Summary: A different look at the balance of faith and works
Concordia Lutheran Church
14th Sunday of Pentecost, August 6, 2009
James 2:1-10, 14-18
† IN THE NAME OF JESUS †
James encourages the church, “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. Jas 1:2 (NLT)
Blessed Assurance??? Why
We just sang a hymn, written by someone whose faith was tested, and who endured, and whose works testify, not just of her faith, but of God’s faithfulness to her.
Born before the civil war, this lady had to endure prejudice, blinded by a doctor at 6 weeks old, she had to learn in a setting that discouraged women, and especially the handicapped. Her father died when she was just a year old, so she was raised in poverty by her mother and grandmother. With all that, she wrote hymns like Blessed Assurance, and To God be the Glory.
As we are talking about faith and works today, one of her comments seems so relevant, “It seemed intended by the blessed providence of God that I should be blind all my life, and I thank him for the gift. If perfect earthly sight were offered me tomorrow I would not accept it. I might not have sung hymns to the praise of God if I had been distracted by the beautiful and interesting things about me.”
This is the kind of faith that James wants to see develop in the people to whom he writes this letter. The kind of faith that when challenged, endures. Not because of some internal strength, but because of in Whom we have faith.
As we walk through these verses, talking through James very practical view of faith, I pray that we shall see what the hymn writer saw, the blessed assurance that Christ is yours, and you are His.
Show me the Contradiction!
Faith versus Works
Luther’s comment – faith saves without, but always has
But works can show a contradiction of faith…
For some reason that escapes me, people often see a contradiction between our epistle lesson this morning, and the rest of scripture, especially Paul’s epistles. The view points out that faith and works are contradictory, not compatible. It may be that this is one of those things that is too simple for some to grasp? People are quick to point out that Martin Luther found the Epistle of James challenging in his early ministry – so challenging that he once wrote that it didn’t need to be part of scripture.
We know that works don’t enter the picture in regards to saving us. We proclaim that it is neither by our own reason or strength that we are saved. That makes sense – one is saved, delivered, rescued because they cannot do it themselves. Our most insistent claim as Lutheran Christians is that we are saved alone by God’s grace, by having faith in Christ alone. It is the reason we are not Roman Catholics, and it often separates us from the Protestants as well.
Yet that doesn’t mean that faith is without works! For faith doesn’t appear to save us, and then never appear again. Luther, later in his ministry, puts it this way, ““Without works” is ambiguous, then. For that reason this argument settles nothing. It is one thing that faith justifies without works; it is another thing that faith exists without works”
Hear that last part again, “It is one thing that faith justifies without works; it is another thing that faith exists without works”
Luther agrees with James – don’t divide that which your trust in Christ would have you do, from the very trust in Christ you have! Yes – we are justified, we are accounted righteous completely as God’s gift – and that gift is that we are given the ability to trust in Christ’s work. Yet, there are things which, if we trust in Christ, will come naturally to us.
Show me Faith in Christ by works
Show me Wash on- wash off…
Prayer, Worship, Bible Study, it develops
The lady desperate to help her daughter
The more zealously they proclaim it…
Twenty-five years ago, in a movie now relegated to Classic movie channels, the Karate Kid learned a lesson about faith- it equips you to do things! The martial arts master had him do all these repetitive jobs, well it’s easier to remake the scene. Let’s see, I need a deacon volunteer….
(do wash on, wash off scene)
Twenty-five years old that scene is… wow…
Even more than repetitive wash on and wash off, the joy-filled, faith re-inforcing disciplines of Christian life, reading the Bible, spending time with our Master in prayer, worshipping Him because of what He does, all these things prepare us to serve those in need around us. For the more time we spend with Him, the more we see His work, the more we realize that we can help others, because we know He will see us through.