Living Out the Light Pt 4: The Best Practices II
Pastor Terry Inman
Today we pick up where we left off last week. James chapter two is about “Best Practices of our Faith”. If you weren’t here you missed the most important best practice---attending worships services. Just kidding! We did miss you last week there was a big gap right out here in left field.
Last week’s Best Practice number one was, “Faith does not show favoritism”. Faith and prejudice do not mix. Before we can show genuine faith we have to get rid of all partiality and preferences in our hearts.
That leads naturally to Best Practice two: “Faith does show compassion.”
Last week I said I feel like I’m preaching to the choir. We are so diverse. We get the “no favoritism” part of faith. We are also passionate about compassion. We gave generously again last Sunday to support relief and development in Kenya though Bryan and Kimberly Burr. This week we have been reaching out to this dear grieving family here in Fremont.
James begins the second half of chapter two with a big question mark. “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? James 2.14 (NIV). When it comes to faith there is a big difference between profession and practice.
Jesus makes it perfectly clear that this is “living out the light”. “let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. Matt. 5.16 (NIV)
According to James a profession of faith is not enough to save us. Practicing our faith is the only real evidence of our profession. OK so you call your self a doctor. You even have a certificate on the wall. But if you’re not a practicing physician, are you really a doctor?
In order for faith to be saving faith it has to be active faith. OK here’s the theological question. Is James saying we have to earn our salvation? Paul makes it very clear that we are saved by grace through faith.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.
That’s clear and it’s not in conflict with James statement if you read Paul’s next verse. “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Eph. 2.8-10)
We are saved by grace, though faith to do good work. James questions faith that doesn’t show. “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? James 2.14 (NIV)
This negative question begs a negative answer. “This faith can’t save him, can it?” NO! Notice he says, “Suppose this person claims faith”. He doesn’t say this person has faith. This professor isn’t really a possessor!
Now salvation is not something we do. It’s something God does. Some people teach for instance that you can’t be saved without being water baptized. Baptism is simply a way to show or express our salvation. “This water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also--not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ”1 Peter 3.21 (NIV).
Baptism is a verbal and visual way of saying I am emerging myself in Christ. I am fully trusting that his death, burial and resurrection rescuers me from my spiritual death.
The bible calls this, “regeneration”. “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds, which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit.” Titus 3.5
Faith or trust in who Jesus is and what he did for us saves us. His Holy Spirit regenerates, revives or renews us. So if we have really put our faith in Christ there will be visible, tangible “doable” evidence called deeds!
James illustrates his point with a hypothetical but relevant example. He connects faith and compassion.
“Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?’ In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” James 2.15-17 (NIV)
OK here we go James is thinking about his older brother again. In Matthew 25 Jesus says, “I was hungry and you gave me something to eat…I needed clothes and you clothed me…when you did it for the least of these brothers you did it for me. Faith in Jesus cares for people!
James’ readers were impacted by the persecution and poverty in Jerusalem. They were scattered all over. Many were refuges in nearby countries. They lost jobs, family and property: many were suffering.
Last week he told them not to show preferences for wealthy opportunists who were actually exploiting them. God honors the oppressed poor with spiritual riches. So we should do the same. Here’s where faith gets real.
Like I said last week we ether have “deed” faith or “dead” faith. Faith is not just what we say it is what we do! Last week at the end the message we practiced our faith.
As I mentioned earlier, we gave about $5,000.00 to support Bryan and Kimberly Burr so they can return to Kenya full time where they help us feed and clothe children though Convoy of Hope.
This week you can help Pastor Brent and Tim train the church in an East Asian nation to better serve and communicate with children. For security we are being extra sensitive to not specifically mention the destination.
The typical Hebrew farewell was, “Go in peace”. It was like saying I hope all is well with you, get some warm clothes and a hot meal. James says it’s a meaningless expression or a worthless façade, if you claim faith and do nothing to contribute to a person’s wellbeing.
James bottom line… “In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” James 2.17 (NIV). James isn’t saying this person doesn’t profess faith. This person isn’t practicing his faith. It’s not alive. Living things move, If faith doesn’t move us to action its lifeless!
James isn’t done with this debate. He addresses objections. “But someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’” James counters, “Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.” James 2.18 (NIV)
It’s not one or the other. It’s both! Faith without active compassion is insensitive and meaningless religion. Charity without faith can be egocentric and humanistic. It may be thoughtful and even helpful but not necessarily transformational.
Passion for God will result in compassion for people! All faithful Jews believed the creed known as the Shema found in Deuteronomy 6:4: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” The bedrock of the Jewish faith was monotheism. Belief in one God!
James says, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.” James 2.19 (NIV). These are religious demons! They tremble in fear of God, but it obviously doesn’t save them!
You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? James 2.20 (NIV). This is not the first time the bible says, man’s reasoning is foolish. The word here means “empty”. Believe in God that doesn’t produce is pointless and purposeless. It’s empty religion!
For his Hebrew readers, James offers the evidence of two legendary cases of active faith: Abraham the father of faith and Rahab a pagan prostitute. Wow that’s pretty diverse! Let me just read his words.
Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous (justified) for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.
The finished product of our faith is a performance. It shows!
James is not saying Abraham earned his status as righteous. He is saying Abraham’s risky and radical obedience was an expression of valid faith. Abraham simply acted on his total trust in God. That validated his faith!
James adds, “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. You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.” James 2:21-24 (NIV). Real friends of God--do their faith!
I mentioned earlier some people try to pit James against Paul who says we are saved by grace though faith and not by works. But even Paul says, “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” Gal. 5.6 (NIV). Faith is valueless if it isn’t visible.
Rahab definitely wasn’t considered “righteous” until she risked her life to shelter some Israeli spies. “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?” James 2.25 (NIV).
Wow this lady was not just the enemy she had a reputation. These Godly Hebrew spies were taking some huge chances. They must have seen some evidence of genuine faith! It was belief in Israel’s “one God” that motivated this pagan woman to take action.
Here’s James simple conclusion. “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” James 2.26 (NIV)
When our spirit is gone our body is lifeless. When there is no passion for compassion our faith totally insensitive to save us or anyone else!
So to summarize chapter two: Real faith doesn’t show favoritism. Real faith does show compassion!