Hope in Action

Pastor Rich Miller
By Faith part 5  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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We are called to use our faith in Jesus Christ not only for salvation but also to bless others in an active way.

Today we are continuing in part 5 of our By Faith sermon series.
In week one I spoke about the Biblical definition of faith as written in Hebrews 11:1
Hebrews 11:1 NLT
1 Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.
In week two we examined the limitless power of our faith as Jesus taught us in Matthew 17:20-21
Matthew 17:20–21 ESV
20 He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”
And in week three I spoke about how to increase your faith by hearing the word of Christ as referenced in Romans 10:17.
Romans 10:17 ESV
17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
Last week I preached on Faith for Survival as demonstrated by Elijah and the widow in 1 Kings 17:1-24. And how despite the famine there was always more than enough for them to eat.
All of these sermons are available on our One Light Church YouTube channel for anyone who would like to review them or would like to share with someone.
So by now we have confirmed by the Scriptures what faith is, the limitless potential contained in even a small amount of faith, how to increase our faith and how to keep the faith to survive in the most dire of circumstances.
This week I want us to focus on how by faith we are not only to believe in Jesus for our Salvation but also we are to live like Him by serving others and sharing the good news of the Gospel in both word and deed.

Hope in Action

James 2:14–26 NLT
14 What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? 15 Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, 16 and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? 17 So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. 18 Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.” 19 You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. 20 How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless? 21 Don’t you remember that our ancestor Abraham was shown to be right with God by his actions when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete. 23 And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” He was even called the friend of God. 24 So you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone. 25 Rahab the prostitute is another example. She was shown to be right with God by her actions when she hid those messengers and sent them safely away by a different road. 26 Just as the body is dead without breath, so also faith is dead without good works.

God’s Grace and Salvation Cannot Be Earned

Before we get started on unpacking today’s text I feel the need to first make sure that we understand that God’s gift of salvation is not something we earn but rather it was paid for by the atoning blood of Christ on Calvary’s cross.
The price Jesus paid is not something that we can ever take credit for because God through His love and mercy has made a way for all humanity to be restored to Himself through Christ Jesus not by our own actions.
Paul writes about this in
Ephesians 2:8–10 NLT
8 God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
Again God has saved us from the judgement of sin through believing in Jesus Christ and salvation is not something we earn but is a gift from our loving God.
This may sound contradictory to what we just read in James but it is not at all because he does not say that people must perform works in order for God to accept them.
Paul in his writing addresses Jews who think that faith plus deeds according to the Law are required for justification and James is addressing the opposite issue which is that many are using faith as an excuse not to do any works. Both men agree that salvation does not mean that Christians stop acting according to God’s standards of doing good to others and that salvation comes through Christ’s death and resurrection alone.
As Christians, we are justified or taken from an unjust or guilty standing to a just or not guilty standing in the eyes of the Lord when we put our faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.
Once we are put in a right relationship with the Lord then James is asserting that a truly converted person’s deeds will demonstrate that justification.
This is done by deeds of Christian love and this proves or justifies the conversion to the eyes of other people by demonstrating the validity of a person’s profession of faith.

Genuine Faith is Active

In verse 14 James asks the question what type of faith do we have if we don’t show it with our actions and if that type of faith which is inactive faith can actually save anyone.
As I have taught in previous sermons in this series faith really is us having the confidence that God will in fact do for us all that we need or want according to His divine purpose and plan. We don’t have to be big enough or strong enough or powerful enough rather we only need to know that He is and that by the power of His word and His Spirit we can do great things and the things we cannot do He can and will do when we trust and believe in Him! Somebody give Him praise!
There is an old saying which is that love is a verb. This means that love is not just something we say but it is also something we do.
God is love and gives us the perfect example of love. God not only tells us how much He loves us through His word but He also actively demonstrates to us how much He loves us in countless ways. A popular example is found in
John 3:16 ESV
16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
Furthermore, the Lord does not separate or distinguish what He says from what He does. There is power in His word and Jesus Christ is the personification of the word of God.
John 1:1 ESV
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
You see in Christ there is no contradiction. He is in fact the fulfillment of love and hope not only in words but also in deeds.
As believers we can say we have faith and believe in God and we should but we also need to demonstrate faith by our actions as well.
In verse 19 James reminds us that even the demons believe in God and tremble in fear. Here, James is stating that we are not just accepting a creed when we follow Jesus but we are to actively change the way we live to be more like Jesus.
Said differently as believers we need to not only believe in Jesus but also to act on our belief.
The very first act of faith is done when we not only accept Jesus Christ as God but also ask Him to forgive us of our sins and become the Lord of our lives.
It is at this point that we are born again and justified in the eyes of God and sealed with the Spirit of God. Then the Holy Spirit sanctifies us and we turn from our old lives and lead new lives in Christ.
It is very important to remember that we are not to judge someone’s heart as they confess Christ as their Lord because that is a personal decision between the individual and God. Only the Lord knows the heart of the individual and if they are sincere or just repeating words.
However we do know as James is emphasizing that genuine faith in Jesus Christ affects the believer’s behavior. James goes on to essentially say that faith that does not affect behavior is superficial and therefore cannot save.
The term often used to describe this type of person is a false convert which is someone who will say they follow Jesus but refuse to submit to His ways and allow the Spirit of God and the word of God to change their behavior.
Jesus teaches us that we can identify people by their actions.
Matthew 7:14–20 NLT
14 But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it. 15 “Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. 16 You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. 18 A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. 19 So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. 20 Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.
In our day this wisdom is as important as ever. In our age of technology everyone has a voice and not all that say they are followers of Christ really are. Unfortunately even some ministers fall victim and neglect to realize that the business of the church is not business it’s people.
While we don’t judge people’s salvation we can and should identify a tree by it’s fruit meaning people by their actions.
For example inwardly focused self absorbed Christians do not lead many to Christ or encourage many other believers because their focus is on themselves and not others. This is not Christlike because Jesus always gave of Himself to bless and serve other people and if the Holy Spirit is inside of someone then they should also have a desire to serve others.
We are not to condemn people who do not realize what they are doing but rather we are to lead by example demonstrating what a loving servant leader looks like and encouraging others to participate and continue to pray for that person.

