Sunday, July 31, 2011

James 4 – Willful Planning

[Last week we were discussing "friendship with the world, making you an enemy of God"; and the question came up "What is friendship with the world"? In other words how do you know when you are headed down this path? My off-the-cuff answer referred back to Ephesians 2: 2 "You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world."; focusing on the central issue of "who's plan are you fulfilling"?

Now that's not bad, as far as off-the-cuff answers go, but as is so often the case with the Bible; a question raised is usually answered if you keep reading. I think we will see that today was we finish James chapter 4. Remember from verses 4-12, what James is warning about is spiritual infidelity, with humility as the key virtue that will protect us from this sin.]

13 Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit"; 14 whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.

[Now taken out of context some might argue that James is against planning. Anyone who has pursued a business degree, or has run a business, knows that planning is essential. So what does scripture teach us about planning?

Proverbs 21:5 The plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty, But those of everyone who is hasty, surely to poverty.

Luke 14:28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it— 29 lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish'?

"Count the costs", now there is some good advice. Seems like our present government crisis could have been avoided if more of our representatives followed this practice. I remember many years ago taking out a loan against a paid-for truck to refinance some credit card debt at a better interest rate. The loan officer approved the loan but as he was handing me the check he said "Remember that you haven't paid off anything yet, you just moved the debt to a lender with more favorable terms"; and he was right.

I was reminded of that warning this week when the President said "congress should increase the debt limit, to pay for the things they already approved". The problem is, Mr. President, when you borrow to operate the government you haven't paid for anything yet, you're just kicking the can down the road; sending the bill to our children and grandchildren. I wonder if the President goes home each night and tells his girls how much of their future earnings he spent that day.

If the plans of the diligent lead to plenty, and the plans of the hasty lead to poverty, I would say our government has been more hasty, than diligent. They have pursued short term benefits to the detriment of long term security. Dave Ramsy frequently counsels people who don't want to pay off debt that has good terms, because they presume that they can invest the money for a better return. Dave tells them the problem with their reasoning is that they are discounting risk. They are not considering what could happen to derail their plans, and what the consequences would be.

That is what verse 14 is really telling us. Not that planning is bad, but presumptuous planning fails to consider the impact of things beyond our control. Life is a vapor, not one of us can say for certain how long life will be.

Jesus spoke of this very problem in Luke 12:16 Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: "The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. 17 And he thought within himself, saying, 'What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?' 18 So he said, 'I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, "Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry."' 20 But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?'

Jesus said this man had a business plan and even a retirement plan when what he needed was an estate plan, he needed a will. Who caused the ground to yield plentifully or the rain to fall? It was God. Who determines the number of days each will live on the earth? That is also God.]

15 Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that." 16 But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.

[We may not intend for our plans to be arrogant, but when we ignore the sovereignty of God, that is exactly what they are, "our plans" instead of God's plan. Notice the change from verse 13 to 15. Where 13 said "we will do this", verse 15 says "If the Lord wills". My Grandma used to say "If the good Lord's willing and the creek don't rise", she was allowing for God and bad weather, all things outside of her control. You see that's humble, that's planning that is neither willful nor prideful. Finally, even if God allows, and you live long enough, what does your plan accomplish?]

17 Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.

[Madison spoke about this last week in terms of compassion. What he said mirrored my own experience. I was not by nature a compassionate person. I was busy, usually in a hurry and we would pass people in need and I wouldn't even see them. But Tonia would, and she would call it to my attention and over time I became more compassionate; with help from my wife and my God.

Back in Luke 12 after Jesus told the story of the "Rich Fool" he said this:

32 "Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

You see this type of thing over and over in scripture where God's reprimands people for a particular sin, gives the cure, and then tells them to get back to doing good. That's really the plan; God has redeemed us to himself, and then sent us out to do good to others.

