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Prove It! James 2 Nov. 3, 2011 Introduction: While Jesus was alive, His half-brother James did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah. Instead, it is likely that James ridiculed His righteous brother and declared Jesus was out of His mind. Nonetheless, Jesus patiently shared God’s truth’s, sowing the seed of the Word within His listeners. Jesus, undaunted by His brothers’ criticisms, continued to teach the great principles of God’s kingdom. Today, we know from James’ book that the skeptic became the servant. We might also surmise that while Jesus spoke, James may have listened, for the book of James often parallels the Sermon on the Mount, a discourse not yet been recorded during James’ lifetime. James recognized the marked difference between head knowledge and heart commitment. James also knew that true faith was readily demonstrated through action. In James chapter 2 we see that: Real faith and good deeds are inseparable. Real faith produces good deeds, and good deeds demonstrate real faith. Let’s look at verses 1-13: I. The Avoidance of Partiality (v. 1-13) The first half of chapter 2 condemns the practice of partiality. Favoritism was not shown by Jesus, nor is it found in His teachings. There is no place in Christianity for arrogance or discrimination. Contempt for others because of their birth, race, sex or social status is a contradiction to our faith. In verses 2-4, James provides a vivid description of a rich man and a poor man who enter the church. Each one is shown to a place in the congregation. The rich man is given a prominent seat in the front of the church, while the poor man is offered a place to stand in the back or a place to sit on the floor. It seems like James’ description is an exaggeration. That is, until we look into our own hearts, where we may find our own unkind prejudices. James’ example reminds us that all believers are one in Christ. Within the church there are people of every race, culture, and income. God calls believers to love others in the church without partiality or prejudice. In verses 5-8, James provided 4 reasons why partiality was inappropriate within Christianity. 1.) God has chosen the poor of the world to be heirs of the kingdom (v. 5-6a) Christianity has a special message for the poor; they matter very much to God. In a social system that gave very little to the poor, Jesus’ message was certainly good news. 2.) Do not favor the rich, for they oppressed the church during that time (v. 6b) During the time of Jesus, wealthy money-lenders often took advantage of the poor. Therefore, it was wrong for church members to fawn over a visitor who was wealthy. 3.) Do not favor the rich, for they habitually misused Jesus’ name in speech (v. 7) James pointed out that it was wealthy persons who slandered Christ and insulted believers. Therefore, a church should not favor men who insulted Christ and persecuted believers. 4.) Do not show contempt for others because it breaks the law of loving your neighbor (v. 8) James reminded believers to show kindness to everyone, whether rich or poor. Likewise, we should treat others with love, regardless of their economic standing. God’s law to love your neighbor as yourself means to care for others as we care for ourselves. This means we should be willing to share our possessions with those in need. When we cater to the rich, we do so because we hope for some reward. When we neglect the poor, it is because we do not see a benefit to ourselves in the process. God’s command to love our neighbor clearly forbids selfishness. When we show favoritism we demonstrate selfishness, which is a failure to conform to God’s will. In verses 9 and 10, James points out that breaking one law is the same as breaking them all. Jewish theology of that day would have disagreed by saying that some laws were light and some heavy. James makes it clear that we cannot decide to keep part of God’s law and ignore the rest. If we have broken even one law, we need Christ’s atoning sacrifice for our sin. Mahatma Gandhi was the leader of the Indian Nationalist movement against British rule in India. He was internationally respected for his doctrine of nonviolence to achieve political and social progress. In his autobiography, Gandhi wrote that in his youth he was truly interested in the Bible. Deeply touched by reading the gospels, Gandhi considered becoming a Christian. Christianity seemed to offer the solution to the caste system that divided India’s people. One Sunday Gandhi went to a nearby church to attend services. But when he tried to enter the sanctuary, the ushers refused to allow Gandhi a seat. Gandhi left and never returned. He wrote, “If Christians have caste systems too, I might as well remain a Hindu.” Gandhi said that the gospel would be more effective when practiced than when preached. He used the example of the rose: it does not need to preach, but simply spreads its fragrance. In case we think we don’t discriminate, here are seven questions we can ask ourselves: 1.) Do I show more kindness to members of my own race than to those of other races? 2.) Am I kinder to young people than I am to seniors? 3.) Am I more outgoing towards attractive people? 4.) Am I more anxious to befriend prominent citizens than I am to unknown people? 5.) Do I avoid people with physical infirmities? 6.) Do I favor the rich over the poor? 7.) Do I give the “cold shoulder’ to foreigners who speak with an accent? (Illustration: Working with consultants that answer phone calls out-sourced to other countries. How do I treat them on the phone? Remember: to them we are the “American Christians” on the phone.) Jesus said that the way we treat the least lovable believer reflects our love for the Savior. When we provide for the least of His flock, it is as if we are providing for the Lord. True faith in Jesus is always demonstrated through action. Real faith and good deeds are inseparable. Real faith produces good deeds, and good deeds demonstrate real faith. Let’s look at verses 14-26: II. The Proof of Faith (v. 14-26) Verses 14-26 concern faith and works. These verses are often considered the most controversial in James’ letter. Even the great church father, Martin Luther, struggled with James’ discussion of works. Luther saw a conflict between James’ focus on works and the Apostle Paul’s focus on faith. Unfortunately, James’ verses are often misused to support the lie of salvation by “faith plus works.” James does not advocate that our good deeds add anything to Jesus’ redemptive work. However, James