Growing in Living Out our Faith

Dr. Rob Green September 15, 2019 James 2:14-26
Outline

3 truths to help us grow in living out our Faith

James 1:21-25 - Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.

I. Ensure That Your Faith Is Saving Faith Rather Than Spurious Faith

James 2:14 - Can that faith save him?

James 2:17 - Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.

James 2:20 - But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?

James 2:26 - For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.

A. Missing action – saving faith makes a difference

B. Faulty understanding – it is not just a matter of emphasizing different things

C. Inadequate commitment – believing like the demons is not impressive

Deuteronomy 6:4-6 - Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. “These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart.

Matthew 8:28-29 - When He came to the other side into the country of the Gadarenes, two men who were demon-possessed met Him as they were coming out of the tombs. They were so extremely violent that no one could pass by that way. And they cried out, saying, “What business do we have with each other, Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?”

Matthew 7:21-27 - Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?” And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.” Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell — and great was its fall.

II. Understand the Relationship Between Faith and Works in the Larger Biblical Context

Romans 3:28 - For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.

James 2:24 - You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.

Ephesians 2:8-10 - For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

1 John 5:13 - These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.

III. Follow the Biblical Examples by Proving the Genuineness of Your Faith in What You Do

James 2:24 - You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.

1 Timothy 3:16 - By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness: He who was revealed in the flesh, was vindicated in the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.

A. The example of Abraham – who was willing to give up the most important thing to him

B. The example of Rahab – a foreign woman with little context for belief

To set the stage, I want to tell you a brief story. For my growing up years my father was an engineer. He became a pastor after I was married and out of the house. When I was a young boy, he had to take occasional business trips oversees.

  • On one of those trips he traveled to Singapore. While he was there, he found a guy on the street selling Rolex watches (out of a trench coat) for whatever a foreigner would pay for one.

My dad knew it was a fake, but he thought that might be a cool gift for me when he returned home. Sure enough, he gives me a fake Rolex watch. He tells me it is a fake and he had a great story of haggling with the watch dealer. The price started at like $5,000 and he ended up paying about $20 (that was the deal of the day … 99.6% off … and only for my dad).

  • But that did not stop me from trying to tell my friends that I had a genuine, eat your heart out, Rolex watch.

With that in mind please turn in your Bibles to James 2:14-26. That is on page 178 of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you.

We are going to tackle one of the most significant and controversial passages in the entire Bible.

  • This passage stretches our theology, it stretches our ability to understand how the Bible fits together, and it stretches how we live our life.
  • Very few passages have more impact into all three areas then the one we are going to study today.
  • I do not want to cast doubt in the heart of a genuine follower of Jesus. This passage is a warning passage and it addresses a particular attitude that someone inside the church might have.
  • I do not want to give security to a person who still needs to trust Christ. It is always possible that there is a person here this morning who is not a genuine believer in Christ, but who thinks they are.
  • I am not wise enough to navigate that balance without the gracious hand of the Lord working.
  • But also that the person needs to both listen and do what the Scripture says.
  • Refusing to follow the Bible in our practice is like a person who looks in a mirror and forgets what he looks like.
  • Therefore, God makes it clear that the biblical truth we hear on Sunday must influence our Monday morning, our Tuesday afternoon, our Wednesday lunch meeting, our Thursday trip to our child’s sporting event, our attitude at work on Friday, and the way we use our Saturday.
  • Your hell insurance is properly covered so off you go. Maybe you give enough lip service to Jesus to ensure that your annual premiums are covered.
  • God is concerned that there are some individuals who believe that they are a follower of Christ and they are wrong about that.
  • You think that your faith is real because you utter the phrase “May the Lord bless you”? The person you are talking to is inadequately dressed. How is “May the Lord bless you” going to help him?
  • Pastor Viars mentioned not wearing your whole wardrobe at the same time last week. I wore everything I brought and huddled in the covers. I am sure I have been colder in my life, but I cannot remember that time.
  • I love the fact that we have a care team to meet with people to appropriately address their spiritual and physical needs.
  • I am so thankful that we have an answer that is better than “May the Lord bless you.”
  • I am so thankful that the care team is funded through our church budget.
  • Do we have a place in our hearts and in our budget to care for the needy?
  • Are we willing to write into our budgets … “Lord, this is my faith shows compassion to the poor number?
  • Now, all I need is to know the name of the person with the need, the name of the ministry meeting that need, the opportunity to do more than say May the Lord bless you.”
  • One person exhibits their saving faith through works and another does it by talking about their faith.
  • Faith and works exist together under the heading of saving faith.
  • That means that they would say they were believers, but were not exercising saving faith!
  • He does not write with flowery language.
  • He does not even open his book with prayer.
  • Endure trials and suffering … you sin because you lust … pay attention to the Word of God … do not play favorites.
  • One day he was thinking of an analogy that he had heard. The scene was a courtroom and he was the defendant. He was on trial for being a Christian. He began thinking whether there was enough life evidence to convict.
  • As he looked back over his life he realized he had been mad at God for years, playing the Christian game, and all the while having a hidden lifestyle of sin.
  • That day he admitted that while claiming to have faith, he was wrong. His life never backed that conclusion. So he surrendered his life to Jesus.
  • They are choosing to believe in the D/B/R of Jesus despite never meeting him.
  • They choose to believe their sin separates them from a holy God and it is through Jesus that we can be reconciled.
  • They are believing that salvation comes only by grace.
  • We have already explained that James’ understanding of salvation is the same as Paul’s. They are not in contradiction with each other when we look at the big picture.
  • What we have not discussed, however, is what James means when he used the word “justified.”
  • He responded by a series of actions that proved he believed God. After waiting two decades for Isaac and watching him grow and mature, God asked that Abraham sacrifice him.
  • Rather than dismiss the testimony or seek to change the outcome, she became a help in the process. She hid the spies, she lowered them, she gave them instructions to avoid the raiding party.

