Summary: Something is missing from the church today, and people are starting to notice. Too often the church fails to offer what it advertises: life.

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1. Something is happening (Preview to a Vision week 1)

January 10, 2010

A Faith without Works is Dead

About 40 years ago there was a famous tightrope walker named George Blondin. As a publicity stunt he decided to 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 stepped out as he began to walk across inch by inch, step by step. When he reached the middle everyone knew that if he’d make one mistake he’d fall off the rope and into the Falls to his death. Blondin did not fall. He 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 pushed the wheelbarrow across and made it safely to the other side then he turned around and pushed it back across the other way. 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, "Really? Get in." You think he actually got in?

Sometimes what we say we believe and what we actually believe are not the same thing. That tourist may have truly believed Blondin could push a wheelbarrow across the tightrope in fact he had seen him do it. Yet he did not believe enough to act on it. It is not as if we can blame him though, you would have to be crazy to get in a wheelbarrow like that. It seems that we have gotten to a point where we are comfortable separating belief and action, faith and deed. Often times we look at faith as merely trust, ignoring the fact that faith is also obedience. There is a difference between saying we have faith and really having it. Faith is intimately connected to salvation but how exactly faith works and the role that it plays in the salvation process has become the subject of significant controversy. On one side we have James who talks of faith in chapter 2 verse 14 of his epistle. On the other side there is Paul. Paul indicates throughout his epistles that salvation is not found in works but is received through faith alone. If we look at James 2 however we see that his stance seems to contradict what Paul says. In fact it is primarily for this reason that German scholar known for beginning the reformation says that James is a book of straw and should be removed from the Scriptures all together. But perhaps there is a middle ground a way these two seeming contradictions can be rectified. Look at James 2:

Jas 2:14 What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Jas 2:15 Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. Jas 2:16 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? Jas 2:17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. Jas 2:18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. Jas 2:19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. Jas 2:20 You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless ? Jas 2:21 Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? Jas 2:22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. Jas 2:23 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. Jas 2:24 You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone. Jas 2:25 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? Jas 2:26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

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