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James: A Faith That Works (7)

James  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  1:04:56
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There was a bank in Chicago that was considering hiring a Young man from Boston… they requested a letter of recommendation from his previous employer - The Boston Investment House.
They received the letter and quickly found that they couldn’t say enough about the young man…
In the letter, they wrote: “His father was a Cabot; his mother was a Lowell.... Further back was a happy blend of Saltonstalls, Peabodys, and several other of Boston’s first families… His recommendation is given without hesitation.”
Several days later, the Chicago Bank sent a note and let them know that their recommendation was completely inadequate, it read: “We are not contemplating using the young man for breeding purposes. Just for work. Is he a competent and capable worker?”
The Bible is VERY clear… God does not show favoritism.
Favoritism is partiality or bias or prejudice.
It involves the formation of opinions about a person based on factors that have nothing to do with their character or behavior.
Here’s the truth…
Favoritism is prejudgment based on superficial things — When we show favoritism, neither the person benefitting from it, nor the person being oppressed by it has control over it.
James tells us: A Faith That Works, shows no favoritism!
James 2:1 NIV
1 My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism.
Showing favoritism is to discriminate against someone based on outward physical conditions…
(I ask you…)
Is that what Christ wants? What He desires?
Is that what He did?
Easter Sunday is the perfect time for us to consider these questions… because Easter is when we contemplate the Cross and the resurrection… and when we celebrate it!
When Christ completed His work on the Cross, did He play favorites?
Favoritism is incongruent with God’s Character.
Romans 2:11 NRSV
11 For God shows no partiality.
Ephesians 6:9 NRSV
9 And, masters, do the same to them. Stop threatening them, for you know that both of you have the same Master in heaven, and with him there is no partiality.
Colossians 3:25 NRSV
25 For the wrongdoer will be paid back for whatever wrong has been done, and there is no partiality.
Even the Apostle Peter came face-to-face with this truth when he was sent to Cornelius’s home…
Acts 10:1–23 NRSV
1 In Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of the Italian Cohort, as it was called. 2 He was a devout man who feared God with all his household; he gave alms generously to the people and prayed constantly to God. 3 One afternoon at about three o’clock he had a vision in which he clearly saw an angel of God coming in and saying to him, “Cornelius.” 4 He stared at him in terror and said, “What is it, Lord?” He answered, “Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God. 5 Now send men to Joppa for a certain Simon who is called Peter; 6 he is lodging with Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the seaside.” 7 When the angel who spoke to him had left, he called two of his slaves and a devout soldier from the ranks of those who served him, 8 and after telling them everything, he sent them to Joppa. 9 About noon the next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. 10 He became hungry and wanted something to eat; and while it was being prepared, he fell into a trance. 11 He saw the heaven opened and something like a large sheet coming down, being lowered to the ground by its four corners. 12 In it were all kinds of four-footed creatures and reptiles and birds of the air. 13 Then he heard a voice saying, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat.” 14 But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is profane or unclean.” 15 The voice said to him again, a second time, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” 16 This happened three times, and the thing was suddenly taken up to heaven. 17 Now while Peter was greatly puzzled about what to make of the vision that he had seen, suddenly the men sent by Cornelius appeared. They were asking for Simon’s house and were standing by the gate. 18 They called out to ask whether Simon, who was called Peter, was staying there. 19 While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Look, three men are searching for you. 20 Now get up, go down, and go with them without hesitation; for I have sent them.” 21 So Peter went down to the men and said, “I am the one you are looking for; what is the reason for your coming?” 22 They answered, “Cornelius, a centurion, an upright and God-fearing man, who is well spoken of by the whole Jewish nation, was directed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house and to hear what you have to say.” 23 So Peter invited them in and gave them lodging. The next day he got up and went with them, and some of the believers from Joppa accompanied him.
Look what he says after the experience:
Acts 10:34 NRSV
34 Then Peter began to speak to them: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality,
God does not show favoritism, and — as His children — we shouldn’t either!
Now listen — When the Church shows favoritism, it walks away from God!
