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Living the good life of faith

This week we are back to our series from James. Today we will be looking at all of chapter 2. In lasts fortnights message from James 1, we saw three things.

  1. Be quick to listen and slow to speak.
  2. Be doers of the Word and not just hearers of the Word.
  3. Be someone who practices pure religion.

Today we will also have three points. The titled of this message is “Living the good life of faith”. But first let us have a look at the text.

Bible Reading

James 2:1-26 – My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favour some people over others?  2 For example, suppose someone comes into your meeting dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewellery, and another comes in who is poor and dressed in dirty clothes.  3 If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, “You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor”–well, 4 doesn’t this discrimination show that your judgments are guided by evil motives?  5 Listen to me, dear brothers and sisters. Hasn’t God chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith? Aren’t they the ones who will inherit the Kingdom He promised to those who love Him?  6 But you dishonour the poor! Isn’t it the rich who oppress you and drag you into court?  7 Aren’t they the ones who slander Jesus Christ, whose noble name you bear?  8 Yes indeed, it is good when you obey the royal law as found in the Scriptures: “Love your neighbour as yourself.”  9 But if you favour some people over others, you are committing a sin. You are guilty of breaking the law.  10 For the person who keeps all the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws.  11 For the same God who said, “You must not commit adultery,” also said, “You must not murder.” So, if you murder someone but do not commit adultery, you have still broken the law.  12 So whatever you say or whatever you do, remember that you will be judged by the law that sets you free.  13 There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when He judges you.  14 What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone?  15 Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, 16 and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”–but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?  17 So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.  18 Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.”  19 You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror.  20 How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless?  21 Don’t you remember that our ancestor Abraham was shown to be right with God by his actions when he offered his son Isaac on the altar?  22 You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete.  23 And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” He was even called the friend of God.  24 So you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone.  25 Rahab the prostitute is another example. She was shown to be right with God by her actions when she hid those messengers and sent them safely away by a different road.  26 Just as the body is dead without breath, so also faith is dead without good works.

Message points

1. We can’t discriminate or show favoritism because of appearance

Verse 1 says, “My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favour some people over others?”

It is a straight forward and clear reminder not to favour one person over another.

In verses 2-4 it gives the example of favouring richer well-dressed people over poor people. It talks about giving richer people preferential seating, while the poor sit on the floor. It pretty much says “rich at front, poor on the floor”.

Story of an undercover Pastor

Recent I read a story I want to share that illustrates this point.  It is about a Pastor and what God asked him to do before he started at his new church. It made such an impact in his community that it was reported in newspapers and on TV at the time. I will put links on the website version on this message.

“On the morning of Sunday, June 23, 2013, the newly-appointed pastor of Sango United Methodist Church in Clarksville, Tennessee, Willie Lyle, lay down at the foot of a tree on the church grounds with an overcoat for a blanket. Unkept and bearded after spending most of the previous week on the streets, he looked for all the world like a homeless man, which was precisely the effect he hoped to achieve.

“He wondered how many people would approach him and offer him food, or a place to sit inside an air-conditioned room, or just see how they could help,” wrote freelance reporter Tim Parrish in a June 28 story for the Clarksville Leaf-Chronicle. “Twenty people spoke to him and offered some type of assistance.”

When the time came to deliver his inaugural sermon he did so from that very spot, changing into a jacket and tie and shaving off his beard with the help of his daughter as he spoke. “Before the 200 people gathered that morning,” Parrish wrote, “he went from looking like a homeless person to the new pastor of the congregation.”

Appropriately, Lyle’s sermon was a call to emulate Christ, to not judge other people by appearances. “Our goal should be to improve and change the lives of people as we live like Jesus,” he said in closing. “You see, we look at the outside of others and make judgments. God looks inside at our heart and sees the truth.”

We need to remember that God sees everyone as special, as created in His image and made with a purpose. And there is not one person in this world that Jesus did not die for. As a result, we can’t discriminate and treat others differently.

As verse one said, “My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favour some people over others?”

2. We need to love our neighbours as ourselves

Verse 8 of the text brings it into focus. It says, “Yes indeed, it is good when you obey the royal law as found in the Scriptures: “Love your neighbour as yourself.”

Throughout the Bible these thoughts are echoed.

Leviticus 19:18 – “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against a fellow Israelite, but love your neighbour as yourself. I am the LORD”.

Matthew 22:37-40 – Jesus replied, “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’  38 This is the first and greatest commandment.  39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’  40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

Rather than living by 613 laws that the Jews had to live by, Jesus summed them up in two!

Romans 13:8 – Owe nothing to anyone–except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbour, you will fulfil the requirements of God’s law.

Galatians 5:14 – For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbour as yourself.”

All of these verses talk about loving your neighbour as yourself. Treating people equally and with respect. And treating others how you would like to be treated.

As I said this is a common theme through the Bible. It is found in the writings of the OT law, Jesus said it, Paul spoke of it and in our reading from today, James (Jesus’ half-brother), says it again.

So let us purpose in our hearts today to love one another – to love our neighbours as ourselves.

3. We need to show our faith is alive and well

Verse 14 says, “What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone?”

In the passage, we see two examples of faith in action. Abraham with his son and the sacrifice. And Rahab the prostitute who hid the spies.

James 2:21-22 – “Don’t you remember that our ancestor Abraham was shown to be right with God by his actions when he offered his son Isaac on the altar?  22 You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete”.

James 2:25 – “Rahab the prostitute is another example. She was shown to be right with God by her actions when she hid those messengers and sent them safely away by a different road”.

James says that both Abraham and Rahab were right with God. They were right with God because of their faith and trust in Him, and their actions followed their faith. Their actions didn’t save them, it showed their faith was real. Just like there are many people in the world today who do good things, but they are not saved because they do not have faith in God.

Verse 15 and 16 gives us a practical example of lived out faith for today. “Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?”

Real faith is both believed as truth and then manifests itself in actions. Verse 17 reminds us that, “faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless”.

True faith is more than agreeing with a set of principles. It actually transforms our thinking and our actions. As I was preparing this week I had to ask myself this question – If my life remains unchanged by James chapter 2, do I truly believe the truths I claim to believe. I went on to ask myself – What things can I do today to show my faith is real and alive? What good deeds can I do to demonstrate my faith is not dead?

We need to show our faith is alive and well. We do this by our actions.

Closing summary

Today we have looked at James chapter two. We saw three main things.

  1. We can’t discriminate or show favoritism based on appearance
  2. We need to love our neighbours as ourselves
  3. We need to show our faith is alive and well by our actions.

Let us purpose in our hearts this week to remember these three things and put them into practice.

Amen.

Links to Pastor story

Sango UMC’s New Pastor Lives as a Homeless Man Before Installation
The Leaf-Chronicle, 28 June 2013

Pastor Goes Undercover for 5 Days as Homeless Man
USA Today, 24 July 2013


By Dave Quinn
Founder of PASSIONAustralia.org

 

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