Is Your Faith Alive?

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Christianity Where the Rubber Meets the Road

Part 6: Is Your Faith Alive?

James 2:14-26

Sermon by Rick Crandall

Grayson Baptist Church - March 18, 2012

*Is your faith alive? -- This is an extremely important question, and James helps give us the answer.

1. He helps us first of all, by giving us 2 pictures of dead faith.

*In vs. 14, James asks: “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?” In other words: “Can that kind of faith save him?” -- Can dead faith save him?”

*The obvious answer is: “No,” and James gives two pictures to prove his point.

[1] In the first picture we see deserted saints.

*That’s what James shows us in vs. 15&16, where he said:

15. If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food,

16. and one of you says to them, "Depart in peace, be warmed and filled," but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?

*How much good do those empty words do? -- They do no good at all.

*Words are important, but actions really do speak louder than words. And our words without action are worthless and dead. So in vs. 17&18, James says:

17. Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

18. But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works." Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.

*James McHenry told the story of a woman who went shopping in New York City some years ago. There she noticed a young boy shivering in the cold November weather. His face was pressed against a store window, looking at a pair of shoes.

*She asked the boy what he was doing out in the cold, and he replied, “I was asking God to give me a pair of those shoes.”

*She glanced down and saw that his shoes were falling apart. So this kind, Christian lady wrapped her arm around the boy and led him into the store. She picked out several pairs of socks and asked the clerk to bring a pair of shoes like the boy wanted. In a few minutes, he was walking around in his new shoes.

*She paid for everything, turned for the door and said, “You’ll be lot more comfortable now.”

-Then the little boy looked up at her and asked, “Are you God’s wife?” (1)

*No. -- She was God’s child, with a living faith that would not desert a little boy in need. That’s the kind of living faith we all need.

*Is my faith alive? -- James wants us to know, so he gave us pictures of dead faith. The first picture showed us deserted saints.

[2] And the second picture shows us devilish spirits.

*We can see them in vs. 19, where James said: “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe -- and tremble!”

*The devils also believe, and tremble. Do the devils believe in Jesus Christ? -- Absolutely. In Mark 1:21-27, Jesus and His followers:

21. . . went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and taught.

22. And they were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

23. Now there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit. And he cried out,

24. saying, "Let us alone! What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Did You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!"

25. But Jesus rebuked him, saying, "Be quiet, and come out of him!"

26. And when the unclean spirit had convulsed him and cried out with a loud voice, he came out of him.

27. Then they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, "What is this? What new doctrine is this? For with authority He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him."

*Then we find the story of a pitiful man who was tormented by so many demons that they called themselves “Legion,” and a Roman legion could have as many as 6,000 men. Listen to account from Mark 5:1-13.

1. Then they came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gadarenes.

2. And when He had come out of the boat, immediately there met Him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit,

3. who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no one could bind him, not even with chains,

4. because he had often been bound with shackles and chains. And the chains had been pulled apart by him, and the shackles broken in pieces; neither could anyone tame him.

5. And always, night and day, he was in the mountains and in the tombs, crying out and cutting himself with stones.

6. When he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and worshiped Him.

7. And he cried out with a loud voice and said, "What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God that You do not torment me."

8. For He said to him, "Come out of the man, unclean spirit!"

9. Then He asked him, "What is your name?" And he answered, saying, "My name is Legion; for we are many."

10. Also he begged Him earnestly that He would not send them out of the country.

11. Now a large herd of swine was feeding there near the mountains.

12. So all the demons begged Him, saying, "Send us to the swine, that we may enter them."

13. And at once Jesus gave them permission. Then the unclean spirits went out and entered the swine (there were about two thousand); and the herd ran violently down the steep place into the sea, and drowned in the sea.

*There is no question that the demons believe in Jesus. But they don’t BELONG to Jesus and that’s the big difference. When we put our faith in Jesus Christ, we belong to Him.

-And our faith should be alive, because Jesus is alive!

-Our faith should be alive, because Jesus is living in us.

-And our faith should be alive, because made us a new creation with His eternal life.

*Of course, we still have to grow in Christ. We still have to learn how to walk in this new life. John Newton once put it something like this: “I am not what I might be, I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I wish to be, I am not what I hope to be. But I thank God I am not what I once was, and I can say with the great apostle, ‘By the grace of God I am what I am.’” (2)

*Is your faith alive? -- James wants us to know, so he gave us 2 pictures of dead faith.

2. But James also gives us 2 pictures of living faith.

[1] The first picture of living faith is Abraham.

*Abraham was called the friend of God, and we see his living faith in vs. 21-24. There James asked:

21. Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?

22. Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?

23. And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." And he was called the friend of God.

24. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.

*How do we know that Abraham’s faith was alive? -- The original story back in Genesis 22 helps us see.

1-First we know that Abraham’s faith was alive because he followed God. And we see Abraham following the Lord in Genesis 22:1-3:

1. Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham, and said to him, "Abraham!" And he said, "Here I am."

2. Then He said, "Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you."

*If any man told us to do that, we would call 911!

-We’d be getting our shotgun.

-We would fight like a tiger.

-We would do anything to keep that from happening.

*But it wasn’t a man who commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son. It was God. And in Genesis 22:3, we read: “So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son; and he split the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him.”

*Abraham followed God’s command, even when it was extremely difficult to do.

-Even when it was the hardest thing he ever had to do, Abraham followed God.

-He got up early in the morning and did exactly what the Lord asked him to do.

-Abraham followed God’s command just as soon and as far as he possibly could.

*We know his faith was alive because he followed God.

2-But we also know Abraham’s faith was alive, because he put his future in God’s hands. We see in truth in vs. 4&5:

4. Then on the third day Abraham lifted his eyes and saw the place afar off.

5. And Abraham said to his young men, "Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you."

*Abraham told those young men: "Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and WE will come back to you."

-All of Abraham’s hopes and dreams for the future were wrapped up in Isaac.

-All of the hopes of the world were wrapped up in God’s promise that the Messiah would come as a descendant of Isaac.

*Now those hopes seemed dashed as Abraham was about to kill his only son. But Abraham put it all in the Hand of God. He trusted God! And he knew that somehow God would make a way for Isaac to make it back home.

*We know that Abraham’s faith was alive, because he put his future in God’s hands.

3-But we also know Abraham’s faith was alive, because he put his family in God’s hands. We see this part of Abraham’s faith demonstrated in vs. 7-10:

7. But Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, "My father!" And he said, "Here I am, my son." Then he said, "Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?"

8. And Abraham said, "My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering." So the two of them went together.

9. Then they came to the place of which God had told him. And Abraham built an altar there and placed the wood in order; and he bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, upon the wood.

10. Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.

*What faith! -- Abraham raised the knife to kill his son. And he would have done it too. Abraham had living faith:

-Trusting God enough to follow...

-Trusting God enough to put his future in God’s hands...

-Trusting God enough to put his family in God’s hands...

*And God came through, just as He always does. God provided a Lamb!

*Look again at what happened in vs. 10-13:

10. Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.

11. But the Angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, "Abraham, Abraham!'' And he said, "Here I am.''

12. And He said, "Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.''

13. Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son.

*God provided a Lamb! -- A ram in a thicket, caught by its horns. I wonder if those were the same kind of thorns used to make the crown of thorns our Lord would wear almost 2,000 years later.

*God provided a ram to take Isaac’s place. And God provided His Son Jesus Christ to take our place of death.

*Jesus is the perfect Lamb of God who died for our sins. And, of course, there is another picture of our Savior in this story: Isaac, the son of Abraham.

*Michael Card once sang, “What Abraham was asked to do, He's done. He's offered His only Son.” (3)

-So we see Isaac, the only begotten son carrying the wood on his back, as Jesus carried His cross for us.

-We see 25-year-old Isaac allowing his father to bind him and lay him on the wood, just as Jesus willingly laid down His life for us on the cross.

*Putting all this together, we can understand Heb 11:17-19:

17. By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son,

18. of whom it was said, "In Isaac your seed shall be called,''

19. accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense.

*Jesus came back from the dead, just as surely as Isaac walked back down Mount Moriah. And now our Risen Savior offers salvation to all who will put their faith in Him.

*Here James gives us 2 pictures of living faith. The first picture is Abraham, the friend of God.

[2] But oddly enough, the second picture of living faith is Rahab the harlot.

*There is no way that we can do justice to Rahab tonight. But Lord willing, someday we will take a good look at her living faith.

*Rahab went from being a harlot to a hero of our faith. Here’s what James said about her in vs. 25-26:

25. Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?

26. For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

*Christians, God wants us to have a living faith, faith that takes care of other people. And like Abraham:

-Faith that trusts God enough to follow where He leads.

-Faith that trusts God enough to put his future in His hands.

-And faith that trusts God enough to put our families in His hands.

*Pastor William Sangster demonstrated this kind of faith in a remarkable way during World War II. William was the leader of the Methodist church in England.

*Every Sunday 3000 people would fill the church to hear William preach. Every night people came to sleep in his church, because the basement was fortified against the Nazi bombs. When the basement shelter was filled, William and his family slept upstairs in the men’s room of the church. They exposed themselves to great danger, so that other people could have their space in the bomb shelter.

*William later went all over the world serving Christ. Once someone asked what impressed William the most on his many travels. He replied that his greatest impression was that he had not seen any atheist homes for orphan children or hospitals for the poor. On the other hand, in countless countries and unexpected places, William had encountered Christians reaching out to help. (4)

*These are the kinds of things that flow out of a living faith.

*May God help us to have a living faith in Him!

-Because He is always worthy of our trust!

*Let’s go to the Lord in prayer.

1. Source: In Other Words, Fall 1999, p. 15 - produced by Dr. Raymond McHenry - 6130 Barrington - Beaumont, Texas 77706 (800) 553-4697 -


3. "God Will Provide A Lamb" by Michael Card

4. Adapted from sermon “Do This And Live!” by King Duncan - Luke 10:25-37 and online sermon “Why I Am an Optimist” by Rodney Buchanan - Psalm 46 1-7 - Nov 23, 2003

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