Many years ago… Mahatma Ghandi considered becoming a Christian…
He had read the Gospels and was moved by them…
It seemed to him that Christianity offered a solution to the “caste system” that plagued his people in India…
But then, one Sunday, He visited a local church.
He had decided to talk to the pastor about salvation…
BUT, when he entered the church, which consisted of mostly white people, the ushers refused to give him a seat.
They told him to go and worship with his own people.
Ghandi left and never went back, saying: “If Christians have caste differences also, I might as well remain Hindu.”
How sad is that?!
When we play favoritism, we rob People of God and God of people!
The Word tells us not to do that…
James challenges us to be “Doers of God’s Word.”
That means setting aside our own ideas and habits and tackling one of the greatest challenges for humans, AND for the Church!
And that is Favoritism…
The problems of prejudice and the respect of persons is a problem that has to be faced in new ways in EVERY GENERATION!!!!
It is not a new problem.
In James’s day, the problem was between rich and poor, Jew and Gentile, Roman and barbarian…
Today, it is between rich and poor, management and labor, educated and uneducated, white and black, American and foreign, straight and gay, young and old, godly and ungodly....
The problem is still here… even in the Church!
James 2:1 NRSV
1 My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ?
James 2:1 NIV
1 My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism.
James 2:1 NKJV
1 My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality.
Can I tell you?
This has less to do with the “glory of the Lord,” and everything to do with the “glory of our Faith”, which is Christ!
James is saying that we cannot hold on to the glory of our faith in the Lord and hold on to favoritism at the same time!
Showing favoritism or prejudice runs counter to the character of Christ, AND our faith in Him.
Jesus identified Himself with everyone, even the poor and oppressed.
Do we?!
It is easy for us to walk around with an unpublished list in our minds of those who are desirable and who are not…
It’s easy to judge people by their wealth — how they are dressed, what kind of car they drive, where they live and work…
It’s easy to judge people by their education — where did they go to school? Do they have higher education? Do they sound smart and sophisticated?
It’s easy to judge people by their looks — are they old or young? Good looking or ugly? Fat or thin? What is their nationality or skin color?
I have seen “Church People” — “Christians” — from all walks of life, do this over and over!
Do you know what the #1 cause of atheism is?
— Christians… who judge and discriminate against people who don’t “fit their mold” of a “good person”… instead of sharing the Love, Grace, and Mercy that Christ shared on the Cross.
Judgment — Favoritism — discrimination — bias — is SIN!
James 2:9 NRSV
9 But if you show partiality, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.
Favoritism — prosōpolēmpsia - “to make unjust distinctions between people by _________.” comes from two words — “to receive” and “face”.
In other words, it means “to receive by face” — to evaluate a person solely on the basis of surface characteristics.
James gives us an illustration of this:
James 2:2–4 NRSV
2 For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, 3 and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Have a seat here, please,” while to the one who is poor you say, “Stand there,” or, “Sit at my feet,” 4 have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?
Let’s look at this hypothetically:
“Suppose two visitors come to worship one Sunday”
The first is a man named Joe — he is a poor, homeless man…
Joe comes in a shabby old coat and a dirty hat…
He hasn’t shaved in days and reeks of B.O. and alcohol…
How are we as a congregation going to treat him? Will we welcome him warmly? Will we be willing to get to know him and try to help him? Will we sit next to him in service?
BUT … before we can even decide… another man comes in.... We know him!
His name is Bill… He is wealthy… in fact, he is one of the wealthiest men in the world....
What if Bill Gates walked through our doors?
How would we treat him?
Better yet.... What happened to Joe? Did anyone notice him?
The truth is: BOTH visitors are just men with souls; equally loved by God!
Neither is more important than the other…
We SHOULD treat both men with the same LOVE that God has shown us.... Amen?
But we don’t, do we?
This exact “hypothetical” story happened one Sunday at Bel Aire Presbyterian Church.
You see… then Governor Ronald Reagan and his wife, Nancy, often attended there, and they always sat in the same seats…
One Sunday, they were running late, and two college students sat in their seats…
Well, when the Reagan’s showed up, the usher came down the aisle and asked the students to move…
They did, without any complaints, and the usher then sat the Governor and his wife in their usual seats.
