Faith Doing

Faith Doing
September 30, 2018

Faith Doing

Passage: James 2:14-26
In the previous week’s message, James refers to the royal law of love: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Then he asked the question, “Can we truly have faith in the Lord Jesus if it’s not accompanied by acts of mercy or works of love?” This week he asks, “What good is it if you say you have faith but do not have works?” Genuine trust in the Lord is never isolated from action. Faith + works is not an either/or proposition, it is both/and. Faith is not just a noun but a verb, and must be expressed in faith-doing. James continues and asks, if we are aware of a critical need, does our heart break where God’s heart breaks? So when we are confronted with a basic need and we say, “I’ll pray for you,” or “God will provide,” is that faith? Empty words produce empty works.
James then imagines what is called an objector, someone who is challenging your thinking. The objector asserts, “Some have faith, others do deeds. Both positions are legitimate.” James’ responds to this challenge by contending that only believing in the existence of God is not true faith. He asks, “Don’t you know that faith in Him apart from works is barren?” That’s like saying, “I believe in God, yet live as if there is no God.”
James then proceeds to cite two powerful Old Testament examples of faith-doing. The first is Abraham’s incredible willingness to sacrifice his only son on Mt. Moriah. He attempted to sacrifice Isaac with the certain hope that God would keep his promise to bless the world through his son. James understands that the basis for this outstanding trust in God is his justification. Therefore, he was right with God, which enabled him to do the right thing. The second example is Rahab, who appears to be the polar opposite of Abraham, who is called the father of faith. Rahab is a Canaanite, a Gentile, a woman and a prostitute who courageously applied her faith although at great risk. She chose to lie to the authorities in Jericho in order to save the two spies of the invading Hebrew army. Rahab was declared righteous in God’s courtroom of justice.
James concludes, “As the body is dead without the spirit, so is faith without works.” For how can we say that we love God and not love our neighbor? Therefore, believing in Jesus is not only trusting in him, but it also calls us to imitate his actions.

PRACTICE:  Acting on your beliefs

THOUGHT:  Aligning our actions with our beliefs requires intentional effort

Word: James 2:14-26

James’ second discussion of the poor is set in the larger context of the relationship between faith and works. At first glance, it would appear that James is saying the exact opposite of what Paul taught, as, for example, in Galatians 2:16: “yet we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by doing the works of the law, because no one will be justified by the works of the law.”

The key issue for Paul is how one gains right standing before God, while for James the issue is how one demonstrates to others the claim to have such right-standing.  Paul’s focus is inward, and centers on how one’s relationship with God is established.  In contrast, James’ focus is outward, centering on relationships with other people.  Paul writes about how one begins the Christian life while James writes about how one lives the Christian life. The issue for Paul is justification, while the issue for James is sanctification.   It is all a matter of emphasis.  Both would agree that men and women are saved by Christ through faith for works.

DEED:  Carefully re-read James 2:14-26, and summarize it in 25 words or less:

What example does James uses from Abraham’s life that exemplifies his faith?

Read about Abraham in Genesis 15:1-6 and Romans 4:1-12. (The Message version is helpful here).   Do you see the before/after dynamic in operation in Abraham’s life, and how Paul highlights one (establishing relationship) and James the other (demonstrating relationship)?

Belief/Action Alignment:  Name a belief you hold dear, and the way you act as a result.

What enables you to act consistently on your belief?

Belief/Action Misalignment:  Now think about a belief you have but you know your actions do not support that belief, and write that in the space below.  Some examples might be:

  • Growing in my relationship with God is important, but I rarely read my Bible.
  • Worshiping God is important, but I only come to worship once a month or less.
  • Helping my kids grow in their faith is important, but I allow them to prioritize activities over involvement in children’s or youth ministry.

Why do you think you struggle to live out your belief in this area?  Be honest about your motivations, priorities, the effort required, etc.

Belief/Action Realignment:  Realigning our actions with our beliefs is a multi-step process that requires constant attention and diligence, and it won’t happen overnight, only through asking God to help us. Thinking of the example you wrote above, what is one step you can take to move toward realigning your action with your belief?

MEMORIZE:  James 2:17, in either version:

So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.  (NRSV)

Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?  (The Message)

A Prayer for this week:

Dear Lord, I want to be more consistent.  I want to live out what I say I believe.  I need you to help me everyday, since I make choices everyday that align or misalign with my beliefs.

Thank you for Jesus doing for me what I cannot do for myself, and for faith to believe.

Now grant me the strength to act on that belief.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

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