Summary: This is about living faith.
How do you check to see if someone is alive? You check for vital signs. You check their pulse. You find out if the person is breathing. You may check for blood pressure. You might ask if the person can move their fingers or toes. You may even holler out the person’s name. There are several ways to check to see if someone is alive.
What about our faith? Are there ways to see if our faith is alive and well? What are the vital signs of faith?
There are three types of faith: dead, disguised, and dynamic. We are going to explore these this morning.
Turn with me to James 2.
Read James 2:13-26.
The first type of faith that James examines is…
I. DEAD faith.
James’ idea of faith involves the notion of doing good deeds. It goes beyond ritual and rule following. James is not saying that keeping a set of rules or following a ritual is the answer. Those things are okay, but that is not what saves us.
I’ve heard an old saying, “A dead dog won’t hunt.” A dead dog is useless. A dead faith is…
A. USELESS faith
A dead dog is pretty much useless. In fact it’s a liability. If you have a dead dog lying in the front yard, it’s going to attract vultures and other critters. It’s a great place to grow disease and other junk. Then you have the wonderful odor of rotting dog permeating the air. There’s nothing like the smell of a rotting dog on hot summer afternoon.
What do you think dead faith smells like to God? Look at verses 15 and 16. Read verses 15 & 16.
This is the picture of dead faith. What good does it do someone to say, “Hey, good luck with finding food”? That hasn’t done one bit of good to feed that person. That’s like saying, “I feel your pain” then turning around and doing nothing.
The question to ask is, “Will the person to whom that is said believe that you have any faith at all?” It doesn’t matter how sincere the words are. They may come from a heart of genuine concern and love, but when they are not backed up by action they are meaningless words. When we leave that person they are just as hungry as they were when we first saw them.
James is talking about someone that was known to the readers. This is a brother or sister. This is not someone halfway around the world. This is someone we know. This is a friend, neighbor or co-worker, and we tell them, “See you later. I hope everything works out for you.”
That is dead faith. We may say we have faith, but it is dead. If our dog is dead, we can still say that we have a dog, but it is still dead. Dead things are of no use.
James looks next at…
B. USEFUL faith.
In verse 18, James is anticipating an argument that would arise as a result of what he just wrote. James says that you cannot prove faith without something to back it up. Anyone can say they have faith, but the words are empty if they aren’t backed up.
I can say that I am a professional baseball player, but you likely aren’t going to believe that until you see how well I play or don’t play. The best athletes in the world don’t have to talk on and on about how good they are. They let their performance show how good they are. When an athlete starts talking about how great they are, that probably means that their skills are slipping.
I remember a basketball game that I played in when I was in sixth grade. Lincoln Elementary was playing Webster Elementary. It was an incredible battle. We won the game 42-0. If anyone from Webster Elementary started talking about how good they were, all we had to do was point at the scoreboard. That told the story. No amount of talk could change the fact that they did not score one basket, not even a free throw.
No amount of talk about how much faith we have can change the fact that we don’t bother to show it. Faith is only alive to the point that we can demonstrate that there are vital signs and it is useful
I can say that I am the greatest whatever, but it means nothing until I demonstrate it.
James now turns his attention to…
II. DISGUISED faith.
Halloween is coming up in a little over a month, and the little ones will be clamoring for costumes. The girls can put on disguises and pretend to be a ballerina or princess. The boys can be Spiderman or Bob the Builder. For a night they can pretend to be something they’re not.