Living Out the Light Pt 3: The Best Practices I
Pastor Terry Inman
James is a man of action. His book should be a best seller on Amazon under the title “Best Practices of the Faith”. He is not just a teacher or preacher, he is practitioner---James is a doer! He makes that point in his first chapter. “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” James 1.22 (NIV). Live out the Light!
In chapter two he gets right into a down-to–earth application of the Word (light) that he says, has been “implanted” and “birthed” in our lives.
We will look at two related, “Faith-based Best Practices.” They are the “do’s and the don’ts of showing our faith. Here’s a simple outline.
- Real faith doesn’t show favoritism (vs. 1-13).
- Real faith does show compassion (vs. 14-26).
Let’s get started with a key verse in the middle of this chapter. “Someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’ Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do” James 2.18 (NIV).
Faith shows! It shows by what we do! We have either “deed” faith or dead faith! Real faith is “Living out our Light!” Faith and favoritism don’t mix!
In chapter one James talks about faith refined by the fire of trials and temptation. The last verse says, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” James 1: 27 (NIV). Purified faith is both caring and clean! We are called to show compassion and show character!
Micah the prophet said it well, “He has showed you, O man, what is good. (best) And what does the LORD require of you? To do justice and to love mercy and to walk humblywith your God” Micah 6.8 (NIV).
The word “justice” here has the sense of “true religion,” it is our ethical response to God. “To love mercy” is to freely and willingly show God’s loving-kindness to others. The expression “to walk humbly with your God” means to live or conduct our self in a way that totally honors Him.
A few years ago I taught on this chapter in James. The first message was titled, “It’s not enough to be good--we must do good!”
The second message: “It’s not enough to do good--we must be good!”
So let’s get into the first half of this chapter James 2.1-13
Real faith does not show favoritism. “My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism” James 2.1 (NIV).
Here’s what it comes down to. We are brothers! James says you’re my brothers and sisters! We are believers. We are people of faith. Our faith is in Jesus. He is glorious! Jesus shows! He glows! He shines! Faith in Christ doesn’t show favoritism. Favoritism does not show faith--it shows phony!
Favoritism, showing preferences for people is prejudice or bigotry. Bigotry is based on perceived status. Faith does not discriminate because God does not discriminate. Peter was moved by a dream to get over his religious bias and enter the house of a Gentile. Cornelius, an Italian officer and his household were filled with the Holy Spirit. Peter said, “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism” Acts 10:34 (NIV).
Inserting “glorious Lord” in this first verse is intentional. If we want our faith to radiate His glory we can’t be selective on where it shines.
James says some people have bling and some do not. “Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, ‘Here’s a good seat for you,’ but say to the poor man, ‘You stand there’ or ‘Sit on the floor by my feet,’ have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?” James 2:2-4 (NIV).
Prejudice is pre-judgment based on external appearance and perceived social or economic status. First we make a judgment in our thoughts. James says these are “evil” thoughts. Next we act based on our bias. In the south color used to send people to the back of the bus. Today it’s subtle and goes way beyond the color of our skin.
By the way the Greek word used here for shabby cloths is the same word used in the first chapter where James says, “put away all moral filth”. These are people wearing “dirty” clothing. James may be suggesting more than people of apparent physical poverty but folks we may consider dirty!
Jesus wants His unpolluted light to shine on all people. If we judge people as dirty and we treat them dirty we block the His glorious light! James suggests that if we are going to show favoritism to anyone, it should be directed toward those we perceive to be impoverished or needy.
“Listen, my (dear) brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?” James 2.5 (NIV).
James gets this right out of Sermon on the Mount. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” Matt. 5.3 (NIV). Most of these early believers were poor; many were servants. They would naturally hope that some better-off folks would join their church.
But James wants them to know wealth or poverty should not affect how we treat each other. It’s worldly. People are labeled poor in the “eyes of the world”. This is social status based on earthly, not heavenly values!
James says these poor believers are rich in faith. Bryan and Kimberly serve the poor in Africa. They see material poverty and spiritual riches!