Ephesians 2: 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. 11 Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands— 12 that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

I could read this passage a million times and it would not be enough. I am still stunned by how many people claim to be recipients of grace, and yet seldom show grace to anyone. Grace and good works bring us near to God and put us in His plan; while pride and self seeking cause us to make plans for ourselves. And sometimes we even ask God to bless our selfish plans. Make plans to do good, invite God to the planning session, seek His will for His glory. The world has no hope without God, and neither did we, until we put away pride, and surrendered to God's plan.

Jeremiah 9:23 Thus says the LORD: "Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, Let not the mighty man glory in his might, Nor let the rich man glory in his riches; 24 But let him who glories glory in this, That he understands and knows Me, That I am the LORD, exercising loving-kindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight," says the LORD.]

Friday, July 29, 2011

James 4 - Strife and Worldliness

Pride Promotes Strife

[Chapter 3 warned of envy and self-seeking. Last week we used the examples of Adam & Eve seeking wisdom in a self-seeking or a self-glorifying pursuit to "be like gods". In contrast we saw Solomon also seeking wisdom but with humility for the purpose of serving God's people as judge and king.

For James this warning wasn't a hypothetical concern, it was a real problem in the church.]

1 Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask.

[The timeless the wisdom of the Bible is always impressive to me. 2000 years after James penned this letter we still have worldly churches; from churches promoting lust by accepting homosexuality, and other unmarried couples, to prosperity preachers encouraging greed. Beyond their sloppy handling of the scriptures to support these heresies, they miss the idea that worldliness conflicts with godliness and retards the spiritual growth of believers who would follow this path. Here James tells us these worldly passions have led to strife and conflict in the church.

But as we saw with wisdom, there is a right way to seek those things we need, primarily by trusting in God rather than ourselves.]

3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.

[Probably James 4:3 doesn't get quoted much in worldly churches. It clearly refutes that idea the prayer is the key to some supernatural candy store. Remember the Lord's prayer? In it Jesus focused first on God's glory, then our needs, and finally God's will. As long as we seek our needs in God's will, for God's glory, we will be well balanced in our prayer lives, and have every confidence that God will hear and answer.]

4 Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, "The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously"?

[Jews were very familiar with the idea of spiritual adultery. Israel was constantly warned against worshiping and serving other gods. Most of you remember the song Buhlah Land, that phrase comes from Isaiah 62:4 "But you shall be called Hephzibah, and your land Beulah". Hephzibah means "my delight", and Beulah means "married". So you see the connection that God's desire was for Israel and they were to be married to the promised land. To drive out the other inhabitants and their false god's was an act of fidelity. In marriage we forsake all other relationships to pursue our desire in one husband and one wife.

Marriage is the symbol of our relationship with Christ, where we forsake worldly affections to pursue our desire in him. But some of us cheat; we have a side romance going with the world, where we give too much affection to things that draw us away from God.

"friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God", that is a harsh saying. Remember Ephesians 2:2 You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. 3 All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God's anger, just like everyone else.

"Obeying the devil" and "subject to God's anger" is the natural unredeemed state of man. So when we seek friendship with the world we become traitors to the grace of God, turn-coat's, who give aid and comfort to the enemy, and commit treason against the Kingdom of God.

But verse 5 reminds us that God is jealous toward His bride, since He has redeemed us for Himself, he will not look kindly on our infidelity. It is only the Holy Spirit that gives us the desire to do God's will.]

6 But He gives more grace. Therefore He says:

"God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble." (Proverbs 3:34)

[When you read this passage quoted from Proverbs 3:34 instead of "resists the proud" it probably reads something like "scorns the scornful" depending on your translation. To scorn means to mock or talk arrogantly, so you see the connection between pride and scorn. Of course the beautiful part is the promise of grace to those who humble themselves before God.]

Humility Cures Worldliness

7 Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.

