Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God

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27. Test 5: The Works Test – Part 4

James 2:20-26

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.

The third kind of works that reveal evidence of true faith are works that show a:

  1. Hope pinned on God’s promises (20-24)

A hope based on the belief that God will do what He says He will do. James reminds us of Abraham who was called by God to offer his only son as a sacrifice. As Abraham obeyed, God intervened and provided a substitute sacrifice. Now there are some sticky words here if you take them by themselves. Is James really saying that Abraham was saved through his work of laying Isaac on the altar? The word “justified” means for a person to be declared not guilty as if he had never sinned. But it’s used in two different senses. The first is the actual act of having been justified, the act of salvation, God’s grace given through faith. But the other sense of the word deals with being shown to have been justified. In the first sense, God signs the paperwork that declares the sinner, “not guilty.” In the second sense, the one whom God has declared not guilty produces the paperwork signed by the judge that declares him not guilty. The first is the fact, the second is the evidence. It’s the second that James uses here. He is saying, “Didn’t the fact that he was obedient reveal that he had pinned all His hope on God’s promises? Yes, it did. But what enabled him to do that? Hebrews 11:17-19 reveals the reason Abraham was able to lay his only son on that altar, because God had promised him a seed that would come from Isaac. God promised and Abraham placed his hope in God’s faithfulness to keep His promise. He believed God, even if He had to raise him up from the dead. Abraham exercised his hope with action, by cutting wood and building an altar. He obeyed God because He believed God. What about you are you hanging onto the hope of God’s promises? Are you focused on the problems around you or the promises that surround you? The fourth kind of works that reveal evidence of true faith are works that show

  1. Show service to God’s people (25-26)

James continues with his Old Testament example, which is not surprising considering his congregation was made up of Jewish Christians. He uses the example of Rahab the harlot who protected and provided for the spies that Joshua sent to scout out the city of Jericho. In Joshua 2:11 she gives her profession of faith as She said, “When we heard of it, our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.” But those were just words, was her profession of faith real? What did her works show? They showed her faith to be real when she gave service to God’s people. She became as a Jew just as Ruth would also later do. And, like Ruth after her, by God’s grace, Rahab is one of three women listed in the earthly genealogy of Jesus. Her works showed her faith by her service to God’s people. Her immediate service to the Israelite spies and her eternal service to the lineage of Christ. Do you risk or sacrifice anything to serve God’s people? What are you doing that will impact God’s church for future generations? If you don’t your faith might be dead.

Once again, we have been given a test. A test to see if your faith is real or not, a test comprising of 4 questions.

  1. Do your works show concern for the crown of God’s creation? Do you truly help the needy by giving them what they need most, Jesus?
  2. Do your works show total trust in God’s Word? Does God’s Word determine how you act? Does it fill your life so that it overflows into godly living?
  3. Do your works show a Hope pinned on God’s promises? Even though you might not understand the circumstances that God has placed you in, do you trust Him anyway? Trust Him enough to show Him by your actions?
  4. Do your works show service to God’s people? Are you doing things to serve God’s church? If not, your faith might be dead.





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32. The Truth about Taking – Part 2

Exodus 20:15- “You must not steal.”

Ephesians 4:28 – “If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need.”

After seeing the 3 ways of getting anything in life, by gift, by work and by stealing we now see how taking affects our:

A. Relationships

Because all relationships are built on trust, theft undermines and destroys the foundation of our relationships because it trashes trust. But it’s not just the physical things that we take which ruin relationships. We can steal someone’s good name, we can steal someone’s relationship with others but with each type of theft we leave ourselves and others empty instead of full. Instead of getting we actually gut ourselves and others.  No thief ever feels satisfied, and they are left with less not more. Stealing doesn’t profit us it poisons us because while we may gain physically, we lose socially and spiritually. While it might temporarily boost our bank account it leaves our hearts bankrupt. The recklessness of stealing has a way of coming back in negative ways not just on those we steal from but on us. When we steal a good name through gossip, it causes us to become people that others won’t share with or spend time with. It trashes trust and ends up ruining our reputation not just theirs.  Instead of gaining we lose and experience the loneliness of relational isolation. Stealing always causes us to draw the short straw. This is illustrated so well in the following true story from our dim-witted criminals department: A man walked into a convenience store, put a $20 bill on the counter and asked for change. When the clerk opened the drawer, the man pulled a gun and asked for all the cash in the register. The man took the cash from the clerk and fled, leaving his $20 bill on the counter. So how much did he get from the drawer? Fifteen bucks. Go figure. We never really get ahead through theft, what we leave behind is our self-respect and broken trust from others. Judas is a good example, the Scriptures say that he regularly helped himself to the treasury of the disciples John 12:6, He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.”Not only did he lose his own self-respect, evidenced in taking his own life, but he also lived a miserable life of guilt before this. Thieves are never happy people, often they are the first to worry about people stealing for its always at the forefront of their mind.

B. Recklessness

When we even excuse the small ways we steal, whether taking answers from someone else’s test in school to taking home office supplies that your company paid for we not only hurt ourselves but all society. Stealing is strictly a reckless activity for all, and all are diminished by it! Taking shortcuts, which is the essence of theft, may appear to bless us, but instead of helping it only hurts us. As we see in the story of John Smith. He was a loyal carpenter, working for a very successful building contractor who called him into his office one day and said, “John, I’m putting you in charge of the next house we build. I want you to order all the materials and oversee the whole job from the ground up.” John accepted the assignment with great enthusiasm and excitement. For ten days before ground was broken at the building site, John studied the blueprints. He checked every measurement, every specification. Suddenly he had a thought. “If I am really in charge,” he said to himself, “why couldn’t I cut a few corners, use less expensive materials, and put the extra money in my pocket? Who would know the difference? Once the house is painted, it will look just great.” So, John set about his scheme. He ordered second-grade lumber, but his reports indicated that it was top-grade. He ordered inexpensive concrete for the foundation, put in cheap wiring, and cut every corner he could, yet he reported the purchase of much better materials. When the home was completed and fully painted, he asked the contractor to come and see it. “John,” said the contractor, “what a magnificent job you have done! You have been such a good and faithful carpenter all these years that I have decided to show my gratitude by giving you this house you have built, as a gift!” While everything might have looked good on the outside John knew the truth of what was really on the inside. Like the subpar concrete that soon would crumble John’s character revealed some serious cracks. So, what about you are there any areas in your life where your tempted to take short cuts to try and get ahead? In the end it’s like the old game of snakes and ladders, we might feel like we are climbing the ladder to success but in truth we end up spend more time sliding backwards on the backs of those slipper snakes.