As you are getting to James 2. I am asking that you pray for me during this message. I sent a note to both of my ABFs earlier this week (Sonrise at 8 and Young Couples at 9:30) … please pray for me this Sunday.

READ the text. This is the word of the Lord.

We are continuing our study through the book of James looking for various Growth Essentials. The title of the message today is Growing in Living out our Faith.

I want us to consider 3 truths to help us grow in living out our Faith.

Sometimes the biblical authors write in order to teach something that they believe is missing from a church’s worldview. There is something that they do not know or understand that the writer wants to make clear.

Sometimes the biblical authors write in order to address a problem that is already present in the church. That is what we have here. We heard a little about it earlier.

James 1:21-25 Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. 22 But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; 24 for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. 25 But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.

In chapter 1 James explained that a person needed to receive the Word of God because that is how a person is saved (v. 21).

James 2 has a context emphasizing the practice of God’s Word from chapter 1.

Your Bible is open to James 2 … go back for a minute to 1:26-27 … James addresses the tongue and several concerns involving true religion. Last week Pastor Viars explained the concern for favoritism or partiality from vv. 1-13.

Is it fair to say that James is concerned that our beliefs and our behavior are consistent?

I think what we have going on is a small movement of “easy believeism.” You go to Jesus like you go to the insurance agent. You write a policy and off you go to live your life.

James wants to address that thinking head on. Here is the first way we grow in living out our faith …

I. Ensure that your faith is Saving Faith rather than Spurious Faith

It is very difficult to miss James’ concern for dead or spurious faith.

Can that faith save him? (v. 14)

Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. (v. 17)

But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? (v. 20)

For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead. (v. 26)

James believes that there are Jewish folks scattered across the empire who have a faulty understanding of saving faith. You and I have the book of James because that is a message that God wanted us to hear.

The way that James demonstrates the inadequacies of spurious faith is to pretend like he is having a debate with a group of people.

The first person steps up and says that his faith is adequate because he pronounces blessings … “Go in peace” many commentators say that this is equivalent to “God’s blessings,” or “May the Lord bless you.”

A. Missing Action – Saving Faith makes a difference

James is like … “Dude, you have got to be kidding me.” V. 15 says a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food.

In the last year or so I had the privilege of travelling to a place that did not have central air or heat. It was to the south of Indiana. Normally, it is not a big deal because it is normally very warm in the day and cool at night. However, the time I was there it was cool in the day and freezing at night.

Or this person is in need of food. This is not likely a person who missed a meal today. It is a person whose daily consumption is too small.

James’ argument is this … the faith that stops at “May the Lord bless you” when the needs are simple clothing and food is not a saving faith in Christ.

I want to publicly thank every person serving on our care team. One of the most challenging jobs we pastors had before the NCC was to meet with people asking for money. We are supposed to be good stewards of every dollar you give to the ministry. We know the Bible says if you will not work then you shall not eat. If you are being lazy, then giving you a meal just increases the level of your foolishness. But on the other side we have this passage.

That is us as a church seeking to put this passage into practice because we believe that “May the Lord bless you” is not a proper reflection of a person who has been changed, rescued, and saved by Jesus.

Now, we need to ask the question of ourselves individually.

Saving faith, friends, makes a difference. If your faith is not finding expressions that make a difference, then the Spirit of God might be convicting you that you are pretending to be a follower of Christ.

Another individual steps up to offer his rebuttal to James. He says, “You have faith and I have works” (v. 18a). I am good with Jesus because we are the same. The problem here is …

B. Faulty Understanding – It is not just a matter of emphasizing different things

This objector says look, we are all the same, just relax. You are getting all wound up over nothing. These are different points of emphases describing the same thing. I am looking at saving faith from one direction and you are looking at saving faith from another direction.