[Once in the spirit of humility, God has a specific plan to engage us in active resistance to the plans of Satan. A worldly Christian is a powerless Christian, but in submitting to God's will, we can join the fight. The effectiveness of our witness is contingent on our willing submission, first to resist the Devil, then to draw near to God (remember Jesus' teaching about abiding in the vine), to stay close to our source of power. His warning to the disciples was "without me you can do nothing".

So worldliness leaves us defenseless against the evil plans of the Devil. Anytime Satan can deceive us into a fleshly approach to a spiritual battle, we have lost before we even begin. So verse 9 moves us to regard our sin the same way God does, so we can repent and recover, to be an effective witness in a spiritual war.

Ephesians 6 which tells us about the armor-of-God, also reminds us that " we do not wrestle against flesh and blood" (Ephesians 6:12); so resisting Satan with our own will power, is like bringing a knife to a gun fight. Sometimes we get frustrated in serving God, and think "I'll get up earlier, and work harder", or we make great plans "I will do this and that"; when the correct approach is to start out on our knees humbly seeking God and his will, getting as close as we can to the Lord, understanding that it is His work and it must be accomplished in His power.]

Do Not Judge a Brother

11 Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. 12 There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?

[To me the judging and evil speaking in these two verses sounds like gossip. Any one of us can get filled with pride and decide to let everyone know how others fall short of our standards. Whereas church leaders are commanded to exercise discipline to wavering followers; that is a very serious and loving correction first attempted in private, and bears no resemblance to church gossip. Jesus taught about this process in Matthew 18 and followed it with the parable of the unforgiving servant. With this approach he makes is clear that the two most important virtues in this process are humility and forgiveness. When James was teaching on "taming-the-tongue in chapter 3 he pointed out in verse 2 that "we all stumble in many things", a humbling reminder.]

Monday, July 18, 2011

James 3 – Wisdom from Above

James 3 – Wisdom from Above

[In the teaching of James you see this pattern where he teaches the right behavior and then he explains why it is right.

  • We rejoice in enduring trials because they produce patience
  • We should be doers of the word and not hearers only because the doers are blessed of God, while those that only hear have a religion that is useless.
  • We should not show partiality in the gospel because faith belongs to God and he extends it to us in love by grace, not because we deserved it; and impartiality is required to truly love your neighbor as yourself.
  • We demonstrate faith by works, because non-working faith is an illusion that does not benefit anyone. Activity is evidence of life, faith without works is dead.
  • We control the tongue because what we speak is evidence of what is in our heart, and hasty harsh word leads to more anger and ultimately violence.

So James continues to follow this pattern while teaching about Wisdom.]

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom.

[Some confuse knowledge with wisdom. You see folks who acquire lots a facts and information in an attempt to make themselves wise but it does not work. Wisdom is knowledge rightly applied. It is the correct application of knowledge, this "good conduct" that is the evidence of wisdom. Now this word "meekness" might seem a bit out of context when talking about wisdom, but that is a clue for us to remember as we study.]

14 But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. 15 This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. 16 For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.

[One of the examples of people seeking wisdom in the Bible is in Genesis 3 where we see Satan in the form of a serpent tempting Eve. The serpent said the forbidden fruit was desirable because "in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God", Eve considers Satan's words and decides it was "a tree desirable to make one wise", and makes a choice that yields knowledge, in this case the knowledge of evil, but it did not produce wisdom. Once you know about evil the only wise response it to stay away from it, but instead in their shame, Adam and Eve tried to stay away from God. Her pursuit of knowledge was self seeking, and verse 15 says that kind of wisdom "does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic". I think we can all agree with that assessment of what Adam and Eve obtained that day; Her self seeking led to confusion, and evil.]

17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield or reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy (meaning sincere).

[Did you notice how these attributes of Godly wisdom are similar to the fruit of the spirit?

Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness (pure), faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control (reasonable). Against such there is no law.

18 Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

[So wisdom that is not sought out of envy and self seeking , will give evidence of these attributes, this "fruit of righteousness". So we look for the "good conduct" of verse 13, the integrity of verse 17, and above all peace or contentment.