Faith and Actions Work Together

In verses 21-25 we are given examples of how faith and actions work together for God’s plans and purposes.
Abraham already had faith in God before he offered his son Isaac on the altar. However, he still performed the action which the Lord was telling him to do. By combining his faith in the Lord by belief and by action Abraham demonstrated a complete faith in God.
You see Jesus loves the world and gave Himself so that all people from all backgrounds could be saved and have a relationship with Him and be part of His family forever. He loves each of us with a love so deep that it is beyond our comprehension. We matter to God and there is great rejoicing in heaven when a person gets saved.
Luke 15:10 ESV
10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
And not only does Jesus want people to be saved but He wants His people to serve others who need help or do not know Him so that they will see His love through us and be drawn to Him to be saved.
In verse 15 James writes if we see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing and we greet them but do not help them with any food or clothing that what good does our greeting do for them in their situation. Turning an eye to those in need does not show the love of Christ in any way.
Listen, I understand that we all can’t do everything but we all can do something. The Lord has made a way so that everyone with a desire to do so has the ability to serve in some way.
I can’t tell you the number of people I have spoken to over the years that say I feel like the Lord is calling me to do this ministry or that ministry yet they are not doing anything. My comment is always do not wait until the perfect time to get involved. There are countless Christian organizations serving others already that you can volunteer at and that will already be doing what you may be called to do.
For example here at OLC we are called to be an outwardly focused family church. That means you do not need to invent the next big ministry or travel the world because you are part of a church plant that is doing USA Missions by planting a church, actively serving others with the Gospel and providing physical needs to the less fortunate on a regular basis.
Furthermore, I firmly believe it is not by accident that you are here during this season and that while you are here even if you are waiting on the next big ministry idea for yourself that it is the Lord’s will to help grow this church so that more people are lead to Christ and more people have their needs met.
My point here is simply the Lord makes a way for all who have a desire to serve others to be able to. It may be volunteering here or for another organization as I just spoke about, it may be praying for people, it may be feeding people, it may with your faithful giving to the church, it may be by organizing clothing drives or counseling young mothers not to have abortions or holding the abandoned drug babies at the local hospitals or visiting the sick or elderly or taking a missions trip. There are any number of ways to serve others for the cause of Christ if that is your desire so please pray about what the Lord is calling you to do and start doing it.

Inactive Faith Leads to Death

In verse 20 James writes that Faith without works is dead. This statement sounds very harsh but as I have said previously it takes an active faith to share the love of Jesus with others.
n verse 26 James writes that the body without breath is dead and faith without good works is dead. Again this is strong language but we must understand that the two main reasons we see dying churches or churches closing in America is first because of sin and secondly because many are inwardly focused and are not engaged with serving others on a regular basis. Just like as believers we need to share our faith in words and deeds the same standard applies to our churches as well.
And while we are saved by placing our faith in Jesus Christ, we must be genuine in our profession of faith. We must really believe in our hearts that Jesus is God and also we must repent of our sins and submit to Christ as the Lord of our lives. In doing so we will be justified and the Holy Spirit will touch our hearts to have compassion to serve others as we are able.
Jesus is very clear that if we are truly His followers that we will help those less fortunate as we are able.
Matthew 25:31–46 NLT
31 “But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left. 34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’ 37 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? 39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’ 41 “Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons. 42 For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. 43 I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’ 44 “Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’ 45 “And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’ 46 “And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.”
You see brothers and sisters the choice is clear. We must not only believe in Christ but we must live for Christ. And a large part of living for Christ is serving others. Unfortunately, the Bible just told us that there will be false converts who think they are Christians but are not because while they have a head knowledge of God they do not have a heart knowledge of God. To be saved we must not only confess with our mouths but also believe in our hearts that Jesus Christ is Lord.
Romans 10:9 ESV
9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
Said directly if you really have the love of Jesus in your heart than it will be impossible for you to not care about anyone else.
In closing I am so proud to pastor a church where everyone has a heart for the lost and less fortunate and supports the ministry as they are able to do so.
Remember that God’s grace and salvation cannot be earned and all who put their faith in Jesus will be saved.
Also, that if a person is truly saved and living for Jesus than there will be evidence in their lives. I am not talking about being perfect as none of us are perfect but I do mean that genuine believers should have compassion on those less fortunate and help them as they can.
While none of us can do everything all of us can do something to bless others and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
You see brothers and sisters our hope is in Jesus Christ and in Him alone. By faith in Him we can put our hope in action to bless many people for the cause of Christ.
So be encouraged that if you are loving God and loving people that He is please with you and if you currently do not have an active faith there is no better time to start than now.
I know we covered a lot today but just know that by faith in Jesus you are saved and genuine faith in Jesus will cause a change in you to be more Christlike and have a heart for others to help them as you are able.
Have a great week and remember our joy is in Jesus!
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