Is Your Faith Active? - 7/29/18

IS YOUR FAITH ACTIVE 07 29 2018

James 2: 14-26

There is an old story that tells of a man who was traveling on his donkey when he
came upon a small fuzzy object lying in the road. … He dismounted to look more
closely and found a sparrow lying on its back with its scrawny legs thrust upward.
At first he thought the bird was dead but closer investigation proved it to be very
much alive. … The man asked the sparrow if he was all right. The sparrow replied,
"Yes." … The man asked, "What are you doing lying on your back with your legs
pointed towards the sky?" … The sparrow responded that he had heard a rumor
that the sky was falling and so he was holding his legs up to catch it.
The man retorted, "You surely don’t think that you’re going to hold it up with those
two scrawny legs, do you?" … The sparrow, with a very solemn look, replied,
"One does the best he can."
Have we demonstrated faith at any time this week? … Have we been called to
show faith to someone … or in something?
I am positive that all of us have not just demonstrated faith this week … but even
since we got up this morning.
Did you have faith that your alarm clock went off at the right time? … When you
reached for the light switch were you surprised when the light came on?
How about the car starting … or that I showed up this morning?
Were you personally surprised by any of those little details of daily life?
So in the last few hours and this week, … you have exhibited faith that the realities
you know about our world are true most of the time … and by faith, … you went
through the week using the phone, turning lights on and off, … heading for a red
light in the car that the breaks would work … and any number of other automatic
responses, hundreds of times.
We often talk about how hard it is to exhibit our faith … but we ignore all the other
times that we do, every day. …
How is it that we can divide faith into different categories; … the stuff we depend
on every day … and the faith that there is a God and a judgment to come.
In our scripture today, we hear from James. … He is said to be the half-brother of
Jesus. … Some believe that Paul and James relay different conclusions about faith
… but I believe that if we read the text, … we will find that they actually agree; …
They just say it in different ways.
Today we will just look at what James says.

He starts with a question: … “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has
faith but does not have works?”
As a kid, … did you have someone ever claim to be your friend, … because they
wanted something from you?; … but rarely, if ever, wanted to do something for
you? … Politicians claim to be this or that … or for or against … and we later
learn that it may not have been true, … perhaps even a plane old lie.
Then James gives another more biting question; … “Can his faith save him?”
What is James saying about faith and works? …
James gives an example of peoples actions. … He talks about a Christian meeting
up with a brother or sister (Christians) that are in trouble. … They are having
difficulty with the bills, … normal basic needs. … We aren’t talking about the
Cable TV or cell phone. … We are talking about food and clothes.
Perhaps something happened with the job … or a health problem that wipes out
their energy and money. … A fellow Christian sees their need when they see each
other, … listens to the problems and says: … “I’ll pray for you” … and wishes
them “good luck”.
They don’t do anything to help beyond visual concern and kind words.
What good is it?
Then he says that faith is like that, … if there is no action then it is dead.
What good is it? … If there is not activity in faith … then there is no life.
He is pointing out that people who would do this … have missed the basic
principal. … Their faith is dead because they are not responding to obvious need.
They are not responding and allowing the Grace of God to be generous and caring,
… through them.
James continues as if he is in a verbal discussion, … indicating what some people
might say: … “You have faith, … I have Works”. … Then he gives his response: …
“Show me your faith without works, … and I will show you faith from my works”
What are the works he is talking about here? … Is it taking care of the poor and
needy in the Church? … I think it is more than that. … That was already
established years before, especially for those within the Church.
Remember the distribution of food to the widows early on. … I really feel that
James is using an accepted work of the Church to bring the understanding of the
Christians to a higher level. … James’ letter is being written to the Christians who
are dispersed into all the nations. … These are the people that wanted to avoid
persecution and moved to get out of the way of trouble. … They carried their faith
with them … but I suspect that wanting to avoid trouble, … they just met up with
friends … and did not share the message.
When James is defining the different types of faith, … the easiest one to define is
the dead faith. … It’s a faith that thinks “everything’s okay.” … It is faith that says,
“I believe in God,” … but never thinks about how that might affect life.

What has happened is that the one who ignores the need of others has taken the
name of Christ … but failed to adopt the character of Christ, … thinking to
themselves; … “I want the benefits of being a Christian … but I don’t want any
responsibility that comes with it.”
According to James, … “It doesn’t work that way. … If you have faith, … it
changes you through and through.” … Dead faith is nothing more than words on
your lips. … It is a statement of faith … without a lifestyle of faith.
What James is warning us about here … is that kind of faith is no faith at all.
Don’t be content with dead faith.
So is James talking about losing your Salvation? … Not exactly.
It seems to me that James, in this open letter, is addressing several problems.
He is pointing out to the Christians that they are far from perfect and they are
living to the same policies that the Jewish authorities have lived by.
Some are exhibiting a misplaced pride … and they look down their noses at other
Christians and non-Christians.
I think that we are talking about the difference between head knowledge …
and heart knowledge.
Head knowledge is when we think we know how to make a living growing fresh
vegetables. … You just put the seeds in the ground and harvest when it is time.
Heart knowledge knows when to plant, … what to plant, … to be watchful of
trouble … and knowing when to harvest for the best results.
Understanding the basics of how … and actually knowing how, … is very
different.
This letter contains several examples of the kinds of deeds that James is pointing
to. … Caring for the less-fortunate is one aspect but there is also controlling of
one’s tongue, … avoiding favoritism, … loving your neighbor as yourself … and
resisting temptation.
James is telling the readers that the faith that gives salvation … involves more
than just a little lip service. … More than a minimum giving … and physical work.
It is living as your life choice … because you have faith, … you will constantly
show it with deeds and works!
He gives another example to help people understand that action is absolutely
required. … He says, … “You have faith, and I have works. Show me your faith
without works, and I will show you faith from my works. 19  You believe that God is
one; you do well. The demons also believe—and they shudder”.
It appears that James is desperate to get these people’s attention. … He is using
tough words to do so.