1 Timothy 6:6 Now godliness with contentment is great gain.

I think godly wisdom that produced good conduct, integrity, and contentment would be far more desirable than the wisdom that Eve was seeking in the garden. By contrast is should be easy to distinguish between earthly wisdom, and godly wisdom. They are sought in different ways, for different reasons, and the yield different outcomes.

Proverbs 14:12 There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.

This is exactly what God said would happen if Adam and Eve were to go outside the law seeking knowledge "for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die" (Genesis 2:17). The fall of man was the result man doing it our way, instead of God's way.

Proverbs tells us over and over how desirable wisdom, so there must be a Godly way to seek it.

James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.

Remember the clue I told you about from verse 13? Meekness now makes sense in this context, because it will take meekness to come humbly before God and ask for wisdom, for the right reasons.

2 Chronicles 1:5 Now the bronze altar that Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, had made, he put before the tabernacle of the LORD; Solomon and the assembly sought Him there. 6 And Solomon went up there to the bronze altar before the LORD, which was at the tabernacle of meeting, and offered a thousand burnt offerings on it.

7 On that night God appeared to Solomon, and said to him, "Ask! What shall I give you?"

8 And Solomon said to God: "You have shown great mercy to David my father, and have made me king in his place. 9 Now, O LORD God, let Your promise to David my father be established, for You have made me king over a people like the dust of the earth in multitude. 10 Now give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people; for who can judge this great people of Yours?"

11 Then God said to Solomon: "Because this was in your heart, and you have not asked riches or wealth or honor or the life of your enemies, nor have you asked long life—but have asked wisdom and knowledge for yourself, that you may judge My people over whom I have made you king— 12 wisdom and knowledge are granted to you; and I will give you riches and wealth and honor, such as none of the kings have had who were before you, nor shall any after you have the like."

So Solomon came humbly to the alter (with a thousand sacrifices) seeking God and asked for wisdom so he could serve God's people as King and Judge, and his request honored God, and was granted to him. For thousands of years since, Solomon has been synonymous with wisdom, because he sought it the right way, for the right reason.]


Sunday, July 10, 2011

James 3- Taming the Tongue

James 3 – Taming the Tongue

[Last week we finished up James 2 talking about faith that works.

James 2: 19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! 20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?

As I told you last week; James says, your intellectual agreement to believe in God is a demonic illusion. Your belief did not save you, if you did not repent. Repentance means to reconsider and change direction. The will of man is by nature sinful, Romans 3:11 says that no one seeks after God on their own. But we respond to the call of God, by surrendering our sinful will to Jesus as savior and Lord; and that surrender to God's grace changes you in faith.

So last Sunday night our daughter Amber calls to say she got saved at youth camp. Now Amber had made a profession of faith when she was 6 and was baptized. So I talked with he when she got home, and asked her when she was sitting in that service and they came to the moment of truth, what did she think was missing, what was deficient in her earlier profession of faith?

She said that she had frequently felt the need for rededication but is seemed like those times lacked the foundation of a true conversion. She said it wasn't as though she didn't believe, but that there was not a lot of faith in her life, that seeking after God in prayer and Bible study was something you were supposed to do, not something she desired.

So when the invitation time came the preacher said "I'm not asking you to say a prayer, I'm asking you to give your life to God". In that moment she felt the surrender and repentance that was missing from her profession at age 6. So as we continue in James, keep in mind that his expectation is this true confession and repentance that brings about the real faith of God through the Holy Spirit, working in our lives.]

1 My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.

[My only thought for this verse, is our pastors never seem to mention it when asking me to teach a class. Not exactly something you would put in the recruiting brochure. But it only makes sense given all the warnings on false teachers and people being deceived and led astray by bad doctrine. So a word of caution is given, God will strictly judge anyone who causes others to stray, especially teachers in His own church.]

