April 1, 2020
  • 10:59 am MyPillow founder responds to media critique of his faith-based speech
  • 10:58 am Atheists, Secularism Are The Enemy – Rick Perry
  • 9:59 am Persamaan Islam, Yahudi, dan Kristen
  • 9:58 am Faith Training | Jesus Is Healer | Episode 40 | Christian Bible Study Devotional Video
  • 9:58 am Being a people of faith

Hi Church, welcome to “Cyber Sunday”. I want to thank you for walking with us on this journey. I want to thank you for being
patient and gracious with us. This is all an experiment. We’re experimenting as we go, we’re tinkering with things, we’re getting suggestions about how to do things differently or improve them, we’re getting suggestions for new things, then we’re trying to figure out if we have the resources to make it all work. And
it’s all one big experiment. You’ve been gracious with us and patient when I asked you – keep doing that. There’s a lot of people that behind-the-scenes are making this work and one day we’ll let you know who all that is, but — a lot
of people putting this together. One of the things that I want to share with you about today’s sermon — someone suggested that we, or that I, periodically throughout the sermon, provide some kind of discussion moments. And so we’re gonna try that – There’ll be some moments in the sermon where I’m going to ask you to
pause the video and with your family or small group to discuss a particular
question, and then once you’ve done that, (just for a few minutes, I’m not expecting
anything long) to hit play and resume the video. So if this works, let me know if
you like it. Let me know if it disrupts the flow too much — let me know that as well and we’ll keep working with it as we go. So we’re gonna continue in
our series, “Faith according to James” and today we’re gonna be looking at
James Chapter 2, verses 14 – 26. James says, “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such a faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well-fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, it is
not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith; I have works.” Show me your faith without works, and I will show you my faith by what I do. You believe that there’s one God. Good! Even the demons believe that — and shudder. You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our father Abraham considered righteous 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. 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 considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone. In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what
she did when she gave lodging to the spies and set them off in a different direction? As the body without the Spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” So first, we can’t really cover this section of James without spending a little bit of time talking about James and Paul. Because a lot of people
think that James and Paul are at odds with one another or they say
contradicting things. And here’s the two passages that are really the — our
passage today includes this verse, this is from James: “You see that a person is
justified by works and not by faith alone.” Paul says, though, in Romans 3:28:
“For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.” And so some see and this a contradiction and it’s even led Martin Luther, who is not a
fan of James, he called James’s letter an “epistle of straw” because he said that
there was no gospel in it and it was easily broken and that it takes away
from Paul’s justification by “faith only” teaching. I want to argue that even
though Paul and James are using pretty much the same exact language, that
they’re actually arguing two totally different things to two totally
different audiences. So Paul — Paul says that we are justified by faith alone, not
works of the law, but Paul is talking to Gentiles. And Gentiles, very early on, they were being denied acceptance into the church
because the Jews felt that the Gentiles needed to be circumcised, they needed to
observe the circumcision laws, and they needed to observe the Sabbath laws, they
needed to observe all of these mosaic laws before they could be accepted into
the church. And so Paul is writing to these Gentiles and saying, ‘no that’s not
really the case. That– God will will take you, that you are justified by
your faith in Him apart from works of the law.’ And for Paul,
that phrase is very important: “works of the law” “Works of law,” for Paul, mean things like: circumcision, Sabbath observance and other mosaic laws. That’s
Paul’s argument. James is actually arguing something very different.