does insist that real faith in Jesus results in good deeds. In verse 14, James introduces an individual who claims to have faith, but does not have deeds. There is nothing in this person’s life that demonstrates faith. One Bible commentator refers to this as “say-so” faith, because it is words without action. Such a faith is worthless. It is not really faith at all, except that the individual says so. In verses 15 and 16, James demonstrates that words alone are worthless. He describes 2 people, one who is hungry and cold, and one who is not. Although the later professes generosity, he demonstrates none. James’ point is that words without works are worthless words. True salvation results in a life of good works. James is not saying that we are saved by “faith plus works.” Teaching salvation by “faith plus works” dishonors the finished work of Christ on the cross. Promoting salvation by “faith plus works” is heresy that advocates two saviors: Jesus and an individual. The Bible is very clear; there is only one Savior. We are not saved by good works; we are saved by the kind of faith that results in good works. In verse 18, James reveals an imaginary conversation between 2 men. The first man is a believer who has faith backed up by a life of good works. The second man claims to have faith, but his works don’t demonstrate it. The first man tells the second that without good works he cannot prove the faith he claims. Faith is invisible; the only way people know we have it, is when our lives demonstrate it. The first man continues in verses 19 and 20. He clarifies that it is not enough to believe in the existence of God; it is essential, but it is not enough. Even demons believe in the existence of God. They shudder at the thought of their eventual punishment by God, but they do not surrender to Him. When a person truly believes in the Lord, that person surrenders to God spirit, soul, and body. This kind of commitment results in a changed life. In the chapter’s remaining verses, James provides 2 Old Testament examples of genuine faith. Abraham and Rahab are great examples of genuine faith that was demonstrated through actions. In Genesis 15, Abraham believed God and was therefore credited with righteousness. It was through Abraham’s faith in God that Abraham was saved. Seven chapters later, in Genesis 22, God put Abraham’s faith to the test. God asked Abraham to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice. Abraham obeyed, and, in doing so, he demonstrated that his faith was genuine. Abraham’s faith was not merely head knowledge; it was a heart commitment True faith and good deeds are inseparable. True faith produces good deeds, and good deeds demonstrate true faith. I love the story of Rahab the harlot. I guess it’s because she was a woman of seemingly little character until she put her faith in God. She kind of reminds me of me. I also admire Rahab because she was no “milk toast;” she was a risk taker. However, I believe Rahab was able to take risks, because she trusted in God for protection. Rahab’s story takes place as Israel prepares to enter the Promised Land and defeat the Canaanites. Rahab had heard reports of Israel’s victories on the east side of the Jordan River. She concluded that the God of the Hebrews was the true God, so Rahab put her faith in Him. When two Israelite spies entered Jericho, Rahab befriended them and hid them on her rooftop. In harboring the spies, Rahab proved the genuineness of her faith. Through Rahab’s heroic actions, the Hebrew spies survived and returned to their camp. Before they left, the spies agreed to save Rahab and her family when Jericho is attacked. Although a harlot and a gentile, Rahab was chosen by God to be an ancestor of Christ. And because James is the brother of Jesus, Rahab is an ancestor of James’ as well. James includes the stories of Abraham and Rahab because their faith was proven by their actions. True faith is always demonstrated through action. Real faith and good deeds are inseparable. Real faith produces good deeds, and good deeds demonstrate real faith. A person receives salvation by faith alone, not by doing good works. But a saved person does good deeds because of their faith. James provides a warning to individuals within the church: He warns those who point to their intellectual standing before God, but do not have good deeds that their faith is no faith at all. And he warns those who are involved in a flurry of church activities, but do not share their faith, that they are hoping to work their way to heaven rather than seek faith in the only One who can save them. It is important that each professing Christian examine one’s heart and be sure of saving faith. Satan is the great deceiver and he can mislead many into thinking they have true faith. Here are 7 questions we can ask ourselves as we examine our hearts: 1.) Was there a time when I honestly realized I was a sinner in need of a Savior? 2.) Do I truly understand the Gospel that Jesus died for my sins and rose again? 3.) Do I recognize that no matter what good deeds I do, I cannot save myself? 4.) Have I repented of my sins and turned from them, or do I secretly enjoy the sins I do? 5.) Do I enjoy a living relationship with Christ and worship Him in Spirit? 6.) Do I have a desire to share Christ with others? 7.) Am I ready for the Lord’s return or will I be ashamed when He comes for me? If faith is proved by action, James is certainly a heroic example. Early historian from the time of James recorded the events that surrounded his death. Persecuted by the Jews of that time, the Roman leader asked James to recant his faith in Jesus. James was to stand atop the wall of Jerusalem and proclaim to be a Christian no longer. Agreeing to the request, James was taken to a high vantage point over Jerusalem. There before a crowd of eager Jews, James proudly proclaimed the gospel of Jesus. James put his faith into action. He put into practice what he believed and what he had taught. And for his evangelism James was pushed from the wall and stoned to death below. James lived what he believed. And he died sharing his saving faith in the Messiah whom James loved and served. Today the words of James cry out from the page to us: Real faith and good deeds are inseparable. Real faith produces good deeds, and good deeds demonstrate real faith. When others watch us, what do they see? Do they see our real faith portrayed in good deeds? Today, will you and I take James’ message to heart and demonstrate our faith by what we do?
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