2 For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body. 3 Indeed, we put bits in horses' mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. 4 Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires.

[We are given these two examples; a ships rudder, and the bit of a horses bridle, because they are small in comparison to the thing they control, we understand that they are very powerful in keeping a straight course, or not. So the tongue is to the body. James 1:19 warned us to be "swift to hear and slow to speak" and the reason followed in verse 20 "the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God".

Peaceful words lead you to peace, righteous words lead you to righteousness, dishonest words will lead you away from God's truth, and angry words lead you away from God's righteousness toward violence.]

5 Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell.

[When the Pharisees approached Jesus to complain that His disciples had not washed before eating He gave them this answer:

Mathew 15: 10 When He had called the multitude to Himself, He said to them, "Hear and understand: 11 Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man."

You see they had all these rules about clean and unclean that they kept with legalistic zeal, but in matters of love and compassion they were negligent. So Jesus corrected them by saying it's not what goes into your mouth that defiles you, but what comes out. Your words and how you speak them reveal what is in your heart.

Here James uses the example is a wild fire, every year in the west we see thousands of acres burned from something as small as a cigarette butt. Anytime I fly into California in the fall I am likely to see the brown smoke of wild fires instead of the mountains or the ocean. How many fights are started or marriages ended with just a few words, words that defile the whole body and do irreparable damage to relationships.]

7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. 8 But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God.

[Today people throw about curses as if they were nothing; but to the Hebrew people a curse was a very serious thing. It struck me for the first time reading verse 9, that when we curse any man or woman we curse against the image of God. Man has successfully tamed all kinds of animals, but the natural man cannot tame the tongue. Once again we see a theme in James' letter; he highlights the parts of our life that should be different once we have been redeemed.]

10 Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. 11 Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? 12 Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh.

[In Matthew 12:34 Jesus said "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks". That is what James is pointing out here. For the redeemed who's hearts have been circumcised, self control in our speaking should be one of those good works that give evidence of our faith. James again seems to be quoting Jesus from Mathew 7 as He used these same examples of figs and grapes only growing from the right kind of plant and told us this is how we could identify false teachers so that "by their fruits you will know them". In John 7:38 Jesus said "He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living
water." So we also as springs of living water should not also produce salty or bitter water.

James has such strong expectations for believers because he believes in the regeneration of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the redeemed. We should have this same expectation for anyone claiming to have been born again.

James 1:26 If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one's religion is useless.]

I think David understood this connection between the heart and the mouth when he wrote this:

Psalm 19:14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer.

If I want your mouth to be used for God's glory, then I need to give Him the "meditation of my heart". Jesus Himself put it this way in Matthew 12:34 "For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks". A tamed tongue is the result of a surrendered heart.

Friday, July 8, 2011

James 2 – Faith That Works

James 2 – Living Faith

[Last week we heard James reprimand the church for showing partiality to the rich and famous, the beautiful people, in their church and in their evangelism. But when we heard from our missions trip to Kenya, the response of the poor to the gospel was amazing. So we are challenged to love our neighbor, even when they don't look like us or act like us. Because we "hold the faith of our Lord Jesus" (James 2:1) as a sacred trust, not for our own benefit or purpose. That passage concludes with verse 13, which sounds like it came from the Sermon on the Mount:

13 For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

So James here connects being a good trustee of faith, with extending mercy, especially to the poor, because their natural inclination had been to ignore the poor.]

Faith Without Works Is Dead

14 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?

[Now if I just gave you the last 4 words of that verse "can faith save him?" I could probably get almost all of you to agree. Yes, faith can save you. But to ask the question that way is to take it out of context. Verse 14 qualified of restricted this faith to a specific category. A faith that could not be identified by any outward expression. Then he asks, can that kind of faith save you?]

