James 2

James: Faith that Works  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  25:53
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Today we continue our series in James, looking at chapter 2 of his letter and consider how we engage with people from all backgrounds, especially when we are gathered together as Christians in church.

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Chocolate or Cheese for dessert?
Cricket or Footy?
Beach or Bush for a realxing holiday?
We all have different things we prefer.
‘Sometime’s that extends to people too doesn’t it?
James has some pretty confronting words for us as we consider how we engage with people from all backgrounds especially when we are gathered together as Christians in church today.


Trust God in Troubled Times
Doing so produces perseverance which leads to maturity.
James 1:3–4 NIV (Anglicised, 2011)
3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Not doing so leads to temptation which leads to sin and death.
James 1:14–15 NIV (Anglicised, 2011)
14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
So how do we persevere and flee temptation?
But trust God who gives us his word which transforms us (v18) and gives us us widsom for living.
James 1:22 NIV (Anglicised, 2011)
22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
Today we have an instruction from God’s word for us to put into practice in James 2:1-12 and then in James 2:14-26 we have an explanation of how to rightly understand the place of works or deeds, in the Christian faith.

Treat People equally

What do you do when someone important or famous is around?
Most of us think it’s kinda cool when we are in the presence of the important, or the rich and famous. The kind of person James describes in the first half verse 2.
Likewise most of us find it uncomfortable when someone like he describes in the second half of verse 2 is around. A dirty poor person. We are often weary of them.
Our natural, sinful inclination is to show favouritism.
Honestly, we are terrible at this. I think this is probably one of the worst parts of our Anglican Heritage, we can tend to be tied up with English social pressures to treat people differently. We do it all the time.
Some churches used to sell their pews to families. And it literally cost more to sit near the front or even better if your church had special galleries you could have nice rich people sitting up there.
They obviously skipped over this section of James.
This sort of behaviour is incompatible with the Christian faith.
What does it look like?
Thinking you should get special treatment because of how much money you give to the church.
Thinking that your big givers matter more than those who give little
Only speaking to people who look like you, dress like you, live like you when they come to church.
Only talking to people who you like
This sort of behaviour, showing favouritism doesn’t happen James says in v8
James 2:8–9 NIV (Anglicised, 2011)
8 If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself,’ you are doing right. 9 But if you show favouritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as law-breakers.
Sum it up like this:
Rich or poor - keep the royal law. Don’t discriminate. Don’t show favouritism.
I wonder if there are things you can think of that we need to change about the way we do church or our gatherings that would help us do this better?

Works don’t work

Our works, what we do condemn us. It’s hard to read this opening section of James 2 and not put you hand up and say, guilty. Works don’t work.
James 2:10–11 NIV (Anglicised, 2011)
10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. 11 For he who said, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘You shall not murder.’ If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a law-breaker.
Do just one thing wrong and you’re a law breaker. You’re condemned.
But the good news is with God
“Mercy triumphs over judgment”.
James is remding us of the wonderful truth of what Jesus has done for us. Of the heart of our faith:
The Message of James Mercy and Judgment (2:13)

Thus even before the judgment-seat mercy wins the day. It ‘crows over judgment’. This is our position before God. Judgment looks at our deserts; mercy at our needs. And God himself looks at the cross of his Son.

Faith works

If works don’t work, what does? Faith! Real faith is the proper response to to God’s mercy? Real faith ought to change our lives James says:
James 2:14 NIV (Anglicised, 2011)
14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?
And he gives this wonderfully horrible picture:
James 2:15–17 NIV (Anglicised, 2011)
15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
We see this sort of Christian depicted in movies and television shows all the time. They are the callous, self righteous kind who care nothing for anything but outward appearance. The world hates this kind of hypocritical Christian, which is good, because the bible says they aren’t really Christian after all.
James essentially calls this kind of empty Christian faith - demonic!
James 2:19 NIV (Anglicised, 2011)
19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.
If your faith isn’t followed by obedience to the word, if you’re not doing what it says, then it’s not real faith. You may protest and say, oh no but I do think God is real. And James would reply, indeed, so do the demons.
Real Faith is a saving faith. And real faith is followed by obedience, or works to use James’ language.
Faith goes with deeds. James gives the example of Abraham (v21-24) and Rahab (v25). Two people who’s faith worked itself out in action.
The Message of James The Primary Works

What was the work of Abraham? He held nothing back from God. God said, ‘I want your son’ and Abraham ‘rose early in the morning’ (Gn. 22:3) in prompt obedience. What was the work of Rahab? She reached out and took into her own care those who were needy and helpless, regardless of the cost to herself.

James 2:26 NIV (Anglicised, 2011)
26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.
Scholar Motyer says:
The Message of James The Primary Works

The life of faith, then, is the life which respects the glory of Jesus (Jas. 2:1), for in his obedience to God and his concern for needy sinners he ‘emptied himself … humbled himself … unto death, even death on a cross’ (Phil. 2:7–8). It is a life of obedience in particular to the royal law (8)—our obedience to the word of God seen in our concern for the needs of man. The life of faith is more than a private (long past) transaction of the heart with God. It is the life of active consecration seen in the obedience which holds nothing back from God, and the concern which holds nothing back from human need.

Mercy triumphs over Judgment

You are not perfect. That’s ok mercy triumphs over judgment. What matters is that you are earnestly seeking day by day to respond to all God has done for you through sending Jesus, by obeying him and growing in wisdom. And primarily that you are seeking to help those around you, especially those less fortunate.
If you think that your faith and sporadic church attendance are enough, and you’re not seeking to grow in your relationship with God, then you should be worried. For faith without works, without obedience, without growth, this is the same kind of faith demons have! And it isn’t going to end well for them or you when Jesus returns!
So no matter who you are, or how you’ve been going, today commit yourself to our merciful God and seek to love your neighbour as yourself and trust God fully. Let your relationship with him totally transform your life. For this is real faith.
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