James’ response is classic … “show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” He says, no they are not the same.

There are a lot of people in our world who do good works. There are a lot of people who care about others. That does not make them a follower of Christ.

There are people who say they have faith, but do not have the works that go with it proving that their faith is not saving faith.

Friends, James’ point is powerful. His asserts that faith and works go together. If a person does not have works, then neither do they have faith.

I remember that before we opened Restoration, our residential program for men struggling with various addictions, that we visited another operation in southern Indiana. They said that about 80% of the men who have come to them had spurious faith.

Listen as I read a portion of the testimony of one of the men currently involved in our Restoration ministry.

Before coming to Restoration I knew that I had issues. I struggled with substance abuse and covering up my sin for years. But I was raised in the church, my dad was a pastor and my mom started a Christian school. I thought that I knew Christ until I came to Restoration and at the end of my first week in the program God made it clear through a number of trials and difficulties that I didn’t know Jesus. I had no power in and of myself to live the way God commanded me to. Through those trials God brought me to the point of recognizing my false profession of faith in Christ to a genuine saving knowledge of Jesus.

Praise the Lord! That is exactly why we wanted to be involved in having a Restoration ministry. I pray this man’s testimony will be a testimony to other men who are in the exact same situation … I have faith, you have works … I am just fine – we are the same.

Friends, one of the ways we test our faith is whether the appropriate works go with it.

It is at this point that a third objector enters the picture. “May the Lord bless you” was not good enough and neither was “I have faith and you have works – we are the same.” The third objector says, “I believe God is one.” What will James do with this?

C. Inadequate Commitment – Believing like the demons is not impressive

At first, this sounds impressive. I realize some versions say “There is one God,” but there is good reason to emphasize “God is one” as a reference to one of the most sacred passages in all of Scripture.

Deuteronomy 6:4-6 Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! 5 “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 “These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart.

Believing this is surely enough to demonstrate saving faith, don’t you think?

Have you noticed that James is not one of these warm fuzzy guys?

How do you think this attempt to justify saving faith went over?

James says that is it good that you believe that God is one. But right theology at that level is not a guarantee of saving faith because the demons have that understanding. Ouch!

James just said that this objector’s practical theology is worse than the demons’! They both believe that God is one, but the demons actually do something about it – they shudder and for good reason …

Matthew 8:28-29 When He came to the other side into the country of the Gadarenes, two men who were demon-possessed met Him as they were coming out of the tombs. They were so extremely violent that no one could pass by that way. 29 And they cried out, saying, “What business do we have with each other, Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?”

The true irony is that the demons’ faith results in action. How is it possible to think and believe that simply saying “God is one” is sufficient for saving faith?

It reminds me how Jesus concludes the sermon on the mount

Matthew 7:21-27 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’ 24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 “And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. 26 “Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 “The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell — and great was its fall.

Friends, your commitment to Jesus must make a difference in what you do. Saving Faith is lived out in your actions. When there is not enough evidence to convict, then maybe you do not know Christ at all.

I know of a person who recently came to Christ. He grew up in the church. He claimed to be a believer. He raised a family in the church. Here was his testimony.

Praise Jesus for that …

Last Sunday CFN was powerful for a lot of reasons. If you are not in the habit of attending the Sunday PM services you are not only missing out on seeing all the folks from other campuses, taking communion together, but hearing about people who came to Christ.

This last Sunday a teenage girl stood up and said that even though she made a profession of faith when she was very young, her actions proved it was not genuine. So recently she repented of her sin and trusted Christ as her Lord and savior and followed Christ in the step of baptism.

That is James 2:14-26 in action. It is saying to all of us who have this attitude of faith where I said the right words and I know the right stuff. James is saying if the proof is not in the pudding, then maybe you have dirt instead.

The Lord included this for you and me to be sure that our faith was saving faith and not spurious faith. He included it so that those who, by their actions, were showing that they are not a follower of Jesus would repent and trust in the finished work of Christ.

Maybe there is someone here this morning that needs to do that same thing. To admit that your profession was not real and to place your faith and trust in Christ (Visitor tent and grab a pastor today).

Now, I asked you to pray for me because on the one hand I did not want to give comfort to those who do not know Christ. If that is you this morning, then I hope you feel the weight of God’s conviction. On the other hand, I do not want to discourage or cast doubt in the heart of those who do exercise saving faith.

So before I move forward I want to help us….

II. Understand the relationship between Faith and Works in the larger biblical context

Some people have said Paul and James should really have gotten their act together.

Romans 3:28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.

James 2:24 You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.

How do these things go together?

It appears that Paul and James are contradicting each other. In reality, they are addressing two very different situations.

