Monday, July 28, 2008

Where Faith and Action meet

James 2:14 – 26

Where Faith and Action meet.


I.         Many of us are comfortably in control.


            A.        My personal background.


                        1.         Control was an absolute, most of the rules were designed around strict control.


                                    a.         No alcohol (drugs, etc...) because alcohol relaxes a person and causes them to lose control. (Changes personality, date rape drug of choice.)


                                    b.         No dancing because dancing is designed to encourage lust. (Dad pulled me form my elementary school’s spring program because the school planned a “square dancing” section.)


                        2.         Control can make us oblivious to need.


                                    a.         I was not trained to sympathize or empathize with others because these would give others leverage and possible control.


                                    b.         Essentially my family training made me blind to see others needs.


                                                1.)       I miss or am offended by subtlety and hints. (And sometimes directness.)


                                                2.)       I have to be deliberate to sympathize or empathize.


                                                3.)        I have to turn on my “radar” to pick up on needs.


            B.        This is a general problem: Needs make us think.


                        1.         Thinking helps us to stay in control.


                                    a.         James’ illustration:

“Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. [16] If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?” [James 2:15 – 16]


                                                1.)       This assumes the ability to see the need and the ability to do something about the need.


                                                2.)       The meeting of physical needs is part of James’ definition of religion and faith.

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” [James 1:27]


                                    b.         Jesus also had a similar definition. [Matthew 25:34 – 46]


                                                1.)       So does that mean our eternal salvation depends on what we do and do not do with the needs of others?


                                                2.)       According to Jesus, yes. (This was in context of the story of the Master giving talents (unit of money) to his servants and what they did with them.


                        2.         If we allow ourselves to feel any compassion we are in danger of losing control.


                                    a.         Compassion requires our time and resources (which God gave to us to invest... see the story in Matthew 25).


                                    b.         Compassion is not comfortable but it is critical.


II.       When we become disturbed by need we do something.


            A.        Typically we like to wait for the thing to become critical.


                        1.         In other words, we wait until we become annoyed, alarmed, or angry enough to do something.


                                    a.         We might see a need but want someone else to do something about it.


                                    b.         Problem is that it builds a certain frustration level that is expressed in unhealthy ways like complaining, being critical, holding grudges.


                        2.         This is our version of living day to day.


                                    a.         “Today has enough trouble to keep me busy.”


                                    b.         Anything that breaks into “today” is unwelcome.

(Ill.) Wisdom from the mission field: If you get one thing done from your to do list, you’ve had a good day. If you get nothing done on your to do list, you’ve had a better day. (Why? Because you got something done on God’s to do list.)


            B.        James talks about faith and works.


                        1.         We tend to put them on opposite polls.


                                    a.         No one can be saved by works (as opposed to grace)


                                    b.         The Bible is clear: no one can be saved without producing works (sometimes called “fruit”)

“Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” [Matthew 3:8]

“Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” [John 15:4]

“Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. [19] In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.” [1 Timothy 6:18 – 19]

“For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” [Ephesians 2:10]


                        2.         Reality: they are compliments on opposites. Trouble is we have theological traditions that emphasize to the probable exclusion of other important elements of faith. (Source: Dr. Muholland)


                                    a.         “Head” religion, emphasizes TRUTH. (“conservative”)


                                    b.         “Hand” religion, emphasizes COMPASSION. (“social gospel” and “liberation theology”)


                                    c.         “Heart” religion, emphasizes FEELING (and sometimes relationship). (“charismatic” and “holiness”)

***** The existence of someone doing something else and seeing salvation differently questions our existence and means of salvation. *****


            C.        What about Paul’s grace and James’ works?


                        1.         Paul is addressing grace and faith as a means of salvation (beginning). However, Paul understood judgement to be based on our works (result).

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” [2 Corinthians 5:10]

(Also see Romans 2:5 – 8, 1 Corinthians 3:8)


                        2.         James addresses works and faithfulness as the exercise and result of salvation. (Another word for that is sanctification.)


III.      We must allow faith to open our eyes to circumstance.


            A.        “Broken Window” theory.


                        1.         Circumstances (and physical context) not belief or knowledge is the main determination of behavior.


                                    a.         Belief becomes situational, fluid, depending on our rationalizations.


                                    b.         Control becomes the determining factor.


                        2.         Two types of belief:


                                    a.         Belief = knowing.


                                                1.)       “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that--and shudder.” [James 2:19]


                                                2.)       Knowing is not changing or choosing obedience.


                                    b.         Belief = doing.


                                                1.)       “Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? [22] You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.” [vv 21, 22]


                                                2.)       In other words: “You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.” [v 24]

(The other side of this is that works without faith is just as dead.)


            B.        James’ point is that faith is practical.


                        1.         Jesus said, above everything else, the true believer must get two this right.


                                    a.         Love God and love others. [see Matthew 22:37 – 40, Mark 12:30 –31, Luke 10:27]


                                    b.         James implies that service is love.


                        2.         The “love language” of service is the only one the community understands.

(Ill.) Missionary in Taiwan talking to a group of people. They did not have a high opinion of Buddhist monks because “they do nothing to help us.”


                                    a.         Our problem is we are results oriented rather than people oriented.


                                    b.         We check the “bottom line” (buildings, bodies, and budgets) rather than eternal impact. (Often confuse the two thinking they are the same.)


IV.      Somehow we need to let God have control.


            A.        Greek ideal: “apathetic”


                        1.         Stoics believed in the destruction of emotional attachment and involvement.


                        2.         Epicureans believed in abandoning themselves to the pleasure of the moment.


                        3.         Both had the ultimate goal of “apathy.”


            B.        Christian ideal: “action”


                        1.         If you notice a need and have the means, you are required to act compassionately on that need.


                        2.         If God is at work in you, you are required to act on faith.


                                    a.         Look past the circumstances.


                                    b.         Faith = action

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