This doesn’t mean the wealthy are not rich in faith. But the bible does say not to put our hope in material riches but be willing to share what we have been given with those in need. It’s another way show our faith!
God honors the poor! James says, “But you have insulted the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are slandering the noble name of him to whom you belong?” James 2.6-7 (NIV).
The aristocrats in that era included many of the religious leaders. Their resistance to Jesus and his followers was not spiritual it was economic.
They were afraid of losing their hold on power, possessions and prestige!
James says, they were slandering the “noble” (glorious) name of Jesus.
Real nobility has very little to do with social, racial or economic status. As followers of our glorious Lord Jesus Christ we are the real nobility. We are royalty. Peter says, “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” 1 Peter 2.9 (NIV).
Insecurity or inferiority is what motivates us to show favoritism to certain groups of people. We falsely think if we put some people in first class seats in church it will make us feel a little better about our own status.
Here’s how God showshis preferences. “Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him” 1 Cor.1.26-29.
According to James prejudice is totally inconsistent with real royalty. “If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers” James 2.8-9 (NIV).
In the next couple verses he makes the point that breaking one commandment is breaking the whole law. Then in (vs.12-13) he wraps up this discussion of discrimination with God’s affirmative action plan!
“Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!” James 2.12-13 (NIV).
Once again James is calling us to the words of Jesus in the Beatitudes. “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” Matt 5.7 (NIV).
In the Greek text this call to action is emphatic. It should read, “So continue to speak and so continue to act”. God is actually the one who is going to do the judging. What do we want from God judgment or mercy?
What is our faith showing, judgment or mercy? “Best Practice” number one—Real faith doesn’t show favoritism. It never practices prejudice!
James learned this by watching his big brother Jesus. He is simply “giving it forward” to us (dear) brothers and sisters. Next week we will talk more about Best Practice number two: “Real faith does show compassion”.
So let me conclude with Jesus’ suggestions for Living out the Light. “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” Lk. 6.36-38 (NIV).
Why is this so critical for us right now? The Holy Spirit is preparing us for an unprecedented harvest. We have had several prophetic confirmations that he pouring out His mercy on the Bay Area. I want to agree with Him. I don’t want to curse the darkness I want to bless the light. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the evil that seems so pervasive and personal.
But I believe God is telling us to see and speak His intentions toward lost people and not speak and act on our perceptions. God spoke through an unusual manifestation last week in a prayer gathering of leaders.
He told us we call the Bay “gay” but He calls it Holy! Am I saying this is now an acceptable lifestyle? No God is just being consistent with his word. “Mercy triumphs over judgment”. He is asking His church to declare His mercy on this generation! Judgment isn’t changing anything!
I quoted this verse earlier but let me add the next verse to it. "You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” 1 Pet. 2.9 (NIV). Who are these brothers and sisters James is talking too. They are broken people just like us, who have received mercy! Paul says some of them (and us) were users and abusers--sexual addicts, idolaters, prostitutes, homosexual offenders, thieves, greedy, alcoholics, slanders and swindlers.
He says, “that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” 1 Cor. 6.11 (NIV).
So “living out the light” means getting out of our self-righteous religious walls so we can reflect His radiant light in very dark places. The religious people were infuriated at Jesus because he was seen with “sinners”.
Here’s his defense in Matthew’s gospel, “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and ‘sinners.’’ But wisdom is proved right by her actions” Matt. 11.19 (NIV).
Jesus told His religious critics, “Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the (self) righteous, but sinners” Matt. 9.13 (NIV). It’s your mercy that leads us to repentance!
Congregational Prayer: Glorious Lord Jesus, please prepare us for a new flood of your mercy. Let us who have been shown much mercy show much mercy. Forgive us for our favoritism. Take all judgments, all preferences, and all prejudices out of us. Purify the light you have given us. Tear down the walls, the barriers that keep in and keep people out of our lives and out of your church! Teach us to show your loving kindness to your lost son’s and daughter’s every day! AMEN
Offering for Bryan and Kimberly (Convoy of Hope: Kenya) Here’s mercy…
"Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you" LK 6.36-38 (NIV).