Functional Faith

James  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented
0 ratings



Hi everyone! If you’re new here, welcome. If you’re not, welcome back. My name is Bruce. My wife Gwen and I are a couple of the leaders here with the Young Adult ministry. If I haven’t met you before, come say “Hi” afterwards. I’d love to meet you.
Before we get started, I have a couple of announcements to make.
Thanks to everyone who volunteered for Parents Night Out.

Aesthetic Muscle Illustration

Who here knows what Aesthetic muscles are?
Aesthetic muscles are muscles that exist primarily for the purpose of looking good.
Body Builders are a great example of people who have aesthetic muscles.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying these people aren’t strong.
But what I am getting at is the idea that at some point aesthetic muscle can become detrimental to a person’s overall fitness.
Often times it leads to muscle tightness, lack of flexibility and range of motion, and lack of speed.
You ever think about how a body builder can’t even scratch their own back? Their biceps are too big.
They get in the way. To some extent, they are trading functionality for aesthetics.
A friend of mine was in the US Navy, and he was attached to a Navy Seal unit.
You know what was one of his biggest takeaways from working with the Seals?
Almost none of them looked like what you see on TV.
They didn’t look like The Rock. They weren’t huge.
The vast majority of them looked like ordinary dudes. Like you and me. They were just ordinary people.
But what they had was an EXTRAordinary ability to use their bodies the way they were designed to be used.
That’s what led them to be successful, not big aesthetic muscles, but an ability to use what they have in the best way for the situation at hand.
They were able to effectively function with what they have.
And tonight, I want to pose the question to you:
Do you have a faith that is primarily aesthetic, focusing more on appearance and reputation and the image that you put forth as a Christian or a churchgoer, a faith that appears only on your Instagram REELS.
Or do you have a REAL faith that produces the righteousness of God in YOUR life and fruit in the lives of people around you.
Do you have a an aesthetic faith or a functional faith?
How do you know if your faith is REAL?
I want to help answer that question tonight.

Three Points

Receive the Word
Live the Word
Give the Word

Scripture Reading

So open your Bibles to James 1:19-27 — and let’s learn some cool things about our God.
James 1:19–27 ESV
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

Receive the Word (v. 21)

v. 21: Receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls
James does this really cool thing with his words. He uses them very carefully.
This (v. 21) is a callback to both verses 14-15 and verse 18, where James uses language of pregnancy and childbirth.
V. 14-15: He talks about sin. Our own sinful desire entices/lures us into temptation, then it conceives, and it GIVES BIRTH to sin, which ultimately brings forth (Greek: “apu-ku-whey-oh” GIVES BIRTH) death.
V. 18: James flips that and says, “Of God’s own will He brought us forth (Greek: “apu-ku-whey-oh” he gave birth to us, he brought us to life), by the word of truth.
James takes that same line of thought and expresses it again in V. 21.
He says to put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness, put away our sinful desire so that it cannot conceive, and give birth to death.
But rather, humbly (with meekness) RECEIVE the Word, which is able to save your souls.
In other words, The word of truth that is implanted in us conceives, and gives birth to New Creatures - New Beings who take on life as a result of the death and resurrection of Christ.
Think of 2 Cor 5:17
2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
Galatians 2:20 ESV
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
That’s the Gospel, friends.
Jesus, who himself is the Word of God who became flesh (John 1:14), he came to this earth as a little baby, he lived a life without any sin (not doing ANYTHING wrong), yet he died an unjust death to take the penalty of our sins, and he was raised BACK TO LIFE, from the dead.
So that NOW anybody who believes in their heart and confesses with their mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord will no longer be subject to a spiritual death but they will be recipients of eternal life with God.
That is the word, that is the word that is implanted in you, if you receive it.
So that’s the first point: You cannot have REAL faith if you do not RECEIVE THE WORD.
2nd Point: To have REAL faith, you must LIVE the word.