Have you ever gotten scared just by thinking about something?
“IRS” is one that makes me sit up and pay attention. … Have you ever been sitting
around the campfire and someone was telling a scary story? … How about a ghost
story, like the Man with the hook at the end of his arm.
I remember my dad telling that story on a scouting trip. … As he got close to the
end, … he spoke softer … and everyone was leaning in to hear the story … and he
shouts: … “THE HOOK HAS YOU!”
The reaction from us boys was screams and shouts and maybe even a few steps of
running. … For a brief moment, … we believed that we were GOT!
The demons that we read about in scripture knew who Jesus was and that he had
power over them. … They followed His instruction … because they knew He was
God.
Demonic faith is the faith that believes in the existence of God … and that belief
affects the emotions … but not the will. … James says if we have dead faith, …
even the demons are one up on us. … They believe and shudder.
If our faith is dead, … quite honestly, … we ought to be scared to death that the
ones whose eternal destiny is hell … are affected more by their belief in God …
than we are.
There are many Christians who say we are saved by “Faith Only.”
Much of Christianity believes Paul and ignores James, … when in reality, …
both James and Paul are looking at the same prospect … from two different sides
of the coin. … Paul is saying “You can’t work your way to heaven; … it takes faith
to please God.”
James is saying; … “You have to have faith to please God … but the only faith that
is pleasing to God is faith that does something!”
God wants us to have an active faith, … not a dead faith!
James offers two examples as a proof of active faith which yields action.
I am sure you are familiar with the story; … God promised Abram and Sarah that
if they followed Him they would have a child that would be the father of a great
nation. … Abraham waited and waited and waited until he was 100 and Sarah was
90, for the promised child. … Finally amidst laughter and I’m sure a few tears, …
the child of promise comes. … It was a miracle of God for those two Senior Saints
to have a child born to them … but an incredible situation develops: … Now that
they finally have the Son promised by God, … God tells Abraham to do something
outrageous. … God speaks to Abraham and tells him to sacrifice Isaac on the altar.
Literally that meant to offer him up like a bull or a sheep in that sacrificial system.
To kill him on a stone altar. …

Abraham loads up the stuff, … travels with his only son to the altar … and with
every ounce of energy he can muster, … raises the knife to be obedient to God.
God stops the sacrifice and provides a ram for an offering.
Abraham proves he is totally submissive to God; … “and it was credited to him as
righteousness.” … In-other-words, … Abraham was justified by his willingness to
trust God completely.
On the opposite end of the social scale was Rahab. … Abraham is the most
respected person in all the history of Israel; … Rahab is not very high on that same
scale. … She was not an Israelite … but a member of a pagan nation that God
commanded Israel to wipe out. … She wasn’t even wealthy like Abraham. … She
was a prostitute; … financially and morally she was a poor person. … Yet when
the spies went into the land to scope out what they were up against, … Rahab was
there to help them, … to hide them from their enemies. … In the end, Rahab was
saved from the destruction of the city. … James says that in God’s eyes, … Rahab
was justified by what she did.
James is using scripture as his proof which is always a good starting point.
James is trying to teach the readers that Faith and works are connected.
That because Abraham was willing to follow through with the sacrifice, … he was
made completely righteous by God. … God even called Abraham, … friend.
Rahab Believed in God and helped his people. … Her faith proved by her actions
allowed her to be saved. … He is teaching that faith is made complete and visible
by our actions. … These actions are a response to our environment, … people’s
needs … and our response to the pressures and attacks of this world.
So where does all this lead us today? … Do we show our faith in God through our
daily lives … as easily as our faith in the power company or the breaks on you car?
Is our faith better described as … dead or active?
Here’s a few of ways to check our spiritual vital signs: …
1. How do we feel about worship? … Is it a priority with us … or is it an
insignificant ritual that we just go through because we know you should?
2. What kind of thoughts and goals do we have for life? … When we think about
what we would like to do for the next year, … are we … at the center … or / are
other people and God in the middle?
3. How do we feel about giving? … Is it a painful experience … or / are we the
cheerful giver Paul talks about in I Corinthians?
4. How often do we read our Bible? … Is it something that gets no attention in our
life … or are we actively pursuing a greater knowledge of God and His will for our
life?

The Church is too often populated with Spiritual Zombies, … people who think
they are living by faith … but who know nothing about what it means to be excited
and challenged by the joy of active faith.
A living faith is visible … and it attracts people because it includes joy and
excitement with activity that is satisfying. … When faith is dead, … people outside
the Church recognize that and it keeps them from wanting to become part of
The Way.
Dead faith believes in God … but it does not trust Jesus. … Dead faith never tries
something new … and only shows up on Sunday.
James is attempting to pass along a simple way to identify our spiritual condition.
Are we only giving lip service, … only holding Head knowledge … and no Hear
knowledge.
The actions that James is calling for, … is to walk with Jesus, … to listen and learn
from the master … and to be His hands for service … and His presence in time of
trouble.
Active faith is expensive because we must be willing to risk ourselves … in our
“Jesus” trust.
He is still calling all of us to be active and follow Him.
Do you trust Jesus?
All Glory Be to God!
AMEN