Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God

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24. Test 5: The Works Test – Part 1

James 2:14-26

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.

As we continue in the series “The Litmus Test for Life” James walks us through the fifth test, the works test where we shift from talking about our prejudice with people to the proof that our faith is real and not a fake. Because when it comes to faith, we either have the real deal or a dead deal. James starts by stating a powerful point that we desperately need to pay attention to today, that faith without works is dead. But he doesn’t just make the point, he restates it no less than six times in these 13 verses. His point is simply but profound, that faith without fruit is a farce. Genuine faith is evidenced not in what we say but in what we do, in our walk not just our talk. James is reiterating what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7:15-20,  “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.”

This is the question that James is asking, can a faith that doesn’t bear fruit be considered a saving faith? And then he answers his own question. No, its a dead faith because faith without fruit is a fraud. Now if that’s the only kind of faith you have, then it means you’re dead too, dead in your sins. And the only cure for being dead in your sins is to come to the Savior and accept His sacrifice for your sin. In his typical teacher preacher style, James lays out four arguments, and supports them with illustrations to prove his point. Now this brings up a very controversial and confusing subject that has divided the church for centuries. Few passages have caused more problems than the one we are looking at today. Because it’s here that some people erroneously teach that we are called to work for our salvation. But it’s not the verse that causes the problems, it’s the way people have mishandled and misinterpreted the verse that has caused the problems. When we look at it in the correct context, as a series of tests to determine whether or not our faith is real, we see it not as working for our salvation but works that show our salvation. James is as clear as Jesus, and the rest of the New Testament, that salvation is by faith. It’s the result of Christs work on the cross not ours, therefore we don’t work for our faith we work as a result of our faith. Let me make it absolutely crystal clear, we are not working to gain or maintain salvation. There are many today who are trying to work their way into heaven, because they have fallen for a false belief system. One that teaches them that if our good outweighs the bad we will get in. But salvation is based on Christs and His work on the cross not ours. God doesn’t grade on a curve, he grades on the cross. Works based salvation is from Satan, who wants you to waste your life working for a forgiveness that is not only free but can set you free. Now let me address the other half of my statement because there are some of you who while you may not be working to gain salvation are trying to work to try and maintain your salvation. When Jesus said it is finished he meant it. Why do we believe the lie that we have to maintain God’s greatest miracle? And who do we think we are to believe that we can? When we do we are deceived by the devil, so that our faith becomes motivated by fear or arrogance. You’re not maintaining your salvation, you’re maintaining your pride. Instead of enjoying salvation we sacrifice our time and our talents on the altar of ego, relying on self instead of resting in the Savior. Look works-based salvation doesn’t promote salvation it promotes self, as we trade trusting for trying. It’s one of the devils destructive doctrines, because it points to self-effort not the Savior. It points people to our work not His. Genuine grace points people to God but works based salvation points people to trying to be good. Is the way you are living your life pointing people to Jesus and His grace or to you and trying to be good? Are you pointing people to marvel at the miracle of Salvation or to the misery of trying to maintain it? Do you have a peace-based salvation or a performance-based salvation? If your salvation is based on the Lord, then you can’t lose it. But if you think you can lose it then it was built on a lie not the Lord. Why won’t we just accept the freedom of forgiveness that comes from genuine faith and stop trying to work to maintain salvation? Because we are afraid people will come to Jesus for salvation and then go right back to a life of selfishness and sin. But that’s not real salvation its fire insurance not assurance. Which do you have “Assurance” or “Insurance”? Both words sound very similar and have similar meanings. One of the definitions of both is a guaranty. Assurance is a guaranty of your word and Insurance is a guaranty of payment. The same, yet different. I have assurance that if certain people tell me that they will do something that I don’t have to worry about it. Their word is all I need. And I have insurance, lot’s of insurance, life, vehicle, home owners and health just to name a few. They guaranty me compensation if anything were to happen. But the one big difference is that assurance is not based on anything I do where Insurance has everything to do with what I do. Several years ago I got a “Final Notice” from my insurance company saying that I owed them money. I was sure the bill had been paid and after checking discovered that there was a glitch and I was indeed paid up. But the point was that my insurance was only as good as long as I paid my premiums. If you don’t pay your bill, then your insurance will be cancelled and you have nothing. So back to the question at hand: Do you have “Assurance” or “Insurance”? Do you have assurance that if you died today that you would end up in Heaven with our Lord or do you have insurance, thinking that as long as you do the right things that you will end up in Heaven. Are you basing it on God’s Word or your work? I don’t want anyone to believe the lie that they can work for their salvation, but, I do want everyone to live in such a way that you show your salvation by your works. In order to do that, over the next few weeks we’re going to look at four kinds of works that will show evidence of true faith. So that you know that you have assurance of salvation instead of insurance.



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23. Test 4: The Preference Test – Part 4

James 2:1-13

My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others? For example, suppose someone comes into your meeting dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewelry, and another comes in who is poor and dressed in dirty clothes. If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, “You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor”—well,doesn’t this discrimination show that your judgments are guided by evil motives? Listen to me, dear brothers and sisters. Hasn’t God chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith? Aren’t they the ones who will inherit the Kingdom he promised to those who love him? But you dishonor the poor! Isn’t it the rich who oppress you and drag you into court? Aren’t they the ones who slander Jesus Christ, whose noble name you bear? Yes indeed, it is good when you obey the royal law as found in the Scriptures: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you favor some people over others, you are committing a sin. You are guilty of breaking the law. 10 For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws. 11 For the same God who said, “You must not commit adultery,” also said, “You must not murder.” So if you murder someone but do not commit adultery, you have still broken the law. 12 So whatever you say or whatever you do, remember that you will be judged by the law that sets you free. 13 There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you.

It’s here lastly that James sums it all up by telling us to:

  1. Treating people based on God’s mercy (2:12-13)

The antidote to manmade motives is God’s mercy. Mercy is God not giving us the punishment we deserve for our sins, its deliverance from judgment and jail. It’s a definition that sounds great as long as we are the one on the receiving end of MERCY. When we mess up, we expect to be treated with mercy, but do we offer it to others? Sure, mercy is our go to when we want to get, but what about when it’s time to give? For those of you who are saved what did you do to deserve to be saved? What did you do for God to grant you His mercy? In John 3 Jesus told Nicodemus that unless he was born again, he would not see the kingdom of God. Do you remember all the preparation you had to make before your mom and dad would choose to have you? Do you remember all the cleaning up and all the good works you had to do before you were allowed to be born? Of course not, there was nothing you could say, do, or be that would make you worthy of being born the first time. Just like there is nothing you can say, do, or be that will make you worthy of being born again. Christian the next time you want to treat someone else poorly, remember that while they were yet a sinner, Christ died for them just like He did for you. Jesus willingly shed His blood for both and it’s time for us to recognize that the ground is level at the foot of the cross. I am every bit as undeserving of that gift of grace as you are, as the most offensive person you know is. Remember that without God’s gift of salvation, you are every bit as offensive in God’s eyes as the worst criminal. Are you loving people based on your wants or God’s Word? When we say, but they don’t deserve it we miss God’s mercy and trade Jesus for judging. What cripples Christ’s church is when His followers have a head knowledge of Jesus and hearts full of judgment. Like the Pharisees our hearts become poisoned as pride promotes self at the expense of serving. Like them we see the wayward women through judging eyes instead of Jesus eyes. So instead of serving others we stone them. We end up with a rule-based religion where it’s just easier to kill people than it is to care for them. But what did Jesus say to the woman caught in adultery, “You who are without sin cast the first stone” Neither do I condemn you.” You know why people don’t want to come to church it’s because the church is busy condemning people for their sin instead of bringing them to the cross to be saved. Are you caring or condemning? Caring costs but so does condemning, while caring will cost you time and treasure, condemning will cost you your witness. What’s more important your money or your ministry, your wealth or your witness. Look most people are not looking for a handout they are looking for hope. So, stop clinging to your stones and start clinging to salvation. Let me close by giving you 2 test questions:

Question one: When you see a fellow follower of Christ, do you see their faults and failures? Or do you see the forgiveness of the blood of Jesus?

Question two: When you see a person who is lost, do you see their sinfulness and focus on their bad behavior? Or do you see someone that Jesus loved enough to die for?

Ask the Holy Spirit to search your heart and show you if there is any poisonous prejudice in your life. Does the way that you treat people back up your testimony and your claim to be a Christian? If there is any place where you are treating people like trash instead of treasuring them, whether that be with your tongue or just in your thoughts I want to encourage you to confess it to Christ and repent of your sin.