The pastor witnessed the whole thing, and … to his credit… immediately left the pulpit and went to the students…
He apologized and said, “As long as I’m working with this church, what just happened to you will never happen again!”
Sadly, favoritism like this happens way to often in the Church....
But it shouldn’t!
The Church should be the one place in this world where things that serve to classify and separate people must not be allowed — They should be left at the door!
The Church MUST be a place where all people are equally loved and valued.
The Church is not a place to worship people — it is a place to worship GOD!!!!
We are to be taking the same Love that Christ poured out on us on the Cross, and pouring it out on the people around us — the people we come into contact with EVERYDAY!!!
During WWII, “houses” were established to promote fellowship among the soldiers…
A sign was placed above the doors that read: “Abandon all rank, all ye who enter here.”
This same must be done in God’s House!
In here there is no rich or poor… there is no worthy and unworthy… we are ALL the same!
We are ALL deemed WORTHY!!!
God has chosen the POOR to be RICH!
James 2:5 NRSV
5 Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him?
This is reminiscent of verses 1:9-10:
James 1:9–10 NRSV
9 Let the believer who is lowly boast in being raised up, 10 and the rich in being brought low, because the rich will disappear like a flower in the field.
We discussed the meaning of these verses before…
At the Cross…
God leveled the playing field!
The Christian who is poor is valued by God, and has every privilege and provision from God… because they are God’s Children — God’s heirs!
Just like the rich person who lets go of his riches!
It is a RIGHT RELATIONSHIP with God that MATTERS!
Paul says the same thing!
1 Corinthians 1:26–29 NRSV
26 Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, 29 so that no one might boast in the presence of God.
We are who we are — we are children of God — only through God’s sovereign choice!
That is what we celebrate today!
Easter is all about God’s sovereign choice...
… His choice to send His salvation to us…
… His choice to step out of heaven… to die on a Cross…
… to take our sin and shame upon Himself…
All so that we can spend eternity in a relationship with Him!
Here’s the truth of the gospel… of the empty tomb:
You and I… we are WAY more messed up and broken then we even understand… We try to hide it, BUT WE HAVE BEEN FOUND OUT! We’re Guilty!!!
BUT… now here’s the awesome part… We are way more accepted then we can even understand!!!
Inspite of our failings… in spite of our sin… in spite of the many, many horrible things that we have done… to each other, and to God… He - Chose - Us!!!
We are His children… We are His loved ones… His precious Bride… He has forgiven us… and set us at His table!
Do you understand that?!?
And… because of that, We must value the things that God values!
We need to wake up church!
James 2:6–7 NRSV
6 But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into court? 7 Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you?
James asks:
Why in the world would you want to cater to the rich and insult the poor?
Is it not the rich who exploit you?
Are not the rich the very ones who are dragging you to court, and taking advantage of you?
So, why do you cater to them?!
Look at his last question:
“Are the rich not the ones who are slandering the noble name of Christ, to which you belong?”
James makes it clear… Favoritism — partiality — is futile… it is stupid… and it has NO place among the children of God!
WHY???
Look back at vs 1.
James 2:1 NRSV
1 My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ?
Favoritism prevents people from receiving the Grace of God… Because favoritism withholds God’s Grace from those we deem “unworthy”.
Let me ask you: “How did Jesus react when He witnessed people withholding the Grace of God from people they deemed ‘unworthy’?”
John 2:13–16 NRSV
13 The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. 15 Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!”
When Jesus saw that the Jewish merchants were preventing the Gentiles from entering the court… from drawing close to God… because the Jewish people had turned it into a market place, he became angry....
(this is the only time in scripture that we find Jesus angry)
God does not celebrate us when our actions prevent people from receiving His Grace!
So, what do we do? How do we change this habit within us?
James 2:8–11 NRSV
8 You do well if you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 9 But if you show partiality, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. 11 For the one who said, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said, “You shall not murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery but if you murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.
This is the “royal law”…
(somebody ask…) What is the “royal law”?
(I’m glad you asked… anyone?) “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
(everybody say that!)
