This Wednesday, Decmeber 20th, Grace Students will be visiting with the residents of Texoma Healthcare Center in Sherman, Texas. The older generation should never be made to feel that they have been thrown away and forgotten. Nursing homes are filled with former doctors, nurses, and engineers and on and on. Our tendency is to look at the elderly as just an aging people group in a nursing home, instead of seeing them as people who have lived a life before us. They have made their mark on this life. They have performed well, and have confidence that their life was well spent.
Leviticus 19:31 says, “You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man.” Older people are to be respected. They have a wealth of practical wisdom to share and experiences to relate. It is a blessing to get to serve and visit with this group of people!
Students, be at Grace Bible by 4:00pm ready to leave! We'll be at Texoma Healthcare Center from 4:30-5:30. Then, we'll go eat at Chick Fil A for dinner. Then, we'll be back by at Grace Bible by 7:30.
Tonight, we’re going to be looking at very significant passage of Scripture. This particular passage is one of the most argued about passages in the entire Bible. In this text, James is going to say that while faith alone saves us, it’s a faith of a certain kind. The works we do don’t save us, but a faith that does not produce works is useless and dead.
Before we get too far I want to define “faith”. Faith trusts God and faith obeys God. If it doesn’t trust God and if it doesn’t seek to obey God even imperfectly, it’s not faith. Here’s how we’ll define “works”. Works is a life of loving God and loving others.
Let’s pick it up in verse 14. “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?” Right out of the gate, James starts swinging. He asks a very pointed question that forces the audience and us to stop and think. What good is our faith if no works ever come of it? Of what value is that kind of faith?
Here’s James’ illustration in V15-16. “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?” Here, we see that a faith without works is useless.
When James is talking about someone who is poorly clothed, he’s not saying that this person is not fashionable. He’s saying this is a person who’s a part of the covenant community who has fallen on hard times in their life and they’re not able to survive from day to day. They are naked and cannot eat. They are completely and utterly in trouble.
The person in the illustration just said, “Hey, God bless you, brother in your nakedness. You’re not going to survive the day. Children starving to death. Be warmed. Hey, do you know what you should do? You should eat dinner. That’s what I would do. If I were you, I’d put some clothes on and I’d eat some dinner. God bless you.” What good is that to anyone? Faith without works is useless. It helps no one.
Keep it going in verse 17-20. “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?” Faith and works aren't mutually exclusive. In fact, James tells us that faith apart from works is dead. Works don't save us, but good works should follow true faith. And James keeps pushing in and challenges his audience.
Can you really show me that you are a Christian with your faith and not with your works? No, you cannot. If all you have is right orthodoxy, or right belief, then you are no different than the demons. The demons understand and believe, but they do not love God or love people. Therefore, faith without works is useless and dead.
In verses 21-25, James gives us two examples of people who authenticated their faith in God by their works. “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness’—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?”
Abraham revealed he trusted God by doing what God commanded him to do. Abraham had faith. Abraham would say, “God has given me an heir. Through that heir the nations, the world is going to be blessed.” God says, “Let’s sacrifice that promise on the altar,” and Abraham by faith put his son on the donkey and headed up the hill even as Isaac said, “Dad, where’s the ram?” “The Lord will provide.” With trust and hope, he headed up the mountain, and the Bible tells us he bound his son. He bound his son and was prepared to sacrifice when the Lord stepped in and said, “Don’t.” See, Abraham trusted God. How do we know? Because he took the promise up on the hill. Abraham had faith.
Rahab, was a prostitute in Jericho. No little girl dreams of being a prostitute when they grow up. You become a prostitute because very wicked, evil, demonic, awful things happen to you. You are used and abused, treated like a commodity, treated like a soulless object. In that day, women were already treated as second-class citizens. What would a prostitute be if just women in the court were treated as second-hand citizens? Can you imagine the type of abuse she had to endure? The longings of her heart for something better.
Then, here are the spies being sent by Joshua to scout out Jericho. “We’re going to conquer this massive fortified city.” Rahab, having caught wind that the people of God and salvation was coming, began to help the spies. When she found out that news had gotten out the spies were there, she hid them. She redirected the search party and put her small faith in God who would usher in a new beginning for her. Rahab finds herself in the lineage of our Savior, and therefore is our family.
When we look at the lives of Abraham and Rahab, we can see evidence that authenticates the reality of their faith. We see that they were saved by faith and, in response, did works.
Look how James caps it off in verse 26. “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.” James’ point is that as we experience the grace and mercy of God, as we rest in that saving faith alone, our heart begins to be transformed and changed so that our love for God starts to translate into a love for people. Let me say that again: Our love for God translates into a love for people.
Now as I’ve said the last few weeks, what God is looking for is progress not perfection. No one in this room is going to perfectly love God and perfectly love others. But there should be some growth. There should be some life change.
As we’ve been going through this chapter in James, I feel like every week we keep getting pressed in with the same things. The last few weeks have all kind of centered around this idea of not just believing in Jesus, but also to practically live out our faith for the world to see. And I have to believe that’s by God’s design. I believe that there are some of us in here God is just working over on the inside.
If that’s you, I want you to look at me. Listen to me. You’re in middle school or high school. Right now, you are in a season of life where you’re being forced to choose what kind of life you want to live, what kind of person you want to be. Answer this: Are you going to live for God or, are you going to live for the world?
Maybe God has been using these last few weeks to press in on you and force you to take a stand and live set apart. Maybe you really are a Christian, but you’re scared to take that next step in faith and trust God. Don’t be.
Jesus says in John 10:10, “The thief only comes to steal, kill, and destroy. But I come that you may have life and have it to the fullest. This is your invitation to live for something more. Step into something great. Step into something bigger than yourself. Step into a life of living unashamed for Jesus.
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