Summary: A sermon on James 5:13-20.

Sermon on James 5:13-20; Pastor Edgar Mayer; Wilsonton/Glencoe Parish; 28.1.01; 4th Epiphany.

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"Heavenly Father, let us not be so satisfied with our salvation that we do not go further

and experience the life of saved people. Amen."

Make The Most

We Christians get it wrong sometimes. Especially Lutherans sum up their faith by saying: "We are justified through grace by faith." What cannot be earned, what no human can achieve, God grants as a gift to those who believe – a life deemed to be just, blameless as far as God is concerned. The Bible confirms: " ... a peson is justified by faith apart from observing any commandments ... " (Romans 3:21-31; cf. Ephesians 2:8-10). That’s great. Good on Lutherans to get it right. And yet, our insights not withstanding we get it wrong sometimes.

We are justified through grace by faith, but what comes after justification? God loves us. Therefore he declares us innocent in the sense that we become free from punishment – justified. But is that all? Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we not sometimes like prisoners who receive the judge’s pardon but then never leave prison? What convict celebrates new-found freedom behind bars? We do. That’s what we seem to do when God declares us innocent and free but then we remain set in our ways and let old sins keep us in the same old prison of desolate lives. In the Bible Paul writes to people such as these: "You crazy lot! Did someone put a hex on you? Have you taken leave of your senses" (Galatians 3:1); "Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you." No harness must imprison you and I. God justified us through grace by faith and therefore we can live as free people.

How? Forgive me for asking: How do we do that? We may be justified but anyone in touch with reality knows: we are still sinners. This side of eternity our base instincts remain active. Sex, money and power tempt vulnerable souls and make us engage in self-destructive behaviour. How can our justification become something that we live every day? How can we be free?

That question is not an easy question. – We need to learn from the story of our forgiveness. We need to learn about Jesus Christ. The Bible says: " ... Christ carried the burden of our sins. He was nailed to the cross, so that we would stop sinning and start living right. By his cuts and bruises you are healed ... " (1 Peter 2:22-25).

The death of Jesus – what dark phenomena but deep reality. God used nails to grant forgiveness. God nailed our sin to the cross in the body of Jesus. God drives nails through sin and leaves evil for dead on the cross. That means: the cross of Christ is our victory. Listen to the Bible: "God wiped out the charges that were against you ... He took them away and nailed them to the cross. There Christ defeated all powers and forces ... " (Colossians 2:14-15); "You died with Christ. Now the forces of the universe haven’t got any power over you ... " (Colossians 2:20).

We come back to our earlier question: How can our justification/our declared innocence/our beauty before God become something that we live every day? How can we be free from the wiles of sin? How can we become freed prisoners that actually leave prison? The question remains difficult but down-to-earth. Tell me how to live. We don’t want scholarly answers that speculate about abstract hypotheses. We want to know the grace and power of the Christian life-style.

Listen to the answer: Our freedom comes from the cross. Even though sex, money and power still seduce the complacent, our freedom comes from the cross and our freedom leads to life-giving changes. I remind you of the previous Bible verses: "On the cross Christ defeated all powers and forces. Now the forces of the universe haven’t got any power over you ... " Wow! If that’s the truth of God, then we may transform our lives accordingly.

Through the cross of Christ we are justified and forgiven. And then it seems, we can use the cross of Christ as the source of ongoing life-style changes. If Christ defeated all powers and forces on the cross, then it would seem logical to bring to the cross all powers and forces that continue to oppress us. At the foot of the cross we ask for its victory: "God, I know that my sin is nailed to the cross and Jesus died for me. Therefore, please take away what hurts me still."

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