Summary: This five part sermon series explores the book of James, which is all about where the rubber meets the road, and discovers what real faith looks like in real life. Each sermon is expository and alliterated. Power point is available.
Real Faith for Real Life: James Two
Scott Bayles, pastor
Blooming Grove Christian Church: 10/7/2012
You’ve probably heard it a hundred times. It’s one of the oldest preacher stories around. But one day long ago, a world-renowned tightrope walker came to Niagara Falls and stretched his rope across the thunderous currents from the United States to Canada. Right before the eyes of the breathless crowds, he walked, ran, even tiptoed across the chasm. He did the same blindfold. Then, still blindfolded, he pushed a wheelbarrow across the falls.
The crowd went wild when the aerialist shouted, “Who believes I can push a man in this wheelbarrow across these falls?”
One rather enthusiastic gentleman in the front of the crowd waved his hand in the air, shouting, “I do! I believe!”
“Then,” said the tightrope walker, “climb on in!” Wide-eyed, like a deer caught in the headlights, the once eager spectator dropped his hand and slinked back into the crowd. His eager agreement didn’t quite translate into real faith.
Faith. What is faith really? Ask five different people and you’ll probably get five different answers. I have a friend on Facebook who happens to be an ardent atheist and she occasionally makes little jabs at people of faith. A while back she posted a quote that said, “People don’t need to constantly build up or strengthen their faith in things they know exist.” She followed that up by saying “Faith is just believing in something for which there is no proof.” That kind of thinking just shows a complete misunderstanding of real faith.
Let me put it this way. I have faith that my wife loves me. I’m kind of needy, so I do need frequent reassurance of that fact. There may even be times that I doubt her love. Maybe she acts in an unloving way. Maybe we get into an argument over something stupid. Her love isn’t perfect. Neither is mine. You can’t put her love for me in a test tube or submit it to scientific testing. But I have good reasons to believe my wife loves me. For one, she tells me every day. She shows it in the way she kisses me, the way she looks at me, the way she cooks for me, and thousand other ways. I can’t see it, touch it, or smell it, but I have faith that she loves me.
Faith in God isn’t all that different. You can’t see God, touch him, or smell him. You can’t put God in a test tube. And sometimes your faith will need built up or strengthened. But there are good reasons to believe in God—the fact that there is something rather than nothing, the fine-tuning of the universe, the existence of objective moral values, the person of Jesus Christ, personal experience and so much more. And faith is essential to our relationship with God. In fact, the Bible says, “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6 NIV). If faith is so important to God, then it’s vital for us to have a good handle on the full meaning of biblical faith.
What kind of faith is God looking for?
Last week we started this series through the book of James we’re calling Real Faith for Real Life. In the first chapter, James talks about how real faith helps us persevere through trouble, to overcome temptation, and to apply truth to our lives. In chapter two, James goes about defining real faith for real life. He identifies three types of faith, only one of which he calls real saving faith.
• DEAD FAITH
The first type of faith James describes is a dead faith. Here’s what he has to say about it:
My brothers and sisters, if people say they have faith, but do nothing, their faith is worth nothing. Can faith like that save them? A brother or sister in Christ might need clothes or food. If you say to that person, “God be with you! I hope you stay warm and get plenty to eat,” but you do not give what that person needs, your words are worth nothing. In the same way, faith that is alone—that does nothing—is dead. (James 2:14-17 NCV).
This reminds me of a Peanuts comic strip where Charlie Brown and Linus come across Snoopy shivering out in the snow. Charlie says, “Snoopy looks kind of cold, doesn’t he?” Linus replies, “I’ll say. Maybe we’d better go over and comfort him.” They walk over to Snoopy, pat his head, and Charlie Brown say, “Be of good cheer, Snoopy.” Linus adds, “Yes, be of good cheer.” Then, in the final frame, the boys are walking away, still bundled up in their winter coats and Snoopy is still shivering in the snow with a thought balloon over his head with a big question mark, as if to say, “What? That’s it?”