In the sermon on the mount, Jesus put it this way:
Matthew 5:12 NRSV
12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Jesus taught it, and James repeats it…
The spiritual solution for favoritism is to keep in mind how we want to be treated!
Do we want to be denied access to the church — to God… because of favoritism?
All of us want to be loved and valued… regardless of anything about us — the color of our skin, our ethnicity, our wealth, our education, our marital status, our background…
If that is how we want to be treated, then that is how we MUST treat EVERYONE else!
If we show favoritism, then we sin and break the Law.
We like to consider some sin to be “big” sins… while we pretty much dismiss and ignore the rest, amen?
A failure to love others — because of favoritism or prejudice — is just as serious a sin in God’s sight as murder or adultery. (let me say that again)
Romans 3:23 NRSV
23 since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God;
Yet, God extended His mercy to us!
How can we not extend it to others?
A Faith That Works understands — Mercy Received Demands Mercy Be Offered.
James 2:12–13 NRSV
12 So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. 13 For judgment will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.
God has given us Grace — We must extend Grace!
In EVERYTHING we do, we MUST err on the side of Grace!
We will all face the Judgment of God… We will all be judged by the Law…
But here’s the awesome thing… Here’s the Promise of Easter… Because of Christ…
We have been set free from the condemnation of Sin!
Romans 8:1 NRSV
1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
We are set free from Sin in order to obey God… and here’s the truth… that is where True Freedom is found!
Remember — Mercy triumphs over judgment.
When I mess up — and I do a lot — I want people to be understanding and forgiving…
(I don’t know about you, but…) I need the mercy and grace of God…
Therefore, I need to extend mercy and grace to others!
Imagine how different our actions and words would be if they were controlled by mercy and grace…
— Imagine how different the Church would look!
How would it transform our interactions with others?
How would allowing mercy to triumph… help our relationships at home?
How would allowing mercy to triumph… make a difference in our relationships in church? At work? In the grocery store? On the road?
How about with the stranger? The homeless person? That drug addict down the street?
We are often tempted to prejudge others… We need to be thinking is: “There, But for the grace of God, I go.”
Mercy triumphs over judgment.
Let me tell you…
We serve an impartial God!
— When God sent Christ… to die for us… when the Tomb was found empty… God showed mercy!
He leveled the playing field!
He literally set every one of us on EQUAL ground!
He doesn’t bring the Rich down… They do that themselves…
He brings the Poor up… He sets them on equal ground with the rich and powerful!
Listen — To prejudge anyone as undeserving of God’s love, or our attention, is a disgrace to Christ!
… because it withholds Christ’s glory and grace from them!
In the movie “Seabiscuit”, Charles Howard hires Tom Smith — a broken down, unemployed cowboy — to train his race horses…
Howard later notices that Smith is working with a seemingly worthless and worn-out horse with a broken leg.
When he asked “Why?”
Listen to what Smith said: “You don’t throw away a life because it’s banged up a bit.”
I am so glad that is the attitude God has with us!
Aren’t you?
Every one of us has been “banged up a bit”…
We all need the Love and Grave of God!
Both Jesus and James challenge us to be a church where everyone is loved and valued equally…
We have done an amazing job at being that!
I am so happy… I feel so privileged and blessed… that God called me to serve this church and to serve with a group of people who love their neighbor so well!
Let us seek to continue to build our faith… to continue to strengthen our love for our neighbor…
By being a church who is busy living out the Royal Law — “Love your neighbor …”
(We are going to receive communion today)
In preparation, take a minute to consider your circle — those closest to you:
When was the last time you reached out to include someone new?
What have you done lately to make new people feel like a part of our fellowship? Or, To feel like they should be a part of our fellowship?
Are you reaching out to people who are different from you? Are you moving out of your “comfort zone”?
Let’s be a Church that put’s God’s Word — and our Faith — into action.
Let’s be “doers” and not just “hearers” of God’s Word.
God will help us to have a Faith that Works, and a love that’s impartial.
And it starts right here… on our knees… humbly seeking the grace and mercy of our Lord.
(prayer)
— invitation to receive the elements —
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