15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, "Depart in peace, be warmed and filled," but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

[So James answers his own question. He says that expressionless faith, faith without works, is an ineffective faith, in fact it is dead. Here he uses a great example, would you believe in a compassion that only consists of well wishes "be warmed and filled"? Put yourself in the shoes of the homeless man, do you want to hear "be warmed and filled" unless it comes with a blanket and a sandwich? No! James asks, what does it profit? The answer is nothing. If the well wishes have no substance, then you are still poor and hungry. No matter how much compassion you feel you have, no one else can feel your compassion if there is no substance, no compassionate works that go with it. So also, faith without works ineffective, cold, and dead.]

18 But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works." Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.

[Hebrews and James together talk about 3 kinds of faith:

  • Faith in your works
  • Faith without works
  • Faith that works

Faith in your works – We read about in Hebrews when Jews left the church to return to the works of the Law, they needed the sacrifices and the Day of Atonement to feel right. They could not just trust in Jesus and believe that Jesus atonement was sufficient for my righteousness. Hebrews clearly settled that faith in your works cannot save you, so James doesn't talk about that kind of faith.

Faith without works – This is big for us because 20th century evangelism tried to turn the life changing conversion Jesus offered, into just an intellectual decision where all you do is say that you agree that Jesus is God's son. Like salvation was a test with one question; True or False Jesus is the son of God; circle the correct answer. Jesus compared salvation to being born, that's a traumatic event, a life changing event. Any woman in here would say that there is a difference between saying "I want a baby", and actually giving birth. James calls faith without works ineffective and dead.

Faith that works – We will read in a minute, is an effective living faith. Faith that expresses itself in love and compassion that would be noticeable by any casual observer. Faith that works, is a faith that makes a difference.

I don't know about you, but I see verse 18 a joke; because it's a paradox. "Show me your faith without your works", that's a paradox because the word for show means to demonstrate or prove; but you can't use works to do it. How can you demonstrate your faith without works? You can't, that's why I take verse 18 as a joke. It's like pole-vaulting with no pole; you just can't do it. But apparently there were some people claiming to be a Christian saying its all inside, so they don't need a changed life; they were pole-vaulters with no pole.]

19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! 20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?

[Now it gets tough; James says to these fools, your intellectual agreement to believe in God is a demonic illusion. Your belief did not save you, if you did not repent. Repentance means to reconsider and change direction, it's not like picking a movie at the theatre. The will of man is by nature sinful, Romans 3:11 says that no one seeks after God on their own. But we respond to the call of God, by surrendering our sinful will to Jesus as savior and Lord; and that surrender to God's grace changes you in faith.]

21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? 22 Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? 23 And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." And he was called the friend of God. 24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.

25 Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?

[James gives us two examples of faith demonstrated by works. Abraham offered his son Isaac because he believed that God would either rescue or resurrect Isaac, because God promised to make a great nation through Isaac. His actions proved his faith. Even in the day of Jesus, Jews still called themselves children of Abraham.

Rahab was different story. A prostitute who lived on the edge of the city, guess who gets hit first when the city is invaded? Those who live on the edge are the first to go. But a Canaanite harlot believed that God was going to give her city to the people of Israel, so she made a deal to save herself and her family. Her belief moved her to action. So we are not saved by this illusion of faith, as some claimed. Faith that works is evidence of true conversion.

2 Corinthians 5:17 - Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

"All new", is the sign of a new creation in Christ Jesus. 2 Corinthians 5 is good. It also has these two phrases "For the love of Christ compels us", it moves us to action. How about this: "those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again". Does any of that sound like faith without works? Of course not because faith without works is an illusion, it's not real.]

26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

[All of Christianity is based on the resurrection. If Jesus stayed in the grave, we would not be meeting here. Baptism is a symbol of the resurrection; raised from the death of sin, to walk in new life. A living savior makes living disciples, actively following Jesus; but this illusion of faith without works, makes nothing. Faith without works is dead, because it does not change you. But true faith, is demonstrated by works.

Faith in your works, faith without works, or faith that works; which is yours? How is your faith demonstrated to those around you?]