James is speaking to a different audience — he’s speaking to Jews who are
now Christians and these Jewish Christians have placed a lot of faith in
their own status as ‘due’ and in their verbal profession of faith. These — James
is addressing people that believe that “right belief” and “right doctrine”
outweigh good works. And so James is writing to that audience and he’s saying,
“no, works are important.” And whenever he uses the word “works,” he doesn’t mean
it the same way that Paul uses it. Paul’s is “works of law”
James’ is simply “works”, and when he talks about “works” he’s talking about things
like “deeds of mercy”, “deeds of love”, and “deeds of benevolence”. You know, actually,
Paul exhorts Christians to do those things as well. He, just like James, and
just like Jesus, and John, and Peter, he also believes that good works are
important, are necessary, and that we, in some ways, are even going to be judged based upon those good works. So, in Romans Chapter 2,
Paul says, “God ‘will repay each person according to what they have done,’ To
those who by persistence of doing good seek glory, honor, and immortality, he will
give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth
and who followed evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble
and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the
Gentile; but glory, honor, and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew,
then for the Gentile. For God does not
show favoritism.” So Paul says ‘we’re going
to be judged based upon what we do’. One of my favorite passages from Paul’s and
Galatians chapter 5, verse 6 where he says, “The only thing that counts — The only thing that counts is faith that is expressing itself through love.” So for anyone to suggest that that Paul does not believe in the necessity and
importance of “good works”, “deeds of mercy and benevolence and grace”, they totally
misunderstand Paul. Because Paul believes that in the life of a disciple, works are
necessary, they’re important. And that we’re even going to be judged by those.
So let’s– let’s jump back into our text. I think it’s really really hard to miss
James’s point. He’s going to repeat himself three different times. In verse
17 of our reading: “In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” Verse 20: “You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?” In verse 26: “As the body without the Spirit is dead so faith without deeds is dead.” Anyone want to take a wild guess what James’s point is? Here’s what I want you to do: This is one of our moments what we’re gonna
pause — I’m gonna ask you to pause here in a few moments, and I want you as a family,
or as a small group, to discuss this question: “What is faith?” Based on
these three verses that we looked at, verses 17, 20. and 26, how would you define Faith? So pause this video, just spend a few moments doing this together as a family or
as a small group, and then when you’re done come back and we will continue. So I hope you had a good discussion.
James is going to ask a rhetorical question. A couple of rhetorical
questions, actually, and he’s going to assume negative answers to all of these
rhetorical questions. And so he’s gonna say “What good is it if people claim to
have faith but have no deeds?” It’s no good. And he’s gonna say, “Can that kind of
faith save them?” No, it cannot. And then he’s gonna set up a scenario. A scenario
that very well might have been happening in the churches he’s writing to, and a
scenario that I believe still happens today. He says, “Suppose a brother or
sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace;
keep warm and well-fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is that?” And again the answer is a negative. It’s no good at all.
James has actually been talking about this since the very beginning of his
letter all the way back in Chapter 1. Remember the things we’ve already looked
at: ‘you can’t read God’s Word – you can’t listen to the Word of God and then not
do anything’, right? That’s not actually taking in God’s Word and listening to
what it has to say. ‘You can’t profess your faith in acts of
worship and in acts of religion and then go around tearing down your brothers and
sisters with your loose tongue and your fits of anger’. He says that ‘you can’t
turn around and ignore the hurting and the outcast and the vulnerable,
especially people like widows and the orphans’, and then like last week’s lesson:
‘you can’t express a faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ and then go
about discriminating against other people based upon their appearances,
based upon worldly factors’. He says ‘no, you can’t do those things. Those are all
signs of a faith that simply exists in word only. Those are all signs of a faith
that is simply some kind of mental assent and that is not true faith.’ Here’s James’s big point for the sermon today: Faith is a verb. Faith is a verb that
calls us to action. Faith is a verb that leads to action. So in the face of this
benevolent opportunity, a believer in Jesus Christ, according to James, says, “Go in peace; Shalom. May you be warm and may you be well-fed.”