In Romans 3 Paul is addressing the concern that people can earn their salvation. If they follow the right rules, then God will accept them. He is concerned about the person who says, “As long as you stay away from the filthy five, the nasty nine, and the dirty dozen and they do plenty of good works, then God is required to accept them.”

Paul says, “Uhh, no!” A person is justified by Faith alone.

When writing to those in Ephesus, without the same issue, he says,

Ephesians 2:8-10 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

When you put Romans and Ephesians together we get the phrase salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

However, Paul has no trouble putting faith and works together. We are saved by faith and then we do good works in response to our faith. Justification … the act where God declares the sinner righteous occurs at conversion. It comes when a person exercises faith in Christ.

But once justified, once saved, the believer lives out the good works they were created to do.

James is addressing the person who thinks all you have to do is say the right words or believe in the right thing.

One commentator put it this way, It is a good thing to possess an accurate theology, but it is unsatisfactory unless that good theology also possesses us.

James is saying exactly what Paul said … saving faith produces the right works. Works are the natural outflow of a changed heart.

The reason that you can know that you know that you know is that God told us in his word …

1 John 5:13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.

Friends, I have been praying that all of those who need Christ will trust him today. All those who know Christ would not have their faith rattled.

We have one more issue in the text that we have to tackle …

III. Follow the biblical examples by proving the genuineness of your Faith in what you do

This issue is raised in the section that explains Abraham and Rahab’s actions. In the middle, like the meat of a sandwich comes this little, but very significant, verse.

James 2:24 You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.

I already explained that James is using the word faith to highlight the easy believeism of his day.

Many words carry potential meaning. That is because they can be used for multiple things. Some words are used as technical words … they have one meaning (pediatrician is a doctor who cares for children … we don’t use it other ways). Other words like the word trunk have many possible meanings (the portion of a car, a portion of a tree, a body part on an elephant, a storage box for family items).

What about justify? It can be used like Paul uses it to refer to the judicial act whereby God declares a sinner righteous. But that is not the only way it can be used. It can also mean to vindicate … to prove correct or maybe we could use the word authenticate.

1 Tim 3:16 By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness: He who was revealed in the flesh, Was vindicated in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Proclaimed among the nations, Believed on in the world, Taken up in glory.

Christ was vindicated (proved correct) by the Spirit. That is what James is doing here with the examples of Abraham and Rahab. He is saying that their faith was vindicated or authenticated by what they did.

A. The example of Abraham – who was willing to give up the most important thing to him

Verse 23 quotes Genesis 15:6 … long before Isaac was born. Abraham believed God and it was reckoned as righteousness. This concept was found earlier in 1:21 … it is the word implanted that is able to save your souls.

But James’ use of Abraham shows that Abraham did something with his faith.

Abraham’s willingness to do that was proof, vindication, authentication that his faith was not a series of meaningless words.

B. The example of Rahab – a foreign woman with little context for belief

Rahab was an inhabitant of Jericho. The nation crosses the Jordan after 40 years of wilderness wandering. Their first task is to take Jericho – a walled and fortified city.

Joshua tells us that word was out that God was fighting for Israel. Rahab believed it.

Her faith in what God was doing was backed up by a series of actions that she took. Her faith worked.

This is the point for all of us who know Christ as savior and Lord. Our faith has to be accompanied by the works fitting a Christian.

That is why James said, “I will show you my faith by my works” (v. 18)

  • The true gospel demonstrates its faith by what it does every other day of the week.

Each of us needs to evaluate our commitment to doing the works we were called to do after coming to saving faith in Christ … As a starting place consider this …

  1. Be a good student of Scripture so you know God’s will
    1. Attend FCI classes
    2. Men of Faith
    3. Read the Bible on your own
  2. Find expressions for your gifts
    1. You were designed to use what you have to bless others. Part of the service pastor role is to help you use your gifts and abilities for Christ.
    2. Be sure that caring for the needy is in your heart and plans (family promise, serving meals to the homeless)
  3. Regularly evaluate your actions in your home

The Lord gave us this passage to help us see that there is such a thing as spurious or fake faith. That is much, much worse than a fake Rolex.

** Pray for those who are pretending, those that know they need Christ, and for the rest of us to live out saving faith by how we act.

Dr. Rob Green

B.S. - Engineering Physics, Ohio State University
M.Div. - Baptist Bible Seminary
Ph.D. - New Testament, Baptist Bible Seminary

Pastor Rob Green and his wife, Stephanie, joined the Faith staff in August, 2005.  Rob’s responsibilities include oversight of the Faith Biblical Counseling Ministry, Chair of the MABC program, and teaching New Testament at the Faith Bible Seminary. He serves on the council board of the Biblical Counseling Coalition and as a fellow at the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors.

Read Rob Green's Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Green to Faith Church.