INTRO.- ILL.- A guy was coming out of church one day, and the preacher was standing at the door as he always is to shake hands. (You know. The preacher’s job is to: shake them in, shake them up, and shake them out!) Well, he grabbed the guy by the hand and pulled him aside.
The preacher said to him, "Hey, brother, you need to join the Army of the Lord!" The man replied, "I’m already in the Army of the Lord, preacher."
The preacher said, , "How come I don’t see you except at Christmas and Easter?" The man whispered back, "I’m in the secret service.”
There are many people who claim to be in the army of the Lord or shall we say, there are many who claim to believe in the Lord and follow the Lord. BUT WHERE’S THE EVIDENCE OF THEIR FAITH?
You can’t tell that some people are Christian by their church attendance because they seldom attend! And you couldn’t tell that others were Christians by their giving, their Christian service or by their witness for Christ, because they may do none of these things.
ILL.- It’s like the story about two professing Christians who worked in the same office for 10 years and neither of them knew the other was a Christian.
One of them said to his minister one time, “Wasn’t it funny that Bill and I were in the same office for 10 years and neither of us knew the other was a Christian until recently?” The minister replied, “Funny?! Why, that’s not funny! It’s tragic! In my opinion neither of you have ever experienced the new birth.”
That preacher may have been a bit extreme in his evaluation of both of those men, however, if a person is truly living their faith in Christ something about their faith is going to show to others!
Matthew 5:14-16 “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”
We are suppose to be the light of the world, but what if our light isn’t shining in some form? Is your light shining for the Lord? Are you doing any good works that point to the Lord? Can people tell that you are a Christian?
Our text in James deals with this very thought.
PROP.- What God is telling us about true faith versus claiming to have faith.
1- Faith demonstrates good
2- Faith believes in God
3- Faith produces righteousness
I. FAITH DEMONSTRATES GOOD
14 What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 15 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? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”
What good is it if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Deeds are the proof of the pudding of the Christian faith.
ILL.- When a distinguished foreigner paid his only visit to America in 1950, a committee of prominent Chicagoans lined up at the railway station to offer official greetings. But the committee noticed that his eyes were not wholly fixed on them. Those penetrating eyes were wandering beyond the encircling committee. Something on the station platform caught his eye amid the crowd of travelers.
With politeness but firmness the great man said to the committee, “Excusez-moi,” (escoosay-mwah or excuse me) and literally dashed past the receptionists. Diving into the crowd, he stopped beside an elderly woman who was staggering under her load of heavy suitcases and extra bundles.
With his big, sensitive hands he grabbed the old woman’s suitcases and bundles and, beckoning her to follow him, he threaded a way through the throngs. He led the woman to the coach she wanted to take, lifted up her suitcases into the overhead rack, and bowing in a courtly manner, wished her, “Bon voyage.”
Then he rushed back to the astounded committee with apologies for keeping them waiting. And that’s the way Dr. Albert L. Schweitzer arrived in America!
That is also kindness in action or we could say, faith in action. And this is what James is talking about when we claim to have faith. That faith must be backed up with good deeds.
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? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”
This illustration of faith is rather obvious.
If someone comes into our church service and they have some obvious physical or material needs such as food and clothing and we just say, “God bless you! I hope you get along well” and do nothing about it then what kind of faith is that?
Would we ever do that? I don’t think our church would do that. I think we would offer help in the form of money or food. Why do I say this? Because we’ve done this many times.
ILL.- I remember one time when a married couple walked into our church just as we were leaving. Good timing, huh? An elder talked to them and I asked him to take them to my office. When we talked to them we found out that they needed money for a motel room or rent, I don’t remember which it was. WHAT TO DO? We helped. I had some cash money in my pocket so I pulled out some money and gave it to them. What else could our elder do but give them money as well?!
When we have the means to do something good for some needy person, we must! It’s a part of an active faith.
Galatians 6:9-10 “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”
II. FAITH BELIEVES IN GOD
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.
You believe there is one God. Genuine faith believes in the one, true living God.
ILL.- The story is told of the atheist who accosted a preacher. "Do you believe in eternal life?" The preacher has no time to reply. "Well its a load of rubbish!" shouted the atheist.
"I believe in science, evolution, survival of the fittest, and when we die, that’s it! No eternal life, no great judgment, and no God!"
The atheist continues his assault against the preacher. "Eternal life! Eternal life! Ha! It’s all pie in the sky when you die. When I die that’s it, the end, no eternal life, no nothing.”
He continues, "I will be buried six feet under when I die and that’s it! Nothing! Caput! When I die I am utterly convinced that that will be the end of me!" The preacher replied, "Well, thank God for that!”
The end of those who do not believe in the one true living God will not be the end. Not according to the scriptures that we know.
Revelation 20:11-15 11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15 If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
While we don’t like the sound of this scripture, we realize this is true because this is the Word of the living God. We’re in sales, not management so we have nothing to do with this matter.
The only thing we can do is try very hard to keep people from experiencing the second death and there is only one way and Jesus is that way!
We must work at pointing people to the one true living God and Jesus as the Savior of the world!
I Peter 3:15 “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”
What about believing in the one God? Well, we do believe in the one true living God. We don’t believe in many gods as some people might believe.
Acts 17:16 While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. 22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you. 24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else.
30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.”
Paul told the truth and pretty much tells the story for us as well. There is only one true God who made heaven and earth.
19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. It’s good that we believe in the one true God. But please remember that the demons also believe in Him. The devil himself believes in God. The devil and his demons believe and shudder. Why? Because someday they are going to get “come uppins” as some say!
Revelation 20:10 “And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.”
The devil and his demons should shudder because they don’t or won’t obey God. They won’t submit to Him and do His will BUT WE MUST! If we’re smart, we will!
ILL.- G.K. Chesterton once said that it is often supposed that when people stop believing in God, they believe in nothing. Alas, it is worse than that. When they stop believing in God, they believe in anything. That’s true for many people today.
III. FAITH PRODUCES RIGHTEOUSNESS
20 You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? 21 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. 23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. 24 You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone. 25 In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? 26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.
Faith produces a relationship with God which in turn produces right living in us or righteousness.
Romans 3:21-22 “But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.”
Genuine faith produces righteousness in us.
ILL. - In his book I Surrender, Patrick Morley writes that the church’s integrity problem is in the misconception "that we can add Christ to our lives, but not subtract sin. It is a change in belief without a change in behavior." He goes on to say, "It is revival without reformation, without repentance."
Genuine faith produces righteousness in us. Belief equals proper behavior or righteous living. If we truly believe in Christ and surrender to Him we can’t help but want to live right. If we want to live in sin, then our relationship to Christ is not right. Something is missing. What? A lack of repentance. A lack of true surrender and submission to the will of God.
Having a genuine relationship to Christ WILL make a difference in our lives! We may not always do right but we will want to do right and live right!
ILL.- Dr. Charles Weigle composed the favorite song,“No One Ever Cared for Me Like Jesus.” One day he visited Pasadena, California. Early that morning he had an opportunity to walk through some of the famous rose gardens when the full fragrance of the flowers filled the air.
Later in the day he arrived at the hotel where a Bible conference was being held. As he took his seat, a man turned to him and said, “Dr. Weigle, I know where you’ve been. You toured one of our lovely gardens, for I can smell the pleasing aroma on your clothing.”
Weigle then said, “My prayer is that I may walk so closely with the Lord that the fragrance of His grace will pervade my being. I want them to know by my words, actions, and songs that I have been with Jesus.”
That’s the way it will be if we truly walk with Him. The sweet smell of His life will be seen by others.
Acts 4:13 “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.”
As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.
Wow! When the spirit leaves the human body it’s dead. And when deeds are not present in our lives then there is no faith. Good deeds are the proof of our faith in the one true living God! We can claim all we want but the proof of our faith is in the doing, the actions, the deeds.
Steve Shepherd, Jonesboro Christian Church, AR