And I really think that this is not some sort of callous response. I don’t think
there’s any sarcasm in this. I think this is probably said with the best of
intentions, with the best of motives, that this– this believer in the face of this
benevolent opportunity is pronouncing a blessing upon this person that is in
need. Pronouncing a blessing upon the stranger. But here’s James’s point: that’s
all they’re doing. That’s all they’re doing. They’re not doing anything
physically to actually help this person in need, they’re simply pronouncing a
blessing on them, praying over them. Douglas Mu in his commentary on James
that I’ve been using a lot for this series says, “Words, however well-intended,
however well-meant, they have not profited these needy people all that
much.” And I wonder if– I wonder if this could be anything like a scenario that I
have encountered many many times in my own life. Where I’ve heard a sad story
and my response in that moment, said with the best of intentions, and said in good
faith was, “I’ll be sure to pray about that.” Haven’t we all done that? And I’m
not– I don’t want to diminish the power of prayer, I don’t want to say that we
shouldn’t be praying in those situations, but I do think James is forcing us to
think about that response. That in the face of a benevolent situation, are we
like the one that he describes? That with the best of intention simply pronounces
a blessing upon that person. Simply says, “‘I’ll be sure to add that to my prayer list”,
but then we don’t really do anything to be an answer to that prayer. James says,
“You can’t have faith and then not have any deeds to back that claim up.” He says,
‘No, that is a faith that is by itself.’ And he says here that, “A faith that is by
itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” A faith that is by itself,
that if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. So here’s our second pausing
moment in this video. I want you to pause for a moment with your family looking at
this message from James, I want you to ask this question: “What kind of ‘actions’
is James talking about?” What would fall in that category of “a faith that is not accompanied by actions”? What’s the ‘actions’ that he’s talking about? Spend some time discussing this together and then come back in a few moments. Okay, so is he talking about church
attendance? Is he talking about acts of worship? I don’t think that’s
what he’s talking about. I think what he’s talking about here the ‘actions’ that
he’s referring to are ‘actions of mercy’, ‘actions of grace’, ‘actions of benevolence’.
I think they’re things like: ‘providing for the needy’, they are things like
‘watching over the widows and the orphans’, they are ‘showing honor to the poor’. It’s
truly following that Royal Law that we looked at last week. It’s’ loving our
neighbor as ourselves’. And then, as if to drive home his point even more, James sets up this hypothetical debate between himself and someone else. He says, “But
someone will say, ‘well you have faith; and I have works’.” “Show me your faith without
works, and I will show you my faith by what I do”. And this is actually a little
bit more difficult passage to translate to understand than–than maybe it looks
at first glance, and I really think maybe the NIV doesn’t do us any favors and
it’s translation here. I think the New Living Translation (NLT) may better capture
the language that’s being used here in this hypothetical debate between James
and this other person. See, James just talked about claiming to have faith but
then not doing anything to help someone in need and, according to the New Living
Translation, the debate is this: “Well, some people have faith; and others have good deeds” Or maybe you could look at it this way: There is ‘faith’ on one hand and there
is ‘works’ on the other. In other words, isn’t ‘faith’ and ‘works’ two separate
things? And– and I think, (this is Gilbert Kerrigan’s translation, okay? This is the GNK translation) but I think this is a good way to understand what James might be saying: “Isn’t it true that there are some people in the church who are gifted with faith, and there are other people in the church who are gifted with works?
Therefore, if that’s true, then it’s okay for one person to have faith only, and
it’s okay for someone else to have works only because they are actually two
separate things.” Now, to me, when you understand the hypothetical debate that James is having here, when you understand it this way, it makes his response make a little bit more sense. Because James will then go on to say, “Okay if that’s true, show me your faith without works, and I will show you my faith by what I
do.” In other words, he’s saying, ‘Okay, you think they’re two separate things? You think they don’t go hand in hand? Well if that’s really true, then you try to show
me your faith without any works. And the way that I’ll show you my faith is
through my works, because they go hand in hand, because they’re intimately tied together you can’t separate them, they go together. And then, for the real gut-punch, he says, “You believe that there’s one God?
Well good for you, even the demons believe that — and shudder.” So James says that ‘a faith that is simply expressed in words without any good works to back it up, that doesn’t make you any different than than the demons. Because the demons, according to James, the demons have a pretty good theology. They believe that there is one God, or to use the language of the Shema, they believe that God is one,
they just don’t have any works to back it up. They don’t have any ‘deeds of benevolence’,
‘deeds of mercy and grace’ to back it up. And so if you’re simply just giving
faith as a verbal expression or a mental assent, that doesn’t make you any
different than the demons. And so then he’s going to move into this example of
Abraham and and I think that James is really using Abraham to argue something
totally different than the times that Paul will use Abraham to argue some
points. Paul — again, remember, it’s all about audience, it’s
all about context. Paul is addressing Gentiles and these Gentiles are being
told that they can only be accepted by God if they adhere to the circumcision
laws and Paul’s argument is ‘No, no, no!’ Abraham was accepted by God simply based upon his belief before there was even such a thing as circumcision. Before there was even such a thing as the Mosaic laws. Abraham was accepted because
he believed. That’s a very different argument than the one I think James is doing here. James says, ‘Do you want more evidence
that faith without works is useless? Well, how about our father of faith, Abraham?’ And his argument is this: God knew that Abraham’s faith was genuine when he did something. God knew that Abraham’s faith was genuine when he offered his son, Isaac, on the altar. That was the true evidence of his faith. Now, he was chosen by God, he was accepted by God, before that. Right? But if he had not passed this test, if he had not been willing to do this deed, then God would have seen his
faith as useless. And I love verse 22 where he says, “You see that his faith and his actions were working together — ” (again, they go hand in hand) “– you see that they
were working together, and that his faith was made complete by what he did.” James is saying that our faith and our works partner together, they go hand in hand.
But I also think he’s saying something more than that. That last line is the important one, I think: “his faith was made complete by
what he did.” Now, in the Greek, this idea of being ‘made complete’ is this idea of something that reached its end goal. It reached its full maturity. In other words,
James is saying that Abraham’s faith reached its intended goal, or achieved its set out mission by expressing itself in works. So
James is saying ‘our faith has an end goal.’ Our faith has a purpose; and that
purpose is to express itself in good works. If it does not do that, then our
faith is an incomplete faith. It’s a useless faith. Abraham’s faith was
brought to completion by what he did. Abraham’s faith was brought to completion
by his works because faith is a verb and verbs are only verbs if they describe
action. And so, faith that has no works is an incomplete faith. He’s actually gonna
use someone else from the Old Testament to argue the same point; he’s gonna use
Rahab here. And Rahab did something Rahab’s faith was expressed in what she
did. It was expressed in her action. She did a good thing. Her faith led her to do
something, and if it had not, then her faith would have been a useless or dead
faith. And so some people have asked, ‘Okay, so why use both Abraham and Rahab? What’s the significance of those two people in this argument?’ Well, some have said that
maybe it has to do with the fact that Abraham is an insider, Rahab’s an
outsider. Abraham, you know, is– was accepted, chosen by God. Rahab was someone
who was outside of Israel. But yet, both of them were able to demonstrate this
living faith that expresses itself in works. Or maybe it’s because James wanted
to show an upstanding Father of Faith and a prostitute and how both, on both
ends, the upstanding Father of Faith and both the prostitute, can both express
this living faith that expresses itself in good works. But maybe there’s a third
connection that sometimes gets missed. Both Abraham and Rahab were known for
their hospitality. Which if you think about it, really fits the message of
James. Right? You come to someone who has no clothing or no food — what do you do for them? All throughout his letter he’s going to talk about the poor who need certain things in their lives, that need clothing, that need food. In both Abraham and Rahab were people that were known for their hospitality. In the example
that he gives, Rahab, he even talks about that he gave– she gave lodging to these spies and sent them off. He doesn’t use the hospitality
story from Abraham in his letter, but all Jewish Christians would have known the
story from Genesis 18 where Abraham was visited by these three people from God
and Abraham takes them in, feeds them, gives them shelter, gives them something
to drink. And I think all of that, both of those examples:
Abraham showing hospitality and Rahab showing hospitality, they both fit with
James and his insistence upon faith being something that expresses itself in
deeds of mercy and love and benevolence. And he says that “faith without those
things is dead”. So, here’s our third moment: “Our mission statement is: ‘Joining in the work of Jesus for the good of the world’. And I really want us to be a church that does that. And I really believe that mission statement flushes out this type of faith that James talks about. And so what I want you to do is I want you to spend a few moments with your family talking about the ways in which you see our church living into this mission of ‘Joining in the work of Jesus for the good of the world’, expressing the sort of faith that James is talking about in his letter. Of faith that expresses itself in deeds of love and mercy. Pause your video and spend some time answering that question. So, Faith, according to James, is a verb. It
goes hand-in-hand with works. You can’t separate them, it goes hand-in-hand with
good deeds that are done in love. May we be a church that is a living testimony
to this kind of faith. May you be blessed this week.

Jean Kelley