.
My sins were covered.
I’m sure I’m not alone.
I’m sure there are others like me.
You are hiding out in the church, but you don’t know truth.
I pray that you’ll hear truth, and be converted.
You might be embarrassed by what others will think.
There’s no reason to be shy.
Because this is the greatest thing ever.
If you have faith and repent, you will be saved from death, and have a multitude of sins covered.
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