Live the Word

Don’t just know the word, do what it says.
James does two primary things in this passage:
He tells you what a godly person is like
He tells you what an ungodly person is like
A godly person is:
V. 19 —> Quick to hear, Slow to speak, Slow to anger
V. 21 —> Puts away all filthiness and wickedness; Humbly accepts the implanted word
V. 22 —> Does what the word says (he’s a doer of the word)
V. 25 —> Investigates the Word (looks intently); remembers and acts on the word
V. 27 —> Visits orphans and widows in their affliction and keeps oneself unstained from the world; he has a pure and undefiled religion
That’s how James describes a godly person.
Now what about an ungodly person:
V. 19 —> implies the opposite (slow to hear, quick to speak, quick to anger)
V. 21 —> implies the opposite (does not put away all filthiness and wickedness and does not humbly accept the implanted word)
V. 23 —> He is not a doer of the word; he is only a hearer of the word.
V. 24 —> He investigates, but he forgets what he just investigated
V. 26 —> He has an unbridled tongue; he deceives his heart; he has a worthless/a useless religion.
This point (#2, LIVE THE WORD) this is where you faith goes from FRUITLESS to FUNCTIONAL
Where you become a doer of the word and not just a hearer of it, not just a reader of it.
When this happens, the rest of it comes together.


Real faith takes the information you have about God, that you learn through the Bible, and funnels it into lives that actually impact the world for God’s kingdom.

Board game illustration

One of my favorite games is this super nerdy board game called “Terraforming Mars.”
The point of the game is to make Mars habitable for human life.
It’s an engine building game that requires a lot of strategy and resource management.
In other words, it is COMPLICATED.
It easily takes 30 minutes (at the very least) just to explain the rules of the game, and then the game itself takes anywhere between one or two hours to play.
So by the time the rules are about done being explained, everybody’s like “I need to go home. I don’t have enough time to actually play the game.”
This is a lot like our Christian lives.
Often we spend so much time reading the rule book that we never actually start playing the game.
We never actually start taking the information that we’ve received and use it in the world, in our lives, for God’s glory.
That’s an issue we have to address. The Christian life isn’t about gathering as much information about God as you possibly can, that’s not faith.
I’m in seminary right now (which is just grad school for people who want to do ministry and learn more about God)
Would it make sense for me to intake all of this information I’m learning in seminary about the Bible, about theology, about God and ministry, and not do anything with it?
NO! It wouldn’t make any sense.
The purpose of seminary is to equip God’s people for ministry. To help provide me with the tools and the resources, while also giving me an opportunity to develop the character needed for me to effectively shepherd the people of God.
And if all I do is receive this knowledge in my head and leave it there, then seminary was pointless.
Pastor Nate says this often, “It’s not about INFORMATION, it’s about TRANSFORMATION.”
Is the information that you’re learning, through
reading the Bible
hearing sermons
coming to young adults on Tuesday nights
listening to podcasts
watching youtube videos
Is that information simply being gathered and stored up in your mind, or is that word transforming you through the renewing of your mind, so that you might KNOW the will of God and do it?
James says, James 1:23-24
James 1:23–24 ESV
For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.
To hear the word and not do the word is to forget the word.
Friends, you cannot not truly KNOW the Word of God if your life does not SHOW the Word of God.
Learning is solidified by doing, not by hearing.
That’s why when I teach a complicated board game, like Terraforming Mars, to somebody who’s never played it before, I only teach JUST ENOUGH of the rules to get the game started.
You don’t need to know everything to play the game.
You can learn it as you go.
So that’s the question. Are you playing the game, actually enjoying the life that God has called you into, or are you just reading the instruction manual?
Play the game. LIVE THE WORD. Be doers of it.
And when you live the word, your religion (as James brings up in verse 27) is pure and undefiled. And your life is useful. It is productive. It produces the righteousness of God in your life and it produces fruit in the lives of other people.
That’s point number two. LIVE THE WORD.

Give the Word

The Word of God DOES. NOT. STOP. WITH. YOU!
It does not stop with you.
Look at verses 26 and 27.
James 1:26–27 ESV
If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
Let me first address an elephant in the room. The word “religion” has kind of become a bad word in Christianity.
We’ve all heard it.
I’ve said it: “Christianity isn’t a religion, it’s a relationship.”
Right? We’ve all heard that.
And to an extent, that’s true. Christianity is a relationship with Jesus Christ, with God the Father, and with the Holy Spirit.
But religion is also defined as the ritual of worship towards a divine being, which is also true of Christianity.
So yeah, that’s an aside. We shouldn’t be so quick to write off the word “religion”
Plus, James clearly uses the term religion in both a positive and negative perspective here.
Which implies that it’s not bad to have a religion.
The problem lies in whether the religion is useful or not, does it have worth, or is it worthless, like James describes?
So what’s the difference? How can you tell which type of religion you possess?
It’s simple: How does it impact you and how does it impact others?
Worthless religion is deceptive and harmful. It deceives the one who is practicing it, convincing him that he is religious, and it harms others through an unbridled tongue. (A bridle is that thing that on a horses head that’s connected to reins and is controlled by the rider).
So an unbridled tongue is one that is not controlled, one that runs rampant. Sound familiar?
In verse 26, James is doing another call back, he’s referring to v. 19.
Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.
A bridled tongue is quick to listen. A bridled tongue is slow to speak. And a bridled tongue is slow to become angry.
And in v. 20, that implies that a bridled tongue actually helps to produce the righteousness of God in your life, whereas an unbridled tongue does not — it leads to temptation to be angry (with human anger), which gives birth to sin, and brings forth death.
An unbridled tongue hurts others. As we dive further into James, you’ll see him refer to quarreling and judging one another. That comes from an unbridled tongue, a tongue that’s left unchecked, and so it strays until it tears somebody down rather than building them up.
That’s a worthless religion, one that deceives him who practices it and harms those around him.
On the other hand, a pure and undefiled religion (v. 27) does what?
It looks after orphans and widows in their distress
And it keeps oneself from being polluted by the world.
James describes a pure and undefiled religion as one that is not polluted by the world; not conformed to the world.
Romans 12:2 ESV
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Pure and undefiled religion is a religion that causes you to be transformed.
It’s a religion that hears the word and does it.
It’s not about gathering INFORMATION, it’s about TRANSFORMATION.
It’s not about books, it’s about brothers and sisters.
It’s not about podcasts, it’s about people.
It’s not about sermons, it’s about saints.
IT’S ABOUT the orphans and the widows.
It’s about caring for those in need.
It’s about loving your neighbor well.
If you have a functional faith, it will positively impact the lives around you.
And as you positively impact the lives around you, you are given opportunity to give the word of God to people.
CityLight Church exists to be a light in a dark place.
We exist to help people have their spiritual needs met WHILE we are actively seeking for ways to meet their physical needs as well.
On March 23, CityLight will be hosting it’s Annual Pop-Up shop.
For those who don’t know:
The pop-up shop is where the church collects lightly used items (clothes, furniture, toys, electronics, etc.) - that YOU donate - and we invite the people of the Falls Church community who really need help to come and take what they need.
It is an incredible ministry that meets the physical needs of our community in their distress, while also providing an opportunity for their spiritual needs to be met, too.
Every person who comes to the pop-up shop will hear the Gospel.
Every person who comes to the pop-up shop will be invited to attend the Easter Outreach event on March 30.
And every person who comes to the pop-up shop will be invited to attend the Easter service on March 31.
This is REAL FAITH. It’s functional. It’s not just for show.
It’s faith that actually impacts our communities.
It’s faith that actually produces fruit in the lives of our neighbors.
It’s faith that actually produces the righteousness of God in those who practice it.
So how do you know if your faith is real?
Have you received the Word of God?
Is Christ your savior? If not, your faith is NOT real.
Do you live the Word?
Do you simply listen to the word, or are you a doer of it?
Do you collect information, or are you renewed by transformation?
Do you give the Word?
Is your faith positively impacting those around you?
These are the questions I want you to discuss amongst your tables tonight. Really consider these things.
If your answers are yes, explain. Share some examples to encourage those around you, to give others an idea of what they could do in their lives differently that exhibits real faith.
If your answers are no, ask yourself why that’s the case. Is it fear? Is it lack of desire? What is it that has kept you from being able to answer “Yes” to any of these questions?
Shameless plug: If you’re looking for a way to be a DOER of the Word, why don’t you volunteer to help out at any or all of those events I just mentioned. You can find more information on the Website at I’ll also have some QR codes for you. Just give those a scan, and you can register to serve.
I’m going to pray for us really quick, and then I’ll let you get to your discussion time.
Hey, just a little endnote here: If any of you want to play Terraforming Mars with me, let me know. I really miss it. I think up to 5 people can play.
Alright. Let’s pray.
Related Media
See more
Related Sermons
See more