Faithlife Sermons

Is your faith enough?

James  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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We are saved because of Christ alone by faith alone but not a faith that stays alone. Faith should be accompanied by works



Last week we spoke through James chapter 1
We looked at how we can find spiritual maturity
So it’s not about what we know. And it’s not even about what we do in the sense that following Jesus isn’t a checklist of religious things. It’s found in what we are pursuing with our lives.

Works vs. Deeds

This week we will discuss how faith and works go together.
BIG IDEA: Is your faith enough?
Let’s let James try to answer this question for us.

The Stance

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?
James is stating to us again: what good is it to believe all the right things but never put into practice what we know.
What good is going to church, remembering scripture verses, doing theological studies if you never put into action what you know?
James ask us a question: Can such faith save you? In the Greek the way you state a question implies the expected answer and in this case it has a negative implication meaning the answer is that of a negative outcome. So when James asks the question he is also answering it and the answer is no.
If this kind of faith describes us, describes you then James would tell us that this kind of faith will not save us.
If you know all the right things and even if you complete the religious checkbox but you look nothing like Jesus James and I would urge you to evaluate your life.

The example

James 2:15–17 NIV
15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 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? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
1 John 3:17–18 NIV
17 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? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
James give us an example. Here is what faith without action looks like. It’s like someone in need. In real need. They come to you and say I don’t have any clothes to wear and I haven’t eaten in days can you please help and you look at them and go, “You know what I will pray for you and wish God’s blessings upon you.”
Now your response would be full of faith and it would even be theologically correct and right. It is religious. We should pray with them. We should have the faith to believe that God will provide.
But it is lacking. It lacks us going to closet and giving them clothes. It lacks going to our kitchen or to the store and buying them food.
And because we lack the action James tells us that our prayer for God to provide is totally useless. We may believe that God will provide but if we don’t care enough to provide for someone else then our faith is dead.

The argument

James 2:18–19 NIV
18 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. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.
James begins to make his case. To do this he creates this opponent he will debate. And so his opponent treats faith and deeds as if they were these separate gifts.
James argues that if your faith can not be seen outwardly through your works or deeds it is no different than having no faith at all.
James states than no I will show you my faith through my deeds.
Matthew 7:16 NIV
16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?
James is not saying my deeds or works will save me but rather that because of what Jesus has done for me I will show my salvation or my faith to the world through the way I live my life or through my works.
He imagines his opponent would then reply I believe that there is one God. Which is the basic creed of Judaism from Dt. 6:4 It would have been recited twice daily. They would have thought about Abraham and the faith that he had and discovered with God. It is also the foundation of christianity as well.
Deuteronomy 6:4 NIV
4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.
Mark 12:28–29 NIV
28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” 29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.
It is a great argument. Surely such faith is enough right? The problem doesn't lie in verse 29 the problems lie in vs 30-34
Mark 12:30–34 NIV
30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” 32 “Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. 33 To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.
Love is something shown and experienced. It’s not something that you can learn enough about to understand. To get the full experience of love you must experience it and you must show it.
In the same sense, to show the fullness of your faith it must be shown through the way you live your life.
James gives us a powerful example to show us that belief isn’t enough. He says that even the demons believe and shudder. In fact in the gospels the demons give a far fuller confession of their belief in Christ even more so than what the apostles did.
Mark 1:24 NIV
24 “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”
The fear is that those who claim to have faith but have no fruits, have no evidence in their life of their faith, are even worse off then the demons. At least the demons beliefs drives them to action. They shudder. Why? Because they know they are in rebellion against a Holy and Just God.
Is your faith enough? If it looks like the faith of the demons or worse than James would answer no.
If that’s true should you shudder? Should you repent? Should you turn and surrender your life to the Lordship of Jesus Christ? James would answer absolutely!

The conclusion

James 2:20–26 NIV
20 You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? 21 Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23 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. 24 You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone. 25 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? 26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.
He uses Abraham as his example. In Genesis 22 is the story of Abraham and Isaac.
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So the argument made from Abraham is that he spent his whole life with faith in God. But when that faith was put into action is when God “counted it righteous”

Our faith is founded in knowledge but it’s fulfilled in obedience.

James gives another example through Rahab found in Joshua 2
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Rahab must have had faith in God but her faith put into action by hiding and protecting the spies is what delivered her.
In Judaism she is considered the mother of all who turn from paganism, she was the first example of a convert.

Wrap Up

James is clear. Faith without works is a like a corpse. It’s dead.
James 2:26 NIV
26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.
True saving faith calls us to obedience.
But why do we get this wrong so often? Why do we have such a hard time understanding the right relationship between faith and works?
It’s because we take them too far. Typically we end up on one of two sides.
We believe:
as long as we believe in God and know enough about God then we are saved
Or we believe as long as I do the right things. As long as I look religious I will be saved
But when we take our stance on either side we miss the gospel. We end up just be religious.
Religion: “I obey; therefore, I’m accepted.”
Gospel: “I’m accepted; therefore, I obey.”
So as believers we must learn that we are called to:

Work from God’s acceptance; not for it.

Tim Keller: “Gospel in life - a study guide.” 
Religion: Motivation is based on fear and insecurity.
Gospel: Motivation is based on grateful joy.
Religion: I obey God in order to get things from God.
Gospel: I obey God to get God – to delight in and resemble him.
Religion: When circumstances in my life go wrong, I am angry at God or myself, since I believe that anyone who is good deserves a comfortable life.
Gospel: When circumstances in my life go wrong, I struggle, but I know my punishment fell on Jesus and that while God may allow this for my training, he will exercise his Fatherly love within my trial.
Religion: When I am criticized, I am furious or devastated because it is critical that I think of myself as a “good person.” Threats to self-image must be destroyed at all costs.
Gospel: When I am criticized, I struggle, but it is not essential for me to think of myself as a “good person.” My identity is not built on my record or my performance but on God’s love for me in Christ.
Religion: My prayer life consists largely of petition, and it only heats up when I am in a time of need. My main purpose in prayer is control of the environment.
Gospel: My prayer life consists of generous stretches of praise and adoration. My main purpose is fellowship with God.
Religion: My self-view swings things between to poles. If and when I am living up to my standards, I feel confident, but then I am prone to be proud and unsympathetic to failing people. If and when I am not living up to standards, I feel humble but not confident – I feel like a failure.
Gospel: My self-view is not based on my moral achievement. In Christ I am simultaneously sinful and lost, yet accepted in Christ. I am so bad that he had to die for me, and I am so loved that he was glad to die for me. This leads me to deep humility and confidence at the same time.
Religion: My identity and self-worth are based mainly on how hard I work, or how moral I am – and so I must look down on those I perceive as lazy or immoral.
Gospel: My identity and self worth are centered on the one who died for me. I am saved by sheer grace and I can’t look down on those who believe or practices something different from me. Only by grace am I what I am.
God doesn’t save you once you know enough or do enough. He only saves you because He and He alone is enough.
You have been accepted. The price has been paid on your behalf.
Now live not for religion or rules but for the relationship
We should be a people who long to please the Father.
Who long to be with the Father
Who long to know (really know) the Father
Who long to look like the Father
Who long to obey the Father
When we find our faith rooted in the gospel it will always compel us to action.
Next week we will focus on some of those characteristics that show our spiritual maturity
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