June 3, 2007
Immanuel Baptist Church, Wagoner, OK
Message Point: Works prove our faith, not vice a versa.
Focus Passage: James 2:14-26
Supplemental Passage: Ephesians 2:8-9
Dear friends, do you think you'll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it? For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, "Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!" and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup--where does that get you? Isn't it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense? I can already hear one of you agreeing by saying, "Sounds good. You take care of the faith department, I'll handle the works department." Not so fast. You can no more show me your works apart from your faith than I can show you my faith apart from my works. Faith and works, works and faith, fit together hand in glove. Do I hear you professing to believe in the one and only God, but then observe you complacently sitting back as if you had done something wonderful? That's just great. Demons do that, but what good does it do them? Use your heads! Do you suppose for a minute that you can cut faith and works in two and not end up with a corpse on your hands? Wasn't our ancestor Abraham "made right with God by works" when he placed his son Isaac on the sacrificial altar? Isn't it obvious that faith and works are yoked partners, that faith expresses itself in works? That the works are "works of faith"? The full meaning of "believe" in the Scripture sentence, "Abraham believed God and was set right with God," includes his action. It's that mesh of believing and acting that got Abraham named "God's friend." Is it not evident that a person is made right with God not by a barren faith but by faith fruitful in works? The same with Rahab, the Jericho harlot. Wasn't her action in hiding God's spies and helping them escape--that seamless unity of believing and doing--what counted with God? The very moment you separate body and spirit, you end up with a corpse. Separate faith and works and you get the same thing: a corpse.
Problem: Many folks think you have to earn your way to Heaven.
I. Real faith is not just something you say: (verse 14)
"Not everybody who says to me `Lord, Lord' is going to enter into the kingdom of heaven."
II. Real faith is not just something you feel. (verses 15-16)
Old Peanuts cartoon, with Snoopy outside shivering in the cold. “Be of good cheer”.
III. Real faith is not just something you think. (verse 18)
"Faith is like calories. You can't see them but you can sure see the results."
IV. Real faith is not just something you believe. (verse 19)
Demons shudder (or hair stands up on end). Believe in Hitler, but not a Nazi. Many will miss heaven by 18 inches, for they believed in their head but not their heart.
V. Real faith IS something you DO!
a. Abraham (vs. 20-24)
b. Rahab (vs. 25)
Our faith is not determined by what we do, it is demonstrated by what we do. About 35 years ago there was a famous tightrope walker named George Blondin who, for a publicity stunt, decided he would walk across Niagara Falls on a tightrope. On the appointed day they stretched a tightrope from one side of Niagara Falls to the other. He got out there and there were crowds lining both the Canadian and American side. Thousands of people showed up to see this unbelievable feat. Blondin walked up to the edge of the tightrope, put one foot on the tightrope and put another foot out and began to walk across -- inch-by-inch, step-by-step. He got out in the middle and everybody knew that if he'd make one mistake in balance he'd fall off the rope and into the Falls and obviously be killed. Blondin got to the other side and the crowd went wild, shouting and cheering. Blondin said, "I'm going to do it again." He got to the other side and the crowds went crazy. Blondin said, "I'm going to do it again but this time I'm going to push a wheel barrow full of dirt." He pushes the wheelbarrow across. He got to the other side. He did this nine or ten times. On about the tenth time, he pushed the wheelbarrow right in front of a tourist who said, "I believe you could do that all day." Blondin dumped out the dirt and said, "Get into the wheelbarrow."
In a very real sense that's what God says to you. Talk is cheap. Put your money where your mouth is. "I believe in Jesus!" Prove it. Our faith is demonstrated by our actions. Actions speak louder than words. Our behavior shows what we really believe.
In the closing moments of this time together, some of you have been struggling with doubts about whether you have really been a believer or not. You say, "I don't really remember a time when I specifically asked the Lord to take over my life. I've believed about Christ. Maybe I've never really believed in Him. I want to settle it today." If you're not sure, if you've got those doubts, settle it this morning. What does it mean to believe? It means to commit yourself to. It's more than just intellectual knowledge. After all, the devil